Internal injuries

Internal injuries- " Acts of harassment denied and hidden , and children have no basic protection " • What happens to boarding schools at risk ? • Research  , Naama Lnskymichl Jacob Isaac , .Israel Hayom , Posted on: 04/04/2014 00:40 Updated on : 06/04/2014

Lily's stomach began to hurt most concern when boarding manager called her into his office to reach a panic , where he even offered her coffee , cakes and cold water. As out of his way to please and soothe her , the more she felt that something bad happened to one of her children living in a boarding school . She was sure it was the large boy that is playful and always making trouble.

But then the director of campus held his head , said that thirty years is not such a thing happened to him , and murmured a few verses from the Torah . This is Lily's daughter , age seven . She was sexually adused by some boys . It happened six days ago,the manager has no real info and is not allowed to ask wat happend the Police are investigating.

" I asked , what does it mean sexually abused , what exactly happened , how it happened and why no one stopped it and what do I do now ? Leave her with her ​​attackers ? " Lily tells exactly what happened a month ago , " and he told me he was not sure , my daughter was on the way to testify . Demanded to let me see her right away, and they took me to her .

"The first thing the girl said to me is' Mom, I'm not guilty .i Hugged her and told her : " Obviously you're not guilty. youare my soul . Go tell all that happened. my hero , and mothers watching over you . its's Not your fault, sweet heart . " .

Lily was asked to leave her daughter and stumbled back to her small apartment in Jerusalem. "I saw a black screen before my eyes , I was afraid of falling apart ," she says . "I took four valiums that day , and it did not help. Felt my heart torn out of my body ."

After a few days it became clear to Lily that five boys sexually abused her daughter. Another boy watched the proceedings in silence and did nothing ..

" Trying to reassure me that the boys did not rape her, but forced her to touch them ," she says . "I do not understand why thay did not do a physical examination to make sure they did not hurt her . , I do not understand how it happened when the child should be cared for all the time, and I do not see why it remains the responsibility of guides who failed in their jobs ."

Lily (a pseudonym , as the minor's parents names in the article ) , a single - parent age 41 , had a difficult life very difficult . she looks young a full of spirit which are not able to hide the hardships experienced in her youth. Although she has been working diligently but barely makes a living . At one point she thought, or was persuaded by the welfare authorities that her children should grow up at a boarding school , not far from her apartment . Poverty ,her difficult childhood , criminal past , the fact she was a single - parent - all left her little chance to leave the children with her, at her home .

The children were removed from home by social services , the argument of the welfare of the child . Her son was 4 years old when he left home, her daughter was only two years old . Now she regrets , but there is no way back.

Lily , who herself suffered sexually throughout her childhood , conducted an intense struggle . she was surrounded by good friends and social activists , not to let the issue be forgotten.

After 12 days the attackers were expelled from boarding school . But Lily 's voice is not happy with in the success or non success of the struggle . Certainly not happy she is.

"Officially , the case was handled , even though my daughter does not have to remain under the care of the failed guides . And it helps ?me the case was handled ? " She cries. "It should not have happened . Was not impossible to avoid it ?.thay Promised me to keep my baby , and I believe them , because I wanted her fate will be different from mine ."

yonit : " On the way home ,one of the girls told me instructors are getting with us into bed at night ." Photo: Joshua Joseph
yonit : " On the way home ,one of the girls told me instructors are getting with us into bed at night ." Photo: Joshua Joseph

Low reporting level

Prevalence of sexual abuse in children and adolescents in the general population gradually increases and closes at us from all directions. Israeli police data shows that of all cases of sexual offenses started in 2012 , 44 percent were made to minors up to age 17: 2,200cases from about 5,000 . upto Age 12 no significant difference in numbers of boys and girls ; From 12 onwards , there are more girls hurt.

This data already harsh have to be treated seririously , because among children and youth level reporting of sexual assault is very low, for reasons that shame, guilt , fear of social rejection , peer pressure or simply a lack of awareness and the blurring between the permitted and the forbidden , which is characteristic of these ages . All this , when children are exposed today more than ever before to sexuality and pornography , which are available to them very easily.

But what is happening inside the state run boarding schools that are closed to the public , which children find themselves being taken from their parents' by the authority of social services on the grounds that thay are protecting them , watch them , monitor them and to significantly improve their immediate environment ? And what happens when it happens to children affected by their past, or that grow up with parents how were sexually abused as children ? This is a population with a potential for injury witch is significantly higher .

Absolute majority of children referredto bording schools Away - : " because of Such claims as the child is exposed to neglect the of there welfare and physical abuse , emotional and sexual . In 2012, to illustrate, is that out of about 36 thousand requests handled by social workers ( CPOs ) of the youth , about 45 percent were classified under the category " neglect " , about 37 percent were classified as physical ausult " and 17 percent - sexual ausult . " Sexual vulnerability rate has not changed significantly in five years.

Professor Esther Herzog , Chairman of the A.l.i. :"Things happen are denied and hidden "
Professor Esther Herzog , Chairman of the A.l.i. :"Things happen are denied and hidden "

Professor Esther Herzog , Chairman A.l.i. the NGO Children's Rights and Parents , twenty years against unjustified removal of children from their parents , emphasizing that many of these parents were themselves " children of well-fare " . "This is at least a second or third generation of welfare children . So how do we get out of the endless vicious cycle ? Is this not the proof that something is fundamentally wrong here . I claim all the years that only by addressing real community and family care can help . Not by automatic removal of children to institutions".

Indeed, all of the mothers interviewed for this article were welfere children . They all also have experienced sexual abuse themselves. Now they relive traumas , as if not enough tragic life circumstances .

Adi ( 33 ) has five children from three different fathers : the older daughter was 13 months , and 4 -year-old little boy and a half . She herself was the child welfare, sent with her brother following a disease where her mother was sick . At the age of seven she was the victim of a brutal rape from a neighbour . In her teens she lost both her parents .

She married young , and when she asked for a divorce was refused a divorce. The only option to be released marriages entailed giving up custody of her two daughters firstborns in favor of the father. She maintains close contact with them . At the end of another failed relationship and full with violence, she found herself on the street fled with two small children under the age of four , when her body full of bruises .

"At that time I had no money for anything , not even to eat. i Would invadeempty amidar homes . Every time someone complained about me to the police ,thay would come and throw me out to the street. Arrested at least ten times.

" When the children were aged four and five,i took them to the children 's welfare office and asked for help , and then one child was sent to foster care and other boarding school . i Consent to it , but today I'm sorry . If you would give me financial aid and guide me and give me tools how to deal with raising children , the boys were stay with me . "

Her young son , from a third man in her life ,wen she was aged 28 . According to her, the welfare informed her baby after birth will be up for adoption , but she was determined . "All the difficulties I had sustained , I knew this kid thay wood not touch .i Know that nothing in the world wood break me , and really I did. Using Amidar I got an apartment , I was able to hold the two of us. Worked as a cleaner and as an accompanying student transportation .

" I can not say that everything is good , and there are days that I have no food in the refrigerator , but thankfully, I'm fine . there are good people who help me , and I swore that welfare will no longer be in my life ."

Exactly a year ago the phone rang at the home of adi. "Without prior warning I was told my son , aged nine , was sexually abused by another child from boarding school ," she says . " I almost fainted . , I remember I dropped the phone from my hand and I was shaking all over.

"The boarding school told me that they found them in his bed , along with another child. They still tried to calm me down and told me not to worry , it 's not that bad , because the offender is a child my son's age ."

According to adi , the bording school personal asked on to complane to the police , and promised her she would handle the matter , if necessary, invite the police . However, she complained to the police about an indecent act against a minor , and she invited to the boarding school police car , but it did not help. "Not even took him for a medical examination ," she says sadly. " To this day I do not know if police are investigating my complaint or not."

Boarding school , she says, underplayed the incident . Even after things were discovered , left her son to stay in all day near the abusing boy , and slept with him in the same room . He rarely tells her about what he experienced , but when he came home for visits ,i noticed noticed he wets the bed.

" One day I saw bruises on his body . Asked him what it is . Initially tried to dodge , but i did not give up . Finally he broke down and told me a sexual assaulted on the same child were on a regular basis for three months after the initial discovery .

After her son told her about the repeated injuries , he refused to go back to boarding school . " Instead of sending him back , I went to the welfare office that handles boarding school son and I called to confront them with new information discovered , and they just said they could not handle it , because I had complained to the police.

