In Israel, the rate of children and youth, unable to grow up in their birth families, who are given up for adoption is much lower than in other western countries. This, despite widespread agreement that, for most children, adoption is a better long-term response than foster or residential care, because it offers a better promise of a permanent home.
In recent years, the Adoption Service at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services and JDC-Ashalim have initiated a joint program to expand opportunities for adoption to reduce the reliance on foster or residential care. Among the models being explored are permanent adoption by foster families, also known as “fost-adoption.”
For these new models to succeed, however, there needs to be close cooperation and coordination between the foster care services and adoption services, which are separate units in the Ministry.
This continuum was the topic of this year’s Gantz Zahler Seminar on Child Welfare, held on July 11 at the Institute. The Seminar brought together over 100 professionals working in foster care and adoption.
The Seminar was based on two recent MJB studies that were designed to enhance the new programmatic initiative to expand adoption.
The first study included an extensive literature review of international practices, together with in-depth case studies of children, birth families, foster families, adopting families, and the social workers involved.
The second study (forthcoming) presents some of the initial findings from efforts to develop better on-going monitoring of the outcomes.
The studies examine in detail the nature of the efforts that are being made to build a continuum of services, the degree of success in doing so, and the issues that still need to be addressed. Based on the findings, the studies offer ten main recommendations as to how the process could be improved. These recommendations were the focus of roundtable discussions among participants at the Seminar.
Beyond the opportunity to share and review the recommendations of the studies, the event itself was structured so as to serve as a further catalyst for cementing the cooperation. "The roundtable discussions were very positive," said Yoa Sorek, researcher in MJB’s Engelberg Center for Children and Youth and author of the adoption study. "Having professionals from both services sitting together gave them an opportunity to share their different approaches and to think about ways of integrating their work." In fact, as a result of the research, the Ministry is moving ahead with efforts to formalize the coordination between foster care and adoption services.
Motti Winter, Senior Deputy-Director General of the Ministry, emphasized in his opening remarks at the Seminar that this is another example of the Institute’s “unique contribution to the development of child welfare policy in Israel.”
The Ministry and JDC-Ashalim are also proceeding with a pilot project on concurrent planning, which MJB’s literature review had identified as a second promising model to promote permanency (either with their birth family or an adopted family). The Institute will be conducting an evaluation of this pilot over the next two years.
The Institute’s Gantz Zahler Seminars on Child Welfare are supported by MJB Committee member Karen Gantz Zahler and her family, and the research on adoption of children at risk was undertaken with the support of MJB Committee member Annie Sandler.
Click here to watch the seminar proceedings (Hebrew)