The placement of children in residential facilities is one of the available ways to meet the needs of children at risk who contend with family difficulties and with their own social and emotional difficulties. Despite processes of professionalization and quality improvements which have taken place in the system of residential facilities in Israel in recent years, criticism has been leveled against two of its main aspects: Children who are taken out of their home are largely cut off from their family and community, and not enough effort is made to help families and communities reabsorb children after several years of out-of-home care. The development of the models of community-based and day residential facilities (by the Ministry of Social Affairs’ Children and Youth Service and Ashalim) aims to address these two aspects. Both models, which serve children ages 5-12 with rehabilitative potential, are based on physical proximity to the home community, and on working in cooperation with parents and the community, on planned care for children and parents, and on time-limited care which aims to return children home.
The evaluation study, conducted over three years, examined three main areas: the preparations for establishing the residential facilities; the residential facilities’ intervention strategies with parents and children; and how the stay at the residential facilities affects the children and their parents. The findings regarding the preparations for the models’ implementation are based on interviews with professionals in the facilities and in the communities in which they are located. Findings regarding operational methods and the status of children and parents are based on interviews and questionnaires completed by the residential facilities’ staff and by the parents in each year of the evaluation. The study was conducted in six day-residential facilities and six community-based residential facilities, which were compared with a random sample of children in all rehabilitative residential facilities.
The findings of the study indicate that the new models have contributed to strengthening child-parent relationships, improving parents’ ability to perform parental roles and their behavior toward their children while visiting the residential facilities and during vacations. The findings also indicate that residential facilities work more closely with social services in the community, which is reflected in joint care planning and, to a lesser extent, joint care. Still, questions remain regarding the division of labor between residential facilities and community social services, and residential facilities expect social services to be more involved in caring for the families. In addition, it seems that the planning of the children’s transfer out of the residential facilities and return to their home communities is still not anchored satisfactorily in the work of the residential facilities and the social services.
Throughout the study, the findings were presented to program leaders and constituted a basis for changes in the implementation of residential facilities with respect to their target population, work with social services and planning for the return to the community. In addition, the findings of the study and subsequent discussions served as a basis for formulating the Children and Youth Service’s “Back to the Community” policy, which allows for the diversion of resources toward the creation of a supportive continuum of services in the community for children at risk and their families.
The study was initiated by and funded with the assistance of JDC-Ashalim.
Citations in the professional and academic literature
Dolev, T., Ben Rabi, D., & Zemach-Marom, T. (2009). Residential care for children at-risk in Israel. Courtney, M./Iwaniec, D, 72-87.
Elizur, Y. (2012). Development and dissemination of collaborative family‐oriented services: The case of community/day residential care in Israel. Family process, 51(1), 140-156.