Comprehensive Program for Preschool Children from the Caucasus and their Parents: Executive Summary

Some 60,000 immigrants from the Caucasus came to Israel during the large wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union (FSU) in the 1990s. They came from traditional communities with a unique way of life. Since their arrival in Israel, they have concentrated in several towns with members of their community. They have experienced greater difficulties in adjusting to life in Israel than other immigrants from the FSU.

A study of their needs and of policy to help the community with the adjustment process revealed that preschoolers from the Caucasus and their parents received less assistance than other age groups. In response to their needs, Ashalim initiated a comprehensive program for these children and their parents. The program was designed to support the parents and help them integrate their children in Israeli society and to advance the children in various areas (socially and emotionally, with their language and literacy skills, etc.) as well as to instill cultural sensitivity among professionals. The comprehensive program included programs for children, parents and professionals. The program was implemented from 2004–2007 in three towns with a large concentration of immigrants from the Caucasus: Kiryat Yam, Or Akiva and Sderot. Four of five programs were implemented in each. In each town, the project was overseen by a steering committee consisting of service providers and representatives of the Caucasian community.

The comprehensive program was evaluated to help with the development of the comprehensive program and other similar programs. The goals of the evaluation were to examine how the comprehensive model was implemented in the 3 towns, to examine implementation with regard to the organizational infrastructure, including the work of the locality-based steering committees, and to evaluate selected programs implemented through the comprehensive program: training programs for professionals, language and literacy programs, enrichment programs for children and guidance for their parents.

The study findings indicate the program’s achievements, including developing a comprehensive model that met the main needs of its target population; strengthening the children emotionally and socially and improving their language and literacy skills through the literacy programs; and enhancing cooperation among providers of services for preschoolers in the town. The evaluation also found several areas in need of improvement, such as the level of cooperation between professionals and parents. The study also found that the program was too limited in the quantity of interventions and the types of need that were met.

The study findings were presented and discussed in the locality-level steering committees and at national level. When Ashalim phased out its funding after three years of implementation, the program continued on a limited scale in Sderot and Or Akiva with funding from the local authority.
The study was initiated by Ashalim and funded with its assistance.