Implications of the Towards the Community Policy: Changes in Community Services and Integration of Children and Youth Returning from Out-of-Home Care, 2005-2011

In September 2004, the Service for Children and Youth at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Services (MOSAS) began implementing its Towards the Community policy, in order to reduce risk among children and youth. The policy is implemented in two main directions: 1. The municipal social service departments (SSDs) have been given the possibility of utilizing resources previously earmarked for funding out-of-home placement, to develop services in the community (exchange quotas); 2. The duration of out-of-home stays has been limited to four years. The goal is to provide a range of services in the community to a greater number of children at risk and at the same time to provide adequate services for children returning to the community. The report presents an analysis of the data accumulated from 2005-2011 in the ongoing follow-up system, which was developed with the assistance of MJB.

The findings indicate that the policy has been successful in the following areas:

  • Every year, approximately 160-200 SSDs (out of 253) chose to exchange quotas and utilize the budgets to develop services in the community. In 2010, for example, the exchange of approximately 1,000 out-of-home quotas freed up an additional NIS 50 million, which were utilized to provide services in the community for approximately 26,000 children and youth, and for many parents.
  • Most of the children and adolescents who returned from out-of-home care have remained in the community and been integrated into educational frameworks, and many have received services in the community.
  • Altogether, between 2000 and 2010, there was a decline of 7.5% in the number of children and youth in out-of-home care. The decline was mainly in facilities for children with less complex needs.

However, the findings also indicate difficulties and challenges with the implementation of the policy.

  • A large gap remains between the extent of assistance provided and the need for services – both for children and adolescents at risk in the community and for those returning from out-of-home care.
  • Some of those returning (mainly the adolescents) and their parents were not interested in receiving community services. There is a need to rethink whether the services are meeting their needs and preferences.
  • The follow-up revealed a situation in which children (and particularly adolescents) had returned to the community in an unplanned manner that was not by SSD decision. Higher percentages of these children and adolescents (than those whose return was planned) did not integrate into educational frameworks, did not receive suitable services, and returned to out-of-home care. This phenomenon illustrates the need to monitor those in out-of-home care in order to plan their return and prepare them, their families and their communities.
  • The increased percentage of children and youth with complex needs in out-of-home care calls for reassessing the role of these facilities and their suitability for the needs of these children.

The findings from the follow-up system formed the basis for the expansion of the Towards the Community policy, the development of “360° – The Inter-ministerial National Program for Children and Youth at Risk,” and the recognition of the need to implement the reform in the SSD’s planning, treatment and evaluation committees.

The study was funded with the assistance of MOSAS.