"When I demanded answers to how you may , under the supervision of child sexually offensive another child , they told me that the child harms experienced sexual abuse himself. How does that help me , how everyone was dozing How it happens that my son goes to a boarding school because I do not have the financial ability to raise him , and the very place that should protect him,is were he experienced such injury ? "

adi turned to welfare officer , who knew the case. She tried to persuade her to return the child , but adi was refused. "I told them over my dead body i will allow my child to be abused again . Later they realized there was nothing to fight me in private everyone seems to know who was here a serious crime . Thay sent him home . Few months ago removed to a temporary emergency center in Jerusalem, until there is a has a permanent solution , where he gets treatment.

" Even today, after so many months , you can see that the injury left him badly scarred .this Week they called me and told me my child is walking around the shelter in his underwear

Adi . " I was told on the phone that my son , aged nine , was sexually abused another child from boarding school ." Photo: Joshua Joseph

Difficult to follow each child

Keren Kesler , a clinical social worker and psychotherapist specializing in working with parents whose children suffered sexual and providing training for managers and staff dormitory , explains the lack of love and care and bording school family exposes children to situations of sexual exploitation . " Because some children were sexually abused themselves , so that is the starting point for two possible situations : either the child victim will continue to be a victim, or he'll try to translate the harm that harm another child .

" in Boarding schools its difficult to follow each child. the attaking childis suposed to be kept away from the victim , it is important to make sure he will not be with the child victim . Unfortunately from my experience - from the inside , having looked at many cases of sexual abuse , the staff does everything to hide it, for fear of reprimand . Many times staff themselves overwhelmed by the situation , and do not know how to deal with it. this place should be a protector and protected becomes a place that keeps us silent , allowing violations to continue.

" On the other hand , I know that when it is discovered that frames a case of sexual abuse are all current daily activities are stoped , conducting talks and assisted by qualified professionals that."

keren , a clinical social worker : "A lot of times the team itself are overwhelmed and do not know how to handle "

According to a report Silman published last month ,in the State of Israel there are 268 internaly controlled and funded bording schools by the Ministry of Social Affairs - including internal rehabilitation , treatment , post- hospitalization , and boarding of Youth Protection , designed most of the population until end of youth. Their internal bording schools nearly two entities owned public , subject to the Ministry of Social Affairs. transmitted basic budgets for therapeutic targets in these frameworks enormous - more than a billion shekels each year. according to budget 2013 , 962 million were allocated to treatment in outpatient settings - bording schools and emergancy shelters , and another 154 million to treat children as part of the Youth Protection program .

bording school guides does not require special training. 12 years school is enough , even if he is not entitled to a matriculation certificate , can become a guide . He should deal with children were cut off from their families and their environment , and some have experienced various injuries or abuse. guides have no professional status ; The work is based on shifts , and salary ranges around NIS 5,000 a month , sometimes less, when it comes to also providing boarding guides residence . Consideration by the Committee in the Knesset two months ago showed that about half of the guides leave their job in less than a year , because of stress .

Esti . " They took my child and now hurting him ? , Etc. Instead, she was my biggest fear ." Photo: Joshua Joseph

" Without training manuals "

According to bentzi barans, National Commissioner in bording schools of the social welfare , have approximately 2,000 guides, and according to independent testing of these serves in an average of three years. Each year, between 50 and 70 participants Guides Private course - one day a week for a year.

" Some come in the middle of the year and leave after a few months , that sometimes happens that guides are accepted without undergoing formal training . we Realized that we could train them all. Additionally, with a degree in social sciences , education or non-formal education and students in these professions are exempt from the course ."

" There's actually a boarding school counselors in depth training in the field of sexual abuse , because there is not enough awareness and directing resources to the issue," says Sherry Rue , coordinator of the valleys branch Crisis Center and Victims of sexual assault in Haifa. "When we manage to get in, we meet teams who badly need help, who want to learn about the subject and know how to deal with it."

Even schools of social work do not provide their students properly with trained in sexual vulnerability . Thus, even some of the most specialized professionals comes into boarding schools with little understanding of the subject, if any.

Rue says that aid centers were dedicated in training internal staff dealing with sexual abuse . "During 2013 we were able to run ten internal traning programes in Haifa Area , this is a nice start . Realized we must give them at least the basic therapeutic tools : how to find and how to identify victimes , how to provide initial response in a sensitive , non-judgmental in General,to open up a window this world of sexual vulnerability .

" We are also working with the children themselves. Explain to them what the law says , what is right for our bodies , what is a healthy relationship , whats a Abusive Relationship . We reveal lots of prejudices about what this abuse and what who it hurt or injures . Example, children probably think whoever abused deserve - because of there dress , because there family they come from , because of their permissive nature . , we talk to them from the basic starting point for whoever was abused - it 's not his fault . "

In 2011 the evalualuaion harov Institute ( a research institute and curriculum development and treatment ) , in collaboration CBS comprehensive study included all children yearbook 1989 - 125 thousand children , mostly Jewish sector . The purpose of this study was to understand the characteristics of children treated by social services in the community , especially foreign placement -- that is, boarding schools and foster families .

The study found that the percentage of girls who gave birth to one or two children up to age 19 among girls in the welfare system was five times greater than the number of regular young population .the Number of girls undergoing treatment welfare legal abortion or two until the age of 19 was twice that of the other girls normal population. It is assumed that a given part, because the nature of things, the study could not track down illegal pregnancies .

" The state pays for the maintenance of all these institutions more than 15 thousand shekels a month per child ," says CPA Jacob ilia , a researcher specializing in the control and supervision of local authorities dealing with for years regarding the treatment of the welfare of children at risk by the welfare dep. "Despite the highe some of money , these girls are exposed to risk situations pregnancy and abortion very young age , and for the Ministry of Social Affairs, their babies become almost automatic babies at risk . I consider it intolerable . "

Welfare system are well aware of the problem of sexual offenses in the bording schools . Six years ago a discussion was held by the Committee in the Knesset on the subject of juvenile sex offenses and methods of prevention . Dr. Isaac Cadman , CEO of the Child Welfare Council , said that more than ten percent of children living in boarding schools have experienced sexual abuse at boarding school .

Hanna Slutsky , a social worker beginning of the Youth ( under which the children removed from their parents' home ) , she added : " I have no doubt that the number of children affected and hurt is much more than what we know and what comes to our attention , and we know that these numbers are increasing ."

At the hearing, Slutsky sed that there a severe shortage of Night staff thay needed to be multiplied their numbers. The ratio is currently one night guide to all 60 children in a boarding school .

But not only at night is it a dangerus time for the children . Same forum, Dr. Hanita Tzimerin , president of ELI , Child Protection Association that " one of the most difficult problems in boarding schools is' blind spots , which are impossible to control - for example, the shower in the afternoon ." " Our guides are given sets, which are supposed to work with the children , even down to the importance of reporting ," says bentzi . "I have no way of knowing if these kitsare in use . our problem is that thay dont know if their sensors can detect that somthing is wrong and maybe abuse occurs."

Sherry bRue notes that " many sexual abuse do not reach the entire legal process . Police are investigating a very long time, or close the case for lack of evidence , then they say - do not suspend someone if you are not sure that the complaint is correct. we Do not remove a child from a particular place if we are not completely sure something happend but if the police and the court did not find conclusive evidence does not mean that the complaint is not correct and not requiring treatment. limited criminal tools . "

yonit 's two daughters , twin girls of nine, were taken from her nine months ago to a emergency center .she Is living in poverty , but beyond that , the cause of presence of girls in the center of the emergency is not entirely clear . Welfare authorities believed they suffer from ADHD and autism is suspected , not treated . The court upheld the removal from home for three months, for the preparation of assessments , but even after nine months , according to the mother's lawyer , Freddy Yahav , yet there were no diagnoses done .

Since the girls were removed from ther home arose several times serious concerns from the family that they were molested by guides at the emergance shelter . "It began when they told me about the new game , a bottoms game , where they show their rear ends ," says yonit. " I did not need more than that to realize that there is something wrong . Four months ago I filed a complaint with the police. Interrogator told me that we have to get the out for immediate investigation , but I know it was not done."

In one of her few encounters with her ​​daughters, they gave an entire folder paintings. One painting caught her attention : it looks like the figure of a girl with no arms with wide hips , as depicted vagaina . Ionic Zivit asked Dr. Abramson , a psychologist and family therapist , examined the painting.

