As many as 7,000 Israeli youth ages 8-18 reside in over 100 boarding schools across the country after being transferred from broken homes by the Welfare Authorities. Approximately 1,500 have absolutely no family backing. Yeladim’s mission is to provide each of them with similar opportunities to those accessible to children being raised by their parents in normative homes, so that they too can grow-up to become functioning, happy, and contributing members of society.
Yeladim serves as a legal guardian for minors placed in boarding schools in the absence of a parent able to meet their needs and ensure responsibility for their upbringing. There are 100 minors in the program, but some 650 still need guardianship. As demand has increased and the model gained a foothold among boarding school staff and social workers, we are working on two tracks: raising the necessary funds to reach more children, and disseminating the model among peer agencies. It is for this reason that $5,000 is requested.
A minor removed from their family under court order is often left without a significant adult role model. After being exposed to abuse, domestic violence, and abandonment, they cope with mental and personality disorders, as well as difficulty in accepting authority. Most have already dropped out of more than one educational framework. They require protective, therapeutic, regulative mediation in the absorption process itself, especially in the first few months.
Yeladim offers a semi-therapeutic and intensive guardianship model. Yeladim’s guardian, equipped with holistic and therapeutic skills, constitutes a meaningful adult whom they can talk to and trust. The guardian’s role is to represent the minor’s voice and integrate the processes taking place in the minor’s life, vis-à-vis therapeutic and educational staff, the social services department, schools, etc. The guardian also works with the minor’s biological family on restructuring their relationship if possible. Each social worker and one attorney accompany approximately 20 minors. It is important to note that Yeladim is the only organization in Israel that does not charge a fee for guardianship from the minor’s stipends.
The program offers an interdisciplinary and comprehensive answer to the minor’s needs, including financial, legal, social and emotional. Our team includes lawyers, social workers, and administrative staff, all of whom assist with managing the children’s savings and advocacy vis-à-vis the social services and the judicial system. Guardianship includes participation in all decisions and daily contact.
Despite the fact that guardianship ends when the minor turns 18, we continue to accompany them until the end of 12th grade and prior to their enlistment in the army, national/civil service, or adult rehabilitation programs. This relationship serves as a beacon of hope and a model for the future.
This program is unique in the world and in the guardian field because of its personal touch. The state provides these children with a roof, food and education, but their need for an adult who is there for them and supports them – remembers their birthday or takes them out of the boarding school where they spend 365 days a year – is not being provided by any institution or person. Beyond taking care of their financial affairs, legal rights, scholastic, social, emotional, familial, and health needs; the guardian (who has years of experience working with children-at-risk) provides a safe and loving relationship, one that is as close as can possibly be to a parental relationship for these abandoned children, for whom sadly, nobody really cares.
The target group comprises minors who reside in boarding schools from Be’er Sheva in the south to the Harduf area in the north, from all demographic sectors: native Israelis, immigrants (mainly from the former USSR and Ethiopia), Arabs, secular and religious Jews. In terms of impact, the guardian follows up on the child’s development and educational progress, with an emphasis on creating and building trust through personal connection, dedication and care.