Developing a National Index of Child Maltreatment in Israel

Children who have suffered maltreatment and are known to social services are only the “tip of the iceberg” of all such children in Israel. As numerous victims remain unknown to the agencies, this impedes the formulation of overall policy and the development of responses. To date, no attempt has been made to collate the data collected by various systems in an integrated set of measures that would yield more current, comprehensive and reliable information and permit follow-up of changes over time. The development of a national index to measure child maltreatment was designed to fill this gap.

In May 2015 the MeHalev Initiative was launched under the auspices of the Haruv Institute. It was designed to promote activities for the prevention and reduction of child maltreatment in Israel. As part of the Initiative, the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute was asked to develop an inclusive national index to measure the extent of the problem. In this report, we present the process of developing the index, the guiding principles, and the recommendation for implementation.

The process required the creation of a common understanding and broad agreement among professionals and senior policymakers as to the boundaries of child maltreatment and the best way to measure it. Thus, the first stager (June 2015 to May 2016) included establishing a multidisciplinary committee to accompany the process, and an in-depth review of the definitions of the phenomenon and the prevalent methods of data collection in Israel and abroad.

Based on this process, the principles guiding the development of the index were determined and translated into a recommendation for implementation. The principles include:

  1. Use of the more prevalent definitions in use abroad to facilitate international comparisons
  2. Use of the existing data-collection infrastructures to increase the feasibility of measurement and reduce costs
  3. Integration of varied data sources to facilitate fuller representation of the extent of the problem
  4. Data collection on demographic characteristics to deepen the understanding of child maltreatment and of the usefulness of the data.

A pilot is planned for 2017 to examine the feasibility of the proposed measurement method. It will also provide preliminary findings on the extent of child maltreatment in Israel.

The development of the index was initiated and funded by the MeHalev Initiative to Prevent Child Maltreatment.