"From what I can tell , the painting evokes strong suspicion that the girls are being or have been sexually abused ," Abramson wrote in her opinion . "Lack of hands painting expresses a feeling of utter helplessness . Contrast, prominent hips centered between two little feet , you can not stand on them, and vagaina featured covered with stain thick. When I compared the picture of this specific other paintings done by the girls before suspected sexual assault , seen in clear that the girls know how to draw hands and fingers . pelvis or body size had no special expression . " Even that approach yonit complaint at the police and nothing was done .

A month ago, the girls came to visit at home for a weekend , the first time since taken out in June 2013. "In the beginning everything was good, so we were happy to be together , went to the beach with friends ," says yonit . "My brother did a bbq , and the girls were happy. , But on the way home thay told me guides go into bed with them at night . She said that hurt her vagaina , rub it until it hurts . Felt like knives that cut me in the stomach from the inside".

yonit rushed to the hospital wolfson with the girls , so that professionals will test the girls. However , according to summaries of hospitalization , the girls did not undergo a physical examination , which was supposed to prove or disprove the complaint, . According to the investigation conducted the children were not questioned because yonit refused her littel daughters be investigated without her presence.

After a one-day hospitalization for observation , when a policeman watched the whole time so the mother would not run away with the girls , took welfare officer treats the family, accompanied by ten policemen , and took the girls back to emergancy shelter by force

Lily. " My daughter said to me , 'Mom , I'm not guilty , " Photograph : David Vaknin

"They took them out of bed '

"Until now, almost a month after the incident , I can still hear their screams when they took them to a emergancy shelter ," says yonit . "They took them out of bed , with pajamas and without their shoes , pushing them into a taxi , as the police kept blocking me and my mother with their bodies and do not let us get close ."

Mr. Yahav : "There is a complite lack of confidence in the system of the mother's intentions and the validity of her clame . It is the struggle for the return of her daughters home, and the system suspects the mother of lying that sexual abuse hapend , to return them to their home . "

Yaakov Ben Issachar , Head of the Movement for the future of our children , working for equality in divorce proceedings and preventing removal of children from their natural families unnecessarily , accompanied many parents whose children were sexually abused in bording schools a emergancy shelters . He said that over the years he approached to the welfare authorities , the police and the Ministry, this can not be an appropriate answer .

"Over the years I have met with many people , including individual meetings with the Ministers of Social Affairs, and every time I received a reply that the subject is examinad and taken care of ," Ben Issachar . "In practice I found that business as usual , and who are left with worsened daily distress are children and their parents - not that anyone cares , not to treat them, not to be treated seriously."

Professional bodies claim that more sex offenses happen at boarding schools a emergancy shelters than in foster families , which try to detect and to prevent . And yet , even in foster families often heard stories are about sexual abuse .

In the case of a seven year old son of Esther ( 46 ) , who argued that the indecent acts were in foster care . The boy was home two years ago, and since then she struggled with all her might to bring him back , and feel enormasly wronged . Is permitted to meet him for one hour every two weeks in the contact center , although there were long periods when she did not see him at all. The second son , 13 year old ,the welfare authorities left at home, and she raises him with love as best she could .

" Six weeks ago I was sitting with my little boy in the center of the contact, and suddenly he told me his foster brother touches the private parts and and it hurts. Touched fast social worker who sat next to us and supervised the meeting to listen to what he says , and she nodded her listening . Wanted to make order of things and started asking him questions , if is he angry with this child , if that child his friend. wanted to understand where it came from , and he said, ' Mom, do not be mad at me .

" Then I let a scream . What it shout . All two of two years frustration and pain I released there. , I do not even remember exactly what I said. Took my child and now hurting him ? , Etc. Instead, it was my biggest fear , and every mother in the world?

" The social worker immediately went off the child. Said: ' It's for his own good ." Sat on the bench outside, not knowing what 's going on with me. Cried and could not find my rest. Then thay let him come back to me. i Said it 's good that you told me , and he said me, ' Mom, do not do to the Problems . meeting time was over , I said,' Do not worry, I do everything to get you home . "

The report of the Institute of Welfare, the family is under supervision , states that " the mother began to question the child on the foster family and siblings . Telling her about another foster child , she asked , ' Does he touch you ? ' And the boy answered 'yes' . Question of where he touches , he replied : ' pecker . Touches like this , squeezing me tight . " She began to scream and to threats everywhere. Child said to her : ' Mother, I love it in the family, and I love the foster mother. "

Following the incident , the mother's visits with her completely halted until further notice. Welfare Office which treated the family intends to move the sessions supervised contact center to another . Since then , a month and a half , Estee has not sean her son ; She does not know when it will happen .

" I can not find rest, I have no air ," she says . " I have no doubt that my child was injured. Years I'm checking with him if everything was okay , if he was hurt , If he is treat right, and he says everything is fine . This time, on his own initiative he said that he hurt me . , I was very afraid that he is in foreign hands , he sleeps not in his home with his mother . is so sweet and good , my child . "

Immediately after reporting her son Estee filed a complaint . so far not given her and her attorney whereis the investigation going . Estee 's lawyer informed the court about the alleged sexual assault and child was invited to talk to the judge. Recently submitted a request to extend welfare to a year under which the child continues to live with the foster family .

" The social workers have a responsibility to be worried about Estee boy as if he was there own child ," said the mother's lawyer , Joseph Necker . " This guidance previously given a decision of Judge Edna Ben Levy Juvenile Court in Haifa. Child is in the custody and under the auspices of welfare , according to law and order . What does welfare ? Waiting for the police investigation initiated by the mother, and as far as we did not even think of beginning therapy .

" Welfare department minimises Estee case to dwarf there responsibilites and liability on their shift ," adds Mr. Nacker . " For them, the main thing is not the words that child - but the reaction of the mother when he told her . It's outrageous. How wood a welfare officer would react if there child had said touching her private parts ? She would not losing her temper ?

"There is simply zero understanding of the legitimate feelings of mothers in this situaiton . Complain to parents whose children were hurt . Anyone who does not finds compassion and understanding for those parents ,is not worthy to be in public office

" Welfare do not want to believe all the complaints of the parents. Reject their motives in advance. thay Think that the complaint is merely a part of the struggle of the parents to get back their children . These messages are also delivered to the police, and has been since the beginning of the investigation and have close cooperation between the two bodies . From my experience , I doubt the police will do anything to maximize the speed of the investigation . "

It should be noted that according to the law, suspected sexual abuse of children under the age of 14 is tested by researchers at Children's Welfare Ministry , and Youth by police investigators . That is , this issue , like others, remains the responsibility of the Ministry of Welfare.

What would happen if the situation were reversed , and welfare were afraid for a sexually abused child at home ? "They wood immediately remove the child from home ," replies emphatically Cremia Orian , clinical psychologist and counselor , who once worked for many years in conjunction with welfare and child welfare .

"During my years as a psychologist I was 46 years in the system , I worked for them , until they realized I object strongly to remove children from their parents. My assumption is that the house is the best place child - guidance , support , training. state investsin child boarding least NIS 10,000 a month. If thay would invest a quarter of that amount in child care at home , hed have a thousand times better life . he was treated and remained with those who love him. could instruct parents how to avoid the mistakes made ​​, if made . "

tsofit Grant : " For ten months the guide of the boarding school abused me sexually ." Photo: Maya Baumel - Birger

Think the kids are lying thay

Sexual abuse is not something forgotten . Even after decades. Grant 49, and she can not forget what happened to her over thirty years ago .

"I was in my early teens , I got to the boarding school after undergoing sexual abuse by a neighbour .i Was a vary frightend child , vulnerable, such that i only wanted to come out all right with everyone and not have anyone angry with the Early days at the boarding school one of the guides had his eyes on me and incorporated me into a room with a external girl that went , every evening she went home. at some point , my room became to his office . this allowed him to be with me in a lot , and gave him the legitimacy to put a lock on the door .

" For ten months he abused me sexually. Every time he suspected that one of the boys trying to develop a relationship with me i was humiliated front of the whole class . Later I could not take it any more . Called my mother and asked her to come get me out of there."

Grant didnot tell for years about the abuse she experienced with the neighbor and boarding school guide , nor exposed more such stories from other children. Today she is trying to fight this through her ​​work in television ,in which she has found out a great many cases of sexual abuse in boarding schools .

" I recently took care of the child from the ninth grade , she was in a therapeutic boarding school . One morning she called me on phone extremely frightened, and said that at night a 12 grade student came into her and her roommates room , while exposing his penis . roommate complained to the school's psychiatrist , and she did not even bother to clarify the case.

