The “What’s Up?” Survey of Adolescents in Residential Care During The Israel-Hamas War

Background and Objective

On October 7, 2023, the Hamas terrorist organization launched a surprise attack on the communities bordering on the Gaza Strip that led Israel to declare war on Hamas. Immediately after the outbreak of the war, the Out-of-Home Care, Family, Children, Youth and Special Placement Division of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs began assessing the needs of the residential facilities under its responsibility. A month after the outbreak of the war, the Ministry decided to examine the status of the adolescents in these facilities with the residents themselves, to assess their unique needs in light of the terror attack and ongoing hostilities, as well as to convey a message of caring and partnership by professionals and administrators in the residential facilities and the Ministry. Therefore, the Ministry commissioned the Myers-Joint-Brookdale Institute to conduct a survey of all adolescents in residential care facilities supervised by the Ministry.


The on-line survey, in Hebrew and Arabic, was sent to all adolescents in the Ministry’s residential care facilities aged 12 and above. The survey was completed through a link that was accessed by cell phone or computer. The survey was launched on December 3, 2023, and data collection was completed on January 1, 2024. Data were collected from all types of residential care facilities supervised by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs (the Maof, Ogen, and Maoz facilities). A total of 340 survey forms were collected (completed either fully or partially).


Characteristics of the respondents in the study: About half of the respondents were girls and half were boys; their ages ranged from 12-20; 65% were Jews, 25% were Arabs, and 10% “other”; 66% resided in Maof facilities; 24% in Ogen facilities, and 10% in Maoz facilities.

Difficulties and concerns reported due to the war: 58% reported being sad or depressed; 50% reported being concerned or stressed; 49% reported being nervous or upset. The respondents were also concerned about their academic achievements (33%), family relations (26%), and social relations (24%). At the same time, 62% felt safe in the residential facility and 63% felt safe in their parental home during their vacations.

Responses of the residential facilities to the unique needs of the adolescents due to the war: 85% of respondents received explanations about the war (45% of the explanations were by the residential home staff); 48% reported that there were changes in the residential care facility’s schedule, but only 9% reported having been consulted about those changes. Nearly half (48%) said they felt the staff were supportive and attentive “nearly always” or “always”.

Discussion and Recommendations

  1.  According to the Israel Democracy Institute, 330,000 Israelis have been evacuated from their homes as a result of the war (3.3% of the Israeli population), while the survey findings indicate that 20.2% of the respondents’ families have been evacuated from their homes. This rate is significantly higher than the rate among the general population, and, therefore, should be taken into consideration, including providing appropriate (physical and emotional support) services.
  2.  The respondents’ major concern was difficulty in concentrating on their studies – a finding consistent with difficulties described by children and youth from the general population. Therefore, it is necessary to provide these adolescents with the conditions that will enable them to concentrate on their studies and to enhance the support they receive for their academic difficulties.
  3.  For 7.1% of the respondents, there is no safe home to go to on their vacations. This rate is similar to that of the resident population who do not leave the facilities for vacations at home or in respite care under ordinary circumstances. However, it is not certain that these respondents are the same residents who remain in the facilities in routine times and that their sense of unprotectedness is due to the same reasons. We recommend examining each case and providing an individualized response.
  4.  Only 9.4% of the participants felt they had been consulted prior to modifying the residential home’s schedule. We recommend impressing upon the staff the importance of including adolescents in their care in decision making.
  5.  On a positive note, most (83.6%) of the respondents reported that someone from the staff expressed an interest in their wellbeing as a result of the war (there were no significant differences in terms of participant characteristics). Moreover, 85.3% of the participants felt the staff were attentive and supportive. In addition, in the open-ended questions, the participants expressed appreciation for the staff.
  6.  The secondary objective of the survey was for the residents to know that the staff is interested in them and in their wellbeing. This objective was achieved, and in the open-ended questions respondents expressed their appreciation of the staff’s interest in them. We therefore recommend adopting the approach of “What’s Up?” surveys among adolescents in residential homes, particularly in times of crisis. We also recommend revising the survey instrument based on the insights gained from the findings of the current survey.