Achievements and Challenges of the Service System for at-Risk Children and their Families: Two Decades of MJB Research

In the past two decades, Israel’s welfare system has contended with the delivery of more effective services to at-risk children and their families while making more efficient use of its limited resources. In this period, the welfare system made notable strides even as it faced barriers and challenges, some ongoing.

The Engelberg Center for Children and Youth at the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute (MJB) supported the developments in the welfare system with studies on at-risk children under the responsibility of the Division for Personal and Social Services. The goal of the studies was to supply up-to-date, systematic data to service providers as a basis for understanding the needs of the children and families, and the ways that the system might provide more appropriate and effective responses. The findings identified the difficulties encountered by the system and supported the development of new national-policy initiatives and new service-provision models.

This special report presents an integrative analysis of 23 studies performed by MJB researchers since 1997. It presents the achievements of the system in the past two decades and the main difficulties still facing it. Thus, it illuminates the role of research in the developments that have occurred in the service system.

Main achievements reviewed in this report:

  • Improved child protection: improved reporting to Youth Law social workers and an improved division of labor with family social workers
  • Improved decision-making and intervention planning for children and families by the Planning, Treatment and Evaluation Committees
  • Improved inclusion of parents in planning an intervention program
  • Adoption of data-based processes of service planning and resource allocation at the local level
  • A stronger, broader and more diversified community-service system for children and families

Main difficulties reviewed in this report:

  • Gaps between the extent of needs and of responses, and difficulty in financing attendant activities to expand and streamline interventions
  • Difficulty in involving children in the decision-making processes affecting their lives
  • Parents who do not utilize services
  • Difficulty in obtaining cooperation with agencies providing simultaneous responses, and in ensuring continuity of care in the transition between services
  • Difficulty in implementing the Permanent Home policy to avoid long-term, out-of-home placements including intensive work with parents in preparation for a child’s return, or in examining adoption alternatives for very young children.

The findings of the integrative analysis are to promote public discourse and professional discussion at Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and other agencies treating at-risk children in order to continue formulating policy and beneficial programmatic directions.

The study was made possible by a special grant from Nancy Hackerman of Baltimore, USA.