" The reference in this case, as in other cases I revealed to them , is that children lie and make up stories . Unfortunately , the professionals do not realize that truth is something very basic in the world of children that were cut off from their parents , like me. During the year was so simple to use me . grant became to be exploited girl and as a woman was also exploited .

" This exploitation distorts the soul. teen age is fragile this is when boundaries and protection are neaded. , I highly recommend that social workers , before they accuse children are lying, check very well wen a child comes screaming so hard. It never just happens ."

"Things do happen and are denied and hidden ," says Professor Esther Herzog. "This is true for injuries that are not sexual , although sexual abuse no care is particularly acute . Meaning of all this is terrible , because basically there is no protecting the security of the child at the most basic level . , Children were taken from the home that allegedly were at risk, unprotected and damaged , and now they are not exposed to it less but more . institutions , the potential for damage is very high. guides unliked the children , these are not their children , and they do not have effective audit in .

"When serious things float on the surface, treatment is failing , if any is available . , I see this year after year . the inhumanty, of the welfare department and the court system . the final responsibility is that of the judges. They confirm to remove children from home, often based on shaky or distorted recommendations of CPOs , they become prominent partners in these disastrous results . where is there conscience ? have judges become heartless a soulless officials and ? "



" Ministry of Social Affairs refine the detection of cases and treatment "

Ministry of Social Affairs said in response : " The role of the bourding school and emergancy shelter is to protect children and educate them to prevent these events by all the means at its disposal. Though maximum protection , things can happen. bourding schools \emergancy shelters are fairly safe places , dealing with children and youth with stories of complex life . Ministry of Social Affairs perfects all time to treatment and identifying cases that can not be prevented entirely.

" Ministry of Social Affairs made ​​a number of breakthroughs that would reduce significantly the amount of sexual vulnerability . Prevention level : kits are age appropriate , guidance activities designed to prevent sexual assault and healthy sexuality education . Children and Youth center , together with JDC Israel Institute ashalim , performed a three year program to improve coping strategies and the creation of bourding schools \emergancy shelters " sexual protected children" .

"I recently held a training course dedicated to social workers however,it lasted about a year and a half and included training and practicum for treating victims of sexual abuse at boarding school . Every psychologists and psychiatrists employed boarding specialists in trauma and PTSD children . Before the year the course was dedicated to all of Supervisors District of boarding and monitoring national training in sexual assault in boarding school.

"This year's conference will be devoted to child and youth service boarding school issue protected .

" Addition there are courses for social workers who treat boys and girls victims of sexual assault , training courses for managers and supervisors in the area of ​​sexual vulnerability , Courses hubs Adolescent Services Continuing municipalities and service supervisors boys sexual trauma and violence among youth .

" It should be understood sexual behavior , which is not adjusted for age, even if the face looks a sexual assault does not automatically imply a sexual offense in children with complex behaviors . Vulnerability sexual behaviors are on a continuum , and should fit the child's age of legal intervention and behavioral characteristics .

" bording schools a emergancy shelters have a reporting obligation under the Penal Code . Existing reporting procedure is calling the social worker of the Youth , which runs immediately at the discretion and the information available to him and to decide as to report to the police. Once it's reported to the police, no campus is responsible for the duration of the investigation and duration of the process.

" Every child in need of care in respect of sexual abuse directed exceptions committee when normally approved a plan of treatment. Extent that sexual behavior deviation requires support and intensive surveillance , certified tutors suite for children dealing with the phenomenon. Children hurt the community and were educated at boarding school , are eligible for continued treatment centers injury sexual established

community in About the quality of the instructors , Service Child and Youth Welfare Office is formulating ways of coping since Knesset meeting specified in the article. Set Discussions chaired by the Ministry of Welfare and thorough survey commissioned for this issue . Certainly education level directory and more essential in the group , under the guidance and education .

" The issue of treatment in sexual abuse Favorites Propecia more professional due to sensitivity of the subject and expertise .

"The service follows closely the phenomenon of sexual vulnerability , and according to data from 2013 to 2012 and data for students in the center of service: 92 out of 7,500 children in boarding schools have committed sexual assault in a dormitory . 126 children were sexually assaulted in a dormitory . 457 children underwent sexual abuse before they reach school. Hence boarding is in some cases addressing harm and injuries to children in the community.

" Today, a child and youth service at the Ministry of Social Affairs is advocating the removal of a student sexually offensive boarding school , similar to professional thinking in the developed economies . Every event is considered individually , the victim protect all measures and enter -depth therapeutic and educational treatment .

" All cases listed are well known to Children and Youth Services Ministry of Social Affairs . Three cases, the police investigated and closed cases and another case is still under police investigation , and the Ministry of Social Affairs has formed a investigaion into the case ."

Israel Police 's response: " We are unable to address the specific case . Begin complaints mentioned police investigation was launched and carried out all necessary actions, including directing involved Investigation of the Children by the Welfare Ministry , has given exclusive authority to investigate minors under the age of 14 . in Cases which there was an evidentiary basis for the offense , The findings were transferred to prosecution for a decision as authority for indictments in these cases lies in their hands. regarding updating involved in cases where the crime victim is a minor , the right granted to his parents for information . "

Spoke person of Wolfson Hospital said: "The procedure in the case of a minor under 12 requires checking the child sorting children by a pediatrician , as was done in the case of girls. Hospital reported to the police on suspicion of a criminal offense and hospitalized the girls until the arrival of a child investigator from the police . the girls mother refused them to be interrogated without her presence and because of that the investigation has not been undertaken . doctor is not legal because it came invited by children intirigator only

The Trauma of Israel’s Notorious “Contact Centers”

Outside Israel very little is known about the horrendous policies of Israel’s Welfare Authorities when it comes to fathers in divorce seeking contact or visitations with their children, or when women whose children are forcefully kidnapped into outplacement facilities and foster homes.  The fathers and mothers end up seeing their children in supervised visitation facilities, known as Contact Centers, “Merkaz Kesher”.  These are secured and heavily guarded facilities where the parent gets one hour a week, and sometimes even less to be with the children in a tiny room, watched by a social worker, and under strict compliance rules such as no photos, no gifts and no spontaneous dialogue. 

In case of men in divorce, the chances of a man ending up in a Contact Center are almost one in four, i.e. almost 25% of fathers are sent there, as opposed to 1%-2% in USA and 3% in Australia.  In Israel a man can be sent to a supervised contact center simply upon the wish of the woman, “lack of trust”, upsetting the social worker, or as a tool to coerce higher child support.
Overseas Supervised visitations normally serve violent, alcoholic or homeless men.  In Israel, because women are immune from prosecution for false domestic violence, false complaints are the norm, the standard, de rigueur.   Almost every contested divorce in Israel starts with a false complaint by a woman, an immediate 15 day order of removal from the marital home, and a “recommendation” (which is actually a determination) by a social worker to the Judge, to allow child contact only under supervision of social workers.
The article below sheds light into one of Israel’s most atrocious aspects of gender apartheid against men.  However, some women also see their children in Contact Centers.  That happens because when poor women ask for help from the Welfare Authorities, the woman are branded as “neglectful” and the children are taken away, into shelters for which the government pays $4,850 a month.  The Welfare policies are unwilling to invest a single shekel into the mother’s economic well being, so that she will be able to provide better for the purportedly “neglected” children.
This is a translation of an article published in Hebrew at Israel Hayom by Naama Lanski and Michal Yaakov Itzhaki on February 2, 2014.

