Personnel shortage could close child sex-abuse center

Over 700 likely sexually abused kids waiting for appointments with child investigator.

Dr. Yizhak Kadman 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Dr. Yizhak Kadman 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel's only center that offers comprehensive treatment to child victims of rape and sexual abuse may have to close, at least temporarily, if the Welfare and Social Services Ministry fails to increase the number of child investigators, The Jerusalem Post has learned. According to two separate sources, the Jerusalem center's current child investigator - a social worker specially trained to interview children suspected of being sexually molested - is set to go on maternity leave at the end of this month. Due to government restrictions imposed on the number of the child investigators allowed countrywide, anyone else appointed to replace her will leave a gap somewhere else. "There is a shortage of child investigators nationwide and moving people from one place to other will not solve the problem," said Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, director of the National Council for the Child. Kadman said the Jerusalem center's director has approached him asking for help to keep the center open. Without a child investigator present, others involved in treating sexually abused children are not legally allowed to operate, said Kadman. "The building will be open but none of the people there will be permitted to work," he explained, adding that the problem at the Jerusalem center was only a symptom of a much larger issue: the shortage of child investigators. Based in the capital's Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, the center opened several years ago thanks to funding from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Receiving children referred by professionals or any child who believes they are a victim, the center is meant to be a model for seven more such centers that are to be opened in other parts of the country in the coming years, under a law passed earlier this year, sponsored by MK Michael Melchior (Meimad-Labor). The centers, which bring together all the relevant bodies that work with abused children, are based on a successful model that has been operating in the US for 20 years. According to data from the Social Workers Union, which has repeatedly alerted the government to the personnel shortage, more than 700 children who are suspected of having been sexually abused are waiting for appointments to meet with a child investigator, so they can start the process of treatment and healing. "This is a terrible problem," said the union's spokesman, adding that the Jerusalem center had alerted the union to the impending gap. "Nothing has changed since this past summer, when we first told the Welfare and Social Services Ministry about the problem." The union's figures show that while there are slots for 52 child investigators nationwide, due to lack of funding only 43 positions are currently filled. A spokeswoman for the Welfare and Social Services Ministry said it was aware of the problem in Jerusalem and that it planned to transfer a child investigator from somewhere else so that the center would not have to close. The Finance Ministry said it was investigating the matter and was planning to increase the number of child investigators by creating an additional 150 positions in the near future. She also acknowledged the national shortage of social workers in general and of child investigators specifically. She said the problem was due to lack of funding from the Treasury.