‘Immigrant children, youth who are at risk suffer more’

More are victims of neglect or lack parental supervision than native-born at-risk kids, says state official.

Ethiopian children 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski (illustrative))
Ethiopian children 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski (illustrative))
Immigrant children and youth at risk face an even tougher environment and are much harder to reach than children from other weak socio-economic populations in Israeli society, Talal Dolev, director of the National Program for Children and Youth at Risk told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Speaking a day ahead of a national conference aimed at helping local authorities and professionals working with immigrant communities and the young to address the needs of children and teens at risk, Dolev pointed out: “It’s easier for us to focus on Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors because they live in specific cities or neighborhoods, but identifying immigrant children and youth at risk is more tricky because they are spread out and live among the general population in most cities.”
Among the data to be presented at Tuesday’s symposium are figures showing that out of some 150,000 children identified as “at risk” over the past two years since the government launched the National Program for Children and Youth at Risk, 15,000 were from immigrant families.
Close to 50,000 children and youth participate in a variety of programs run in community centers, clinics, kindergartens and schools in 56 cities, with roughly 6,000 of them from immigrant families.
With assistance from the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, the programs are culturally sensitive and place emphasis on education, young girls at risk, individual counseling and a program for young offenders.
According to information published Monday, the conditions that bring the at-risk immigrant children to the program are much deeper and more troubling than those faced by other Jewish children at risk, with 22 percent of immigrant children being victims of neglect compared to only 17% of other children at risk and 24% lacking any adult supervision, compared to 17% of other atrisk Jewish children.
In addition, the figures show that 62% of the immigrant children do not receive adequate educational or emotional enrichment from their parents, as opposed to 43% of other children at risk, and in 39% of the immigrant families, parents struggle to provide their children with basic necessities such as nutritious food and school supplies.
Tuesday’s forum, which will include professionals from the Welfare and Social Affairs, Immigrant Absorption, Education and Health ministries, as well as local authorities with large immigrant populations, will also discuss worrying information pertaining to drug and alcohol abuse, as well as anti-social behavior among a large percentage of at-risk immigrant youth.
Dolev said that the largest group of immigrant children enrolled in programs funded by the forum were of Ethiopian origin (37%), while the rest were from the Caucasus region (25%), the former Soviet Union (21%) and the rest from other immigrant communities.
“It really varies depending on the city or area,” said Dolev, a social worker by training, adding that in towns such as Beit Shemesh and Betar Illit, the programs include children from English- speaking immigrant families.
While the national program’s activities are coordinated by the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry, the Immigrant Absorption, Education, Health and Internal Security ministries also contribute to developing the programs.
While the majority of the 56 participating towns and cities have a majority Jewish population, around one-third are Arab-Israeli communities.
“The program is a result of a study, which found that the three main populations not getting enough resources to help children and youth at risk were the Arabs, the ultra-Orthodox and new immigrants,” explained Dolev, adding also that research has found that much of the emphasis in the past was on teenagers while little was done to identify pre-school children suffering neglect and abuse.
“It is much easier to identify teenagers that are having a hard time but for younger children, especially those from immigrant families that might not attend pre-school, the problems are harder to find,” she said, “Our data shows that this age group merits more attention than what we previously thought.”