“The Trauma of the Contact Centers”
Every Sunday as three o’clock approaches, Gili sets aside all other matters; and rushes to the contact center in his hometown. He knows better than to be late – for he has only one hour per week. 60 minutes. 3600 seconds, not a second more at his disposal to be with his only daughter, aged five and a half. If he arrives late, he loses a few seconds of time with her, and he can in no way afford that. Moreover, he may be punished. Someone might get the wrong impression that he does not care, or he is not a responsible enough father, and take away those 60 minutes for which he has been waiting all week. Before and after those 60 minutes, his life is insipid, empty and sad.
So he arrives early, always. At three o’clock he enters the contact centre; and paces down the driveway as cameras document his steps. At the entrance he is thoroughly searched by an armed security guard; passes through a metal detector; and sits and waits in the single room that serves other parents too, who have been removed from their children.
In the centre Gili is forbidden to hug his daughter, to kiss her, or to whisper in her little ear how much he loves and misses her; and that she is the only reason that he is willing to endure these humiliating visits. “In the only room available to us there was a drug addict father, who sat around watching his son play on the floor. Beside him sat a mother who had succumbed to prostitution and drugs; and myself, a normal father who had never hurt a fly, but who had at the moment of divorce become a ‘violent father who sexually harasses his daughter’; that is what my x-wife claimed.”
“In the only hour of the week in which I was allowed to see my daughter, all that crossed my mind was how to make this meeting with my daughter appear normal in this bizarre place, that has nothing to do with me or with my life. I tried to cram everything I possibly could into that time.”
“Because there’s always a social worker present, who observes you, hears and records all that is said and done, in time we developed a sign language of our own. Two blinks means ‘I’ve missed you’. Tightly shutting the eyes: ‘ I love you ‘. And when my child rubs her eyes with her little fists, it goes to say, ‘don’t worry, everything will be fine’. The first time we were out alone into the garden she ran up to me and told me, ‘Dad, let’s go out quickly and hug each other tightly before they can forbid it.”

Israel forces fathers in divorce to be supervised by a social worker, Illustraion by Etzion Goel
45-year old Gili (name changed for privacy) found himself at the contact centre following a bitter divorce from his wife, when his daughter was five years old. He is a famous man, whose name everyone knows, which goes to show that no one is immune to these sagas. In the first four months following divorce, before the visiting hours at the centre had been arranged, he would barely see his daughter one hour per month. “My former wife complained to social services that I touch my daughter sexually. She later submitted three complaints to police that I had threatened her. I was subpoenaed to an investigation; but they did not even open a case. They understood that it was all invented.” Nevertheless, the contact centre became the centre of my fatherhood for two whole years.”
As the sixty minutes with his daughter drew to a close, Gili would remain in his seat at the contact centre, while his daughter would go out to her mother, who had come to pick her up. The reason: “For reasons of security and conflict prevention while the girl was passed from father to mother”. Gili had to wait about twenty minutes, “and I cannot put this picture out of my mind: I watch the CCTV screen and see my daughter walking the path away from me; and know that another week full of tears is beginning, until the next meeting.”
Contact centres appeared in Israel in the nineties, for dysfunctional parents for whom this was the only way to meet their children, or for children who had been removed from their families due to claims that parents had put them in harm’s way. With time and the increase in the divorce rate, contact centres became the default solution of social services and courts in cases of severe conflict between the parents, disagreements concerning visitation, and manifestations of parental alienation: refusal or avoidance of a child to meet with one of its parents, often due to incitement by the other. Even children staying with their mothers in battered women’s shelters might meet their fathers in this way, as do children of parents with mental issues or addictions to drugs or alcohol.
Contact centres are attached to municipal welfare services and are staffed by social workers, who supervise the parents during meetings with their children. Sometimes high school graduates from the National Service for Observant Young Women also serve there. Meetings at contact centres may be divided into three types:
  • Fully supervised – the social worker sits next to the parent and child for the duration of the meeting;
  • Partially supervised – the social worker is in the room intermittently or observes from another room through a one-way mirror or CCTV;
  • Unsupervised – taking place outside of the contact centre, where the contact centre serves only as a pick-up and drop-off point in order to prevent parental conflicts.


Israel has no less than 64 contact centres serving 4,100 children. According to data published by the welfare ministry to conform with the Israeli Freedom of Information Act, the budget for contact centres was about 4.5 million shekels in 2012. In that year, the centres served 2,540 families; about 4,100 children met with one or both of their parents in this way. On average, each contact centre serves about 65 children meeting their parents.
In 2004, for comparison, there were 67 contact centres, but only 1,774 families were served – or about 3,100 children. In other words: in eight years the number of families treated at the contact centres grew 43%. The number of children meeting their parents at contact centres grew 33%. The contact centres budget has burgeoned a whopping 91% from 2.3 million in 2004 to 4.4 million in 2012.
According to the welfare ministry instructions published in the social workers regulations the contact centre’s purpose is “to build and to restructure the parent-child relationship. The approach is to construct an intervention plan that, as much as possible and according to the needs of minors and their parents, will allow a gradual transition from that of meeting one’s children in a protective institutionalized setting to that of meeting independently without supervision.”
Families are referred to the contact centre by the welfare officer (the Child Protection Service Parental Evaluation Assessor) by a court order. There are cases in which the court delegates to the welfare officer the power to decide upon the duration of visits until return to independent visitation is possible. [Ostensibly] the officers’ top priority is the child’s best interest, the need to protect the child and to take extensive security measures to prevent injury to the child.
[According to the ministry] meetings at the contact centre continue for six months, after which there is an initial periodic evaluation by the competent authorities who accompany the family. If it is decided to continue the meetings, the case is brought to the attention of an expert panel once in several months, in the presence of both parents and representatives of the department of social services, a regional welfare officer for legal arrangements and additional welfare officers, and sometimes the social workers who accompany the family. While preparing this article we spoke to parents who met with their children at contact centres for years. The longest lived case that was brought to our attention is that of a father who met with his daughter at the contact centre for six years.
“In many cases, the parents attend the expert panel unrepresented,” says attorney Shahar Schwarz, expert in family law. “The time is short and sad; and people feel that they are not heard. Parents usually do not receive the minutes following the panel. At best, they will see the report two days prior to the court hearing- In many cases the attorney does not see the report; and the judge must announce recess for a few minutes to allow the attorney to familiarize himself with it.
Many parents, especially fathers, as well as professionals with whom we spoke claim that a parent can easily find himself unjustly or for no good reason referred to a contact centre. According to data from 2010 collected by the “Coalition for Children and Families”, an organisation created on behalf of divorced fathers and their children, 25-33% of fathers requesting visitation were sent to contact centres. In contrast, the welfare ministry claims that only 15% of fathers are referred to centres – 1,725 out of 11,500 surveys conducted after divorce. For comparison: in the United States the rate of referral is 1-2%; and in Australia about 3%. It should be noted that the ministry of welfare did not answer our request to access their figures of demographic breakdown and reasons for referral.
In every case of resistance by the mother to regular visitation between the father and the children, the father is automatically referred to the contact centre,” says D, who was employed at such a contact centre for years. “Unfortunately, I have seen cases of completely normal fathers, who posed absolutely no risk to their children, where the mothers nevertheless took advantage of the fathers’ willingness to sacrifice other things in order to see the children. I estimate that about 20% of divorced fathers arriving at the centres are not supposed to be there. Even when visitation takes place at the contact centre, there are mothers who impose additional hurdles by opposing the contact; or they call last-minute to cancel by claiming that the child is ill. There are cases in which I have examined the medical confirmation of illness and discovered that it was falsified.”
“But our hands are tied. The welfare system has very strict rules; and whoever opposes them gets sanctioned.”
“In one case I identified that the mother was using the children to goad the father. When I tried to warn the father and other social workers, I was reprimanded. They did not like me to interfere or to take a stance. This is a system that cannot and will not accept criticism.”


