Welfare services told mom to ‘come back after the holidays'

Woman who pushed her 2 children out window and then jumped out after them in apparent suicide attempt had sought help.

A mother who pushed her two children out the window of their fourth-floor apartment in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning and then jumped out after them in an apparent suicide attempt was told by social workers earlier this month to “come back after the haggim [holidays],” The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The mother, a 38-year-old immigrant from Tajikistan who was hospitalized in serious condition, had turned to the social welfare services in Tel Aviv asking for help in taking care of the two children, a boy aged four and a girl, five.
“We would like to highlight that on September 5, the mother met with a social worker and asked if a student could be provided to help her children with their studies,” a spokeswoman for the Tel Aviv- Jaffa Municipality told the Post. “It was agreed that she would come back after the haggim.”
Hannah Slutzky, national supervisor for child affairs at the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, confirmed that “the social services do not operate during [the High Holy Days period].”
She added, “Most likely because the holidays took place so early this year, right after the school vacation, no new children and families were admitted to community programs [for at risk families].”
Slutzky said there was awareness in the ministry that the lengthy school vacation, from July 1 through September 1, followed almost immediately by a slew of religious holidays, was a time when troubled families experienced the most strain.
According to police reports, the children’s father left the family nearly three years ago, and the mother had been known to social services for more than a year since being arrested for being drunk and disorderly in a public park in Tel Aviv.
“Before the summer vacation, I sent a letter to welfare workers in my department saying that if there are children at risk who might not be able to return home during the vacation, then we must find them alternative arrangements,” said Slutzky, referring to children removed from the family home and living in special care.
She added that when school was out, there was no formal framework that could keep checks on these children and, after two months of summer vacation and one month of religious festivals, the risks for a child from a family with economic problems or a history of violence were increased.
“I think it’s important to emphasize that in cases such as this one, there are simply not enough social workers to reach all the families that need help, and neighbors or close family members need to be more alert to any possible problems,” continued Slutzky, highlighting the ministry’s recently inaugurated emergency helpline, 118.
“If a neighbor sees children wandering around the streets late at night alone, then I really believe it is their duty to alert the authorities,” she said.
However, Hanita Zimrin, president of Eli-Israel, the association for child protection, said that the core of the problem lay in an overloaded social welfare system.
“The services for protecting children are very busy, and although there has been a big improvement recently, most welfare workers have a caseload of some 400 families, so even if the social worker is an angel, there is no way he can help everyone,” she said.
Zimrin said that at Eli, social workers were assigned no more than 20 case files per person so they had time to reach all those in need.
The other problem, according to Zimrin, was the concept of “after the haggim” as applied by many government services.
“With social work, there is no ‘after the haggim,’” she pointed out. “In fact, it is well known by experts that during the haggim, when there is a lack of frameworks for children and there are higher expectations that everything will be great and nice, it is usually the opposite.”
Zimrin said that calls to Eli’s helpline (1-800-22-39-66) almost always increased during the holiday season.
“For those who are already struggling, the holiday period is almost always worse, and sometimes those who were not previously in trouble find themselves struggling,” she said.
While neither woman would comment further on this specific case, Slutzky told the Post that Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog and the ministry’s directorgeneral, Nahum Itzkovitz, would likely establish an investigative committee to look into what had happened with this family.
She also said that in December, a training day would be held for social workers to look into the growing phenomenon of parents harming or murdering their children and what could be done to prevent it.