A few years ago in an “Haaretz” interview, the national child protection officer for court ordered parental evaluation, Simona Steinmetz, claimed that a “therapeutic process” takes place in the contact centre, “that will ultimately construct a normative relationship outside of the contact centre.” D claims that this is far from the truth: “We are not therapeutic figures. We are not allowed to treat people who arrive at the centres – only to supervise and to observe. After several months we write an expert opinion which is forwarded to welfare officers. In the meantime parents and children experience enormous pain. Backed by our expert opinion and all of the information she has, the welfare officer writes a review, which she passes on to the court with her recommendation as to whether or not visitation through the centre can be stopped. Usually the court accepts her recommendation. There are situations in which the contact centre supervisor forms and reports a positive opinion of the parental relationship, but this is ignored in the welfare officer’s final survey report.
The exact location of contact centres is not published for fear of protests or vengeful conduct by parents. In August 2012, several divorced fathers petitioned the court for administrative affairs in the Jerusalem District Court for information according to the Freedom of Information Act. Their petition included sixty paragraphs concerning ministry of welfare policies as they relate to protecting the rights of children whose parents are in the process of divorce. Among other things, they requested that the ministry of welfare publish the list of contact centres, including their addresses. The ministry of welfare is to submit its reply to the petition by next week.
We attempted to enter several contact centres. In each case, we were met by a security officer or by a social worker, who forbade us to enter the locked steel gate without accompaniment of a welfare officer or social worker. In the end we were able to enter the contact centre in Ness Ziyona, located in a quiet neighbourhood not far from the city centre. Similarly to other contact centres, it is surrounded by a tall fence and guarded. The small yard is clear of toys, flowers or grass, aside from weeds and a large fig tree, which casts its shadow. In any case, parents are not allowed to exit the building with their children.
The centre is located at the bottom floor of a two-storey building. It is very quiet. Its walls possess light colours; and the lobby is nearly devoid of objects or decorations. Two rooms serve to accommodate meetings between parents and children – each one about 9 m². In each room is a small sofa, a few chairs or armchairs, a rug and a coffee table. In the corner of the room is a computer on a small table; serving the social worker when no families are present.
The furniture and curtains are shades of brown and grey, without design. There is nothing about them to convey a warm, happy, embracing atmosphere, as would befit a room to accommodate children. In every one of the contact rooms there are a few board games and books in a corner – and nothing else. On the wall of the room there is a CCTV installed; and on one of the walls is a large one-way mirror, through which the parent and his children may be observed. There is also a speaker, through which the social worker may thunder her remarks and prohibitions. The two contact rooms are bordered at one end by a kitchenette; and on the other by a secretary’s office. Even prior to commencing meetings at the contact centre, the parent must sign a derogatory agreement, which includes “consent to searching my possessions and body at the entrance to the meeting, at the discretion of the security guard”, and also a commitment to cleaning up the room at the end of the meeting. The parent agrees “not to whisper with the child during the meeting and not to involve the children in the subject of conflict through interrogation, accusation or sending of notes or money to the custodial parent.” An especially outrageous clause reads: “the parent agrees not to photograph the children with a still or video camera and not to record them without permission from personnel.” The parent agrees “not to punish the children during the visit, not to conduct arguments at the centre with the other parent and/or with centre personnel”. In addition, the parent must state: “I know that if centre personnel perceives behaviour that does not allow the visit to take place, it will not take place or will be curtailed” – a clause giving power to the centre employee to control whether the visits may take place. Tardiness of more than twenty minutes without prior notice will cause cancellation of the visit. Failure to comply with any of the clauses may cause the visit to be curtailed; and even complete cancellation of visitation rights until the matter is brought to court – which may take several months. “If you whisper to your child, ‘sweetie, I love you’, the social worker will get involved and you will risk curtailment of the meeting,” says Lilach (45), who has been meeting her son, now nine, at the centre for the last four years. Her former husband submitted a complaint that she is violent. The child was removed from home and sent to a boarding school. He was later returned to his father, who incited him against Lilach. All complaints have long ago been closed “for lack of culpability”.
“At our contact centre, everybody sits in one large room. Many families are crammed inside, and you need to fight for a quiet spot. It is a degrading and hopeless place, where you conduct an engineered visit under neon lights with the most precious thing in your life.”
“I feel I must whisper in his ear so that any type of closeness is established, but I cannot. There is a limited time for hugging. If my son clings to me for more than a few seconds, they will put an end to it. And I only want to hug my child and hold him to me and kiss him endlessly. What a strange and distorted relationship this is because I only have ninety minutes a week to be with him. Everything I do is planned to the minute. Ten minutes for a board game – there are very few games there, played with by thousands of hands – four minutes to draw, fifteen minutes to update each other. I try to cram into ninety minutes what a normal mom is supposed to do in a week. So in this time I never answer the phone, never go to the bathroom, and don’t even drink a glass of water. What parent in his right mind can survive such conditions? There is no spontaneity, no ability to flow with the child. Everything is metered, recorded, reported. You are constantly being tested and constantly afraid that even the most innocent and even correct actions of yours will be misinterpreted. I am so jealous of regular parents,” she says and her voice shakes, “parents who can be with their children whenever they want and in any way they want. I remember how I used to go out of the house with my son at night to watch bats, and no one could tell me it’s forbidden. I am missing the most beautiful years of my son’s life.”

Contact Center in Ness Tziona, photo by Yehoshua Yosef


Eliezer Koppel, manager of the Sever Institute and an expert in the phenomenon of parental alienation, says that contact centres have become another venue through which to deepen conflicts having to do with divorce. “Contact centres do not supply any kind of therapeutic environment. They serve as a judgmental and punitive place, that not only prevents the building of relationships, but also aids in breaking them up. Every parent that arrives at the contact centre is treated as dangerous; and that causes incalculable damage to all sides. Parents who are at the centre for no reason feel great frustration and humiliation. A child, who sees its parent in such a place, experiences him as anxious and humiliated. This feeling of parent and child alike is strengthened by the fact that the other parent is not required to attend meetings in this format. Many of the parents ask themselves whether the visits at the centre are worth the damage caused to themselves and their children. Many forgo the meetings out of concern for their children.
Jonathan (50), divorced for ten years and father of a 12-year-old girl, is one parent who decided that the damage caused by such visits is greater than the good. He has not seen his daughter at all for two years, until recently. This is one of many cases that have been brought to our attention, in which the contact centre has become the disconnect centre.
“Until four years ago there were no problems in visitations between me and my ex; and I raised my daughter half of the time. The turning point was on a holiday eve in the year 2010, when my former wife falsely complained to police that I had sexually molested my daughter. According to visitation rights, my daughter ought to have stayed with me for the holiday; and the only way my former wife could prevent this was to submit a false claim. The complaint was closed without them ever having opened a case against me; but it sufficed to prevent me from seeing my daughter for two months. Six months later, an additional complaint was submitted; and then the welfare officer in charge of us recommended we submit to parental competency testing. I had no doubt that I would pass these test with ease, I am such a good father. The testing institute asserted that my interaction with my child is outstanding; but the child is ‘fearful’. The court accepted the testing institute’s recommendation; and instructed me to receive treatment at the institute, after which I would be allowed to begin fully supervised visitation at the centre.”
Jonathan went to visit the contact centre in his city. For three hours he stood outside the building and looked at the visitors quickly coming and going. There were crying children, frustrated and angry parents, and especially fathers with a downward gaze, entering or exiting with quick steps. “More than twenty children entered during those three hours. It looked like a full-fledged industry. It is unthinkable that in Israel so many children are fed into these contact centres. It is unthinkable that as soon as you get excited, you stop being a normative, contributing parent, and start being an ‘at risk’ parent that needs such a place. I told myself I would not contribute to this. I will not allow the institutions with which welfare works to profit at my daughter’s expense. There is a limit to what a parent can take from the nation. My daughter and all other children do not deserve to see their father in such a dark and humiliating place.”
“I met with the social worker; and she asked me, ‘you see it is not so bad after all?’ I looked at her and could not believe my ears. I told her it was worse than I had imagined. It curdles my blood. My daughter will not see me in a place where I am treated as the worst of criminals. And then, naturally as ever, she told me that perhaps I ought to go to the contact centre in Modiin, because it is fancier and serves the elite of Israel: pilots, doctors and lawyers.”
This last year, Jonathan stood every morning at the entrance to the courthouse where his trial was being held with a sign in his hands, blaming the judge for not being able to see his daughter. Recently he has been notified that his perseverance has paid off: after his request for another hearing had been accepted; and after an additional year of further surveys and lengthy hearings, the court decided that Jonathan would gradually be allowed to see his daughter outside the walls of contact centres. “My first two meetings with my daughter were conducted with the parental guidance counsellor at welfare; and afterward there were a few meetings where I picked her up from school, and spent the afternoon and evening with her until 8 o’clock. Soon she will be allowed to sleep over, like she used to – just as she should have all along. The fact that I did not submit to contact centres only goes to prove that there was no need for them from the start, because there was no danger.”
Eight years have passed since Ronen (40), a police officer, met his toddler son at a contact centre. But the feelings of humiliation and degradation have not left him to this day. He arrived there after his former wife expressed concern that he might hurt the child to hurt her; and that had been enough to cause welfare and the court to decree that he has to visit his son in a small room under lock and key. The boy had been less than two years old at the time.

Merkaz Kesher in Petach Tikva, photo by Yehoshua Yosef
I would come there after pursuing criminals all day and defending people with my own body. At once I would switch roles and feel like a prisoner with no rights. The most absurd about this situation was that when things got out of hand at the contact centre, the social workers called on me to assist. They told me they felt calmer to have me there; and would brag about having a personal cop to watch over them.
At some point I could no longer stand the humiliation of having a social worker sitting next to me and my son at all times, watching me and listening to every word. I gave up and stopped coming. I was ashamed. I didn’t want my son, small as he was, to think that his father was really a dangerous man who needed to be watched. I didn’t see my son for six months, until I missed him so badly. The social workers knew that there was no good reason for my being there. However, they did not expressly write in their expert opinion that an end must be put to abusing me in this way. My ex-wife would submit all these complaints about me. It seemed I would be called to Police Internal Investigations Department (“Makhash”) twice a week. I lost promotions and almost lost my job. At some point they understood that she was making it up – but they had to investigate each claim. After three years all of the complaints she had submitted were closed.”

Danny (32) had had enough after only two visits at the contact centre to understand he would not be able to endure the repeated experience. He had been referred following a complaint his wife had submitted concerning violence against his daughter. For six months he could not see his daughter, the relationship suffered; and when the pain was too much to bear, he returned to the centre for an additional period of six months.
Danny (32): “Finally the complaint against me was closed, and I returned to normal visitation. But the damage to both of us had already been done.
“I begged the social worker to let me out already – she had already witnessed that my relationship to my daughter was terrific,” he tells. “The feeling at the contact centre is that you become a lab rat, examined under a magnifying glass. Every word or deed they did not like made them invalidate me as a father and require more supervised visits, thus lengthening the period of visitation at the centre.
“I remember one time my daughter told me that her mother had asked her to call her new boyfriend ‘daddy’. She was very disturbed by that and shared it with me. Without thinking twice, I told her that only I was her daddy; and that she should not call anyone else ‘daddy’. The social worker at the centre reported that immediately to my welfare officer; and the following day I was reprimanded. She told me I ought not have spoken that way with the child.”
“Finally the system understood I was not an abusive father. The complaint against me was closed; and I returned to normal visitation. But the damage to both sides had been done.”

After the false domestic violence was closed, I was allowed natural visitations, by the damage was irreversible, Photo by Enzo Gush-Jini
“Reality at the contact centres is very humiliating,” says Attorney Shahar Schwarz. “You are squelched there as a parent and as a person. You feel like crying out: ‘who are you to stipulate how I am to hug my children and how I am to speak to them?’ People who have not been through this will have a hard time understanding.” Schwarz is not speaking only out of experience as a lawyer – he himself had been referred to a contact centre following complaints by his former wife to welfare and to police, claiming that he had been violent against her. Only after he was already allowed to see his daughters outside of a contact centre, a lawsuit was submitted against him; and he fought for his innocence and won. “For one whole year I met my twin daughters there, who were one year old at the time – daughters for whose birth I had waited for many years. One hour for the both of them, out of which the first 15 or 20 minutes were lost to separation anxiety from their mother. The visits would terminate roughly and rudely, unnaturally and without regard to the situation. They would tell the mother to come in and get the girls, with no regard at all as to whether we were in the middle of something.”
“The time at the contact centre was so difficult that I was almost ready to give up my daughters; but I knew that if I gave up, I would never be able to look them and myself in the eye. On the other hand, I have clients who have given up; and I understand them. One’s entire parenthood is disrupted in this place. In Israel, if one of the partners simply claims that the other is violent towards him, the way to the contact centre begins to be paved. Where is presumed innocence?”

Not only divorced parents go to contact centres. Isaac (54) comes to the centre to meet his eighteen-month-old grandson, an active little blond, whose eyes are large and pretty. He was born to his high functioning mentally handicapped son and a young woman with mental illness who lives in a hostel in the community. “While still in his mother’s womb, his fate to live with a foster family, and to be made available for adoption, was decided,” says Isaac. “When we saw him in hospital several hours after birth, we were accompanied by security guards, as if we were criminals. Immediately after circumcision, for which we had to fight, the baby was taken from us to a foster family with concealed identity. We do not know who or where they are. Only after we turned to the legal system and demanded to see the baby, they allowed my son, my wife, my younger daughter and me to meet him for one hour per week, which actually turns out to last only 50 minutes, at a contact centre an hour away from where we live. I am an only son to holocaust survivors; and I can’t stand a situation where I cannot see my grandson. An hour a week in this terrible place.”
Isaac is conducting a lively and stubborn battle on two planes. First he is fighting the decision to offer his grandson for adoption and to send him to an anonymous foster family and not to an identified one, where he could visit the baby more freely; and keep in touch with him in a natural environment. In addition he has requested that he be allowed to adopt his grandson himself, to live with him and his wife and son. For that purpose he is gathering letters of recommendation from his employers. On the day of our meeting he showed us his discharge certificate from the IDF, after serving professionally for thirty years. He recently asked for it to be reissued in order to show it to welfare authorities.
The picture we get is that the welfare authorities are doing their best to cause the baby to be offered for adoption,” says Attorney Rami Marmelstein , who represents the grandfather. “They refuse to open fostering by claiming the baby is not prepared for that.” For now, Isaac and his family fight for every minute with their grandson. Isaac produced an exact record of the fact that at least once per month the visits at the contact centre get cancelled. “One time the foster family couldn’t bring him; another time they were on holiday; or the social worker was ill; or they claimed he was crying a lot so we ought not come. Some of the cancellations are sent to us by SMS, as if they are notifying me of something entirely inconsequential; and not of the very thing our lives revolve around. And of course, no replacement visits are scheduled, which stands in rude contrast to court order. Last week the social worker sent me an SMS saying: ‘we regret to inform you that the visit at the contact centre will probably be cancelled because the welfare officer has not transferred the payments to the contact centre.’ These words are grotesquely bizarre. Why do we need to be punished for bureaucratic matters having nothing to do with us?”
“Again and again I find myself going to court, investing money and fighting for the measly fifty minutes with my grandson. Fifty minutes per week. I don’t understand why we are humiliated and treated so poorly. The situation is painful enough as it is – especially at every separation when my grandson is removed from us, looking back at us, and our hearts break into a thousand pieces.”


..a ravine, gloom, paralysis, death. – these are the words that Ricki (45) uses over and over to describe the time when she used to meet her children at the contact centre. She is the mother of four born to the same man, who lived alongside her and her children; but would disconnect from them at times for long periods.
“When my youngest was born eight years ago, I understood that I am not Superwoman. The youngest was hospitalized because he did not eat enough; and that is where welfare zeroed in on me and declared it negligence. Then the possibility of removing the children came up. At first I fought terribly; but as time went on, welfare continued to supervise and the welfare officer spoke to me about removing the children from home as routine. It was summer, they were home all the time; and it was hard for me alone. She found I was ready to listen to her offer; and I was stupid enough to accept. We agreed that they would be taken to a children’s home for a month or two; and I would be allowed to visit as I pleased.
The two younger children, two and five years old, were taken to a home for children at risk near Jerusalem, from which children are usually transferred to boarding schools or foster homes. Ricki tells me that at the beginning, to her shock and horror, she didn’t see them for a whole month. She didn’t know exactly where they were; and she was not permitted to converse with them on the phone. Only a month later she was allowed to see them at a contact centre.
The first meeting was full of shame. This tearing away from the children paralysed me. For eight months we visited like this. During these months their older sister, who was eight years old, was taken from home for a month to another children’s home in the same area; but I was able to take her back home. Afterwards I was able to get back her younger siblings; and they are all with me to this day, under a supervision order. But this hour per week at the contact centre, this cruel hour, I will never forget in my life.”
From the depths of her pain, Ricki wrote in those days a letter to the judge in charge of her case, in which she described in real time her experience of the contact centre: “One measured hour per week that needs to be utilized to its fullest, and in whose course one must give love and warmth so they don’t forget their mother. In a fenced-in range, an hour devoid of privacy and familiar intimacy, under the watchful eye of the social worker. And then he announces: five more minutes. A stab in the heart. The kids and I don’t want the measured minutes to end; and he announces again: one more hug and kiss. And enter the cab. They measure and mete out my love. And upon saying goodbyes – crying and asking me to come back home with me, and confused looks from the children, and the taxi that disappears with my most precious. And then the terrible moment arrives in which darkness settles its smile upon me. Darkness and huge sorrow, silenced communication until the following week. They turned the lights out on the special connection to my children. They expropriated our right to love, freedom to choose, to contact. This is a world of dark meetings between parents and their children. In it you feel as if in dark cellars of humiliation, degradation and trampling on human dignity. None of the children there laughs or even smiles. Parents hesitate to approach, speak in a whisper and not out loud as one normally speaks to children. These are lost children, who don’t know to whom they belong.”

Merkaz Kesher in Tel Aviv, Photo by Yehoshua Yosef
The father of Ricki’s children tells, that when the children came home, one of them ran around their neighborhood and yelled: “I’m free, I’m free!” The child, now 12, remembers how he tried to escape from the contact center during one of the visits in his uncle’s car, who had joined them for that visit. “I remember that at the beginning I would cry every day in bed, for at least two weeks,” he says. “When the social worker at the contact center would tell us it’s over, I would always ask a bit longer, a bit longer with mother. Then mom would buy me a chocolate egg so I would be really happy. I always asked mom when we would come home, and why I can’t come back. But I can’t remember her reply.”

Professor Vered Slonim Nevo, from the Department of Social Work at Ben-Gurion University stood in 2008 at the head of the Salonim-Nevo committee for the evaluation of court appointed parental evaluation welfare officers  – the very ones in charge of divorce conflicts. One of her significant recommendations was the appointment of an ombudsman – an objective commissioner. We found that people remain powerless and don’t know to whom to go in the tangle of welfare services,” she says. “There were many parents who claimed to us that we had not heard them; and many claims that welfare does not fulfil many regulations. It is unconscionable that in such critical matters there would be no one to complain to; or to appeal to.”
Her recommendation was rejected immediately by the Ministry of Welfare and the current minister, Isaac Herzog. “As Minister of Welfare I supported most of Professor Salonim-Nevo’s recommendations; and some of them were applied,” said Herzog this week. “I am aware of the criticism; but the appointment of an external ombudsman might have opened loopholes; endangered welfare and social employees’ freedom to work; and created an additional layer of empty appeals and threats – when in reality there are enough critical mechanisms such as the courts, internal consultations, and various committees. This has to do with state employees who deal with very difficult cases.”


Professor Israel Zvi Gilat from the School of Law in Netanya is also outraged by the lack of oversight and transparency. In 2002, Gilat stood at the head of an advisory committee to determine the authorities of “decision committees” (that decide whether to remove children from their homes) and their mode of operation (modus operandi). The committee was appointed by the Minister of Welfare at the time, Solomon Benizri.
“Members of the committee requested that procedures be transparent and fair,” says Professor Gilat, “and then there would be no problem to remove children from the home, to send them to boarding schools, and to send families to contact centres. But I am certain that if everything were transparent and open to critique, these things would not happen. The problem is that this system is not open to critique. If somebody would like, for example, to record what is said, to receive the minutes of a decision committee meeting or surveillance committee — and he does not receive permission, what does this teach us?
These are meetings in which sharp criticism is thrown at parents; and they on their part are supposed to respond – so why can’t they record? Or allow an additional person to accompany or represent them? Child welfare is not a psychological principle; but a moral one. Parents ought to be regarded as partners rather than as potential criminals,” adds Vered Salonim-Nevo. “I would not close down” contact centres; but they ought only serve in case of emergency and protection, in cases of real danger and violence. The situation ought to be strictly examined in partnership with the parents and family. We must honestly ask whether this difficult and unnatural environment is really needed.
“International research shows that when many and varied treatment programmes are invested in; and the family is taken as a partner in the process, the results are fantastic – and lead to a reduction of cases requiring the removal of children from the home to the contact centres. Therefore, in my opinion, we must invest in greatly developing therapeutic and rehabilitative tools that exist today.”
Doctor Elisheva Zohar Reich (67), manager “Yahassim” centre for therapy of couples, families and individuals; and until six months ago a court appointed expert, agrees with this approach. Increasing rates of divorce and family conflict, increasing rates of false complaints, and various trauma that people face – all need professional treatment that does not exist today,” she says. “Contact centres should be merely a stepping stone, until accusations against the parent are investigated. Unfortunately in the current format, contact centres cannot offer a solution for normative relations. What is offered is one weekly visit of one to two hours – while in the meantime disconnections are formed between the parent and child; and no contact is made with the extended family of that parent. The parent that comes to meet his child at a contact centre is looked upon by the child as unfit, problematic, neglectful – a person one must be careful of and who needs supervision. This disconnection causes the child to experience abandonment by a central figure in her life; and the child grows ever more attached to the custodial parent, because she is afraid to lose that parent as well. Employees of contact centres work hard to prevent the last fragment of contact between parent and child from disappearing; but in order to construct a meaningful relationship, they admit a large number of families concurrently. As long as they are the only tool that holds the relationship together, they cannot create the revolution that will lead to healing. I believe the contact centre should employ family counsellors who can offer therapy.”
“In real time, treatment ought from time to time to include both parents, so that they are both involved in creating and developing the relationship, which will in turn assist in constructing ideal relationships outside the centre as well. “
Zohar Reich criticizes the system that does nothing to combat the phenomenon of false complaints; and no less the lawyers who choose to feed the conflict between the parents. “In order to prevent disconnections and unnecessary referrals to the contact centre, the system must respond quickly and in real time. I think that most of the problems would be solved if the court system would use heavy sanctions against inciting, alienating parents, who use their children to prevent contact and regular visitation.”
According to Eliezer Kopel, the first step that must be taken in the contact centres is to open them to public scrutiny. “Contact centres must be normalized. In the situation that has been created in the contact centres as they are today, there is nothing normal. Given the current budgets which flow to the contact centres, they certainly can be transformed into therapeutic, educational and experiential centres for the whole family. Instead of social workers and National Service volunteers, who are there to supervise visitors to the centre, I would appoint a therapeutic team of clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, and psychotherapists.”


Gili celebrated his daughter’s seventh birthday at the contact centre. The two of them were all alone. By way of exception the social workers allowed him to videotape and document the birthday. Today she is twelve – Gili has not watched the video of that day for five years; and watching it today shatters him. This is the saddest party we have ever seen. Colourful balloons are scattered on the floor of the contact centre; and plates full of the girl’s favourite sweets are arranged on the little table, alongside several birthday cakes. None of Gili’s family members was allowed to attend let alone friends from the girl’s class. A burst of love moves Gili to hug her. A small hug. A hug that curtails abruptly due to the penetrating glare of the supervising social worker.
Following that birthday party I did not see my daughter for three weeks,” he recounts. “The social workers claimed that it had flooded her emotionally; and that she needs the time to calm down. I felt I was going to die. At some point I decided to sit by the contact centre and not to budge until they permitted renewed meetings. After several days, that happened.”
Gili continued to meet with his daughter at the contact centre for six months, “until the meetings were halted, when they had no more excuses to keep me there; and when the mother had trouble bringing the girl every week. Suddenly, after almost two years, the nightmare ended. All at once, without support, without redress for the damages caused, just so on one sunny day. They hit and ran; and left me to deal with the damage.”
“The state inserted me into the contact centre for no reason; and it should pay for what it did to me and my daughter. I am sometimes still afraid hug her, so they don’t say I am touching her inappropriately. And she shrinks from hugging other relatives as well, such as her grandparents. Luckily, our relationship today is strong and wonderful. No one will ever be able to separate us again. But after all that I have been through, I feel I’ve been left handicapped.”


“Contact centres are not the problem but the solution – an important solution to the problem of being able to lead a normative family life as much as possible and in a limited capacity, for the good of the children whose parents are in the process of a nasty divorce – a battle often conducted at the expense of the children’s wellbeing.
“The Ministry of Welfare, through the social workers in general, and those at the centres in particular, will continue to act on behalf of families in the midst of difficult and bitter conflict, and to be the ones at the forefront of this battle, keeping the well-being and security of children at top priority.
“The feeling conveyed in your letter is that your only purpose is to criticise and attack the entire system, in the name of those few parents. The Ministry of Welfare is not afraid of criticism; and it is natural that in all it does some errors are committed; but we pay attention to them and take action to resolve them.”

“Family Court decisions on the topic of visitation between parents involved in a divorce procedure are based on consideration of all evidence and circumstances relevant to the case. Most often the family courts are aided by a survey conducted by a welfare officer, which includes facts, professional impressions, expert opinions and recommendations. The court may accept the welfare officer’s recommendation fully or partially, request additional investigation, or reject the recommendations entirely. In addition, the court may instruct the welfare officer to continue involvement through social workers, professional support workers and others, in order to assist in resolution and continued parental contact for the children.  The purpose of the Contact centers is to allow visitation in a protected and supervised environment between the parent and his child. In any instance when a court order is not observed, the injured side may address the court which issued the order.”
Michal Jacob Yitzhaki,
Naama Lanski,