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For the first time in Israel, a systemic response will be given for supporting parents of young children in order to prevent the phenomenon of youth at risk in the future.

The pilot of this program commenced last week in Haifa, at the initiative of the CJP –the Boston Federation- Haifa-Boston Connection, in conjunction with Haifa Municipality, Ashalim (JDC), the National Program, and the Ministry of Health.

Prof. Carolyn Cohen, a member of the parents program in Boston came to launch the model in Haifa with her husband Prof. Alan Dershowitz.

The Haifa-Boston Connection will be investing close to $4.5M in this program over the next five years.

This innovative program – the first of its kind in Israel – focuses on parents and places the parents at the center. The objective of the program is to support parents of young childrenthrough offering programs which include instruction, advice, information, tools and parental skills, based on research studies that working with parents at the earliest stage possible will prevent risk occurring among children and will reduce the number of children/youth at risk.

To date, the focus and treatment of different programs existing in Israel have been on children and youth, and not on parents.

Another innovation is in relating to parents in a continuous fashion, starting at the age of pregnancy-until school aged children.

This ambitious program will run dozens of different programs that will focus on diverse responses and services. The services will concentrate on three main areas: the first is the parents; the second is the professionals to help them improve cooperation and trust in their work with parents; and the third is making information accessible to parents.

The partners in Israel have a professional basis working in Boston that represents a practical partner for the process to develop the model. One of the members on the committee in Boston is Prof. Carolyn Cohen – an expert in the field of dealing with risk among early childhood aged children. Carolyn came to Haifa together with her husband Prof. Alan Dershowitz. Carolyn will be taking an active part in Boston in the “Horim Bamercaz” Program and both came to launch the model in Haifa.

In one of the meetings held with CJP-Haifa-Boston Connection staff members, Prof. Dershowitz emphasized the importance of the young educated generation who will be leading Israeli society, while disseminating propaganda and professional representation to the entire world. He commended the activities of the Haifa-Boston Connection as a social leader impacting a change in the unique model of the Haifa-Boston Connection, while recognizing all those taking part in its many activities in Haifa and in Boston.

The day after launching the program, Dershowitz and Carolyn visited the Alliance School where a student exchange program between pupils from Haifa and Boston is taking place, and the Shiluvim Program, a multidimensional program that the CJP- Haifa-Boston Connection has led together with Haifa Municipality for the past six years in integrating the Ethiopian community into the City of Haifa.

CJP-Haifa-Boston Connection is actually the only organization in Israel that is placing the parents at the center and has succeeded in attracting additional organizations to the program (Haifa Municipality, JDC, the National Program, and the Ministry of Health). It is the JDC-Ashalim’s intention to duplicate this program throughout the entire country.

The pilot commenced last week, as previously mentioned, in the Kiryat Eliezer/Bat Galim neighborhood, within the framework of which in the first stage four new programs will be launched:

1.    The parenthood support program will instruct parents during pregnancy and immediately before and after birth, and will relate both to emotional and physical aspects, contrary to existing programs that focus solely on the physical aspect. This novel program will be run by a psychologist and a public health nurse, and will represent a unique model for multi-professional work on the subject.

2.    A workshop for parents to be held in the neighborhood’s daycare centers, the objective of which is to instruct parents through group workshop frameworks whereby some of the workshops will be devoted to active instruction and practice with the children, and some will be only for the parents while the children are supervised by workshop instructors.

3.    Home visitation – an innovative method within the framework of which professionals will visit the home in order to provide training and support on all matters that are of concern to parents of early childhood aged children.

4.    A program to train professionals in working with parents.

The project in the pilot neighborhood will affect all early childhood services in the neighborhood including: Family Health Clinics, daycare centers, kindergartens, community centers, playground areas, etc.

According to Vered Israely, the CJP representative in Israel and Director of the haifa-Boston Connection in Haifa:

“We are talking about a very ambitious vision. Haifa will partner with parents to become the best city in Israel to raise children who are successful academically, morally and socially. I am proud to be launching the first program in Israel that deals with parents of early childhood aged children. In the past two years, we engaged with a lengthy, complex process of characterizing the program and recruiting organizations to help run it. I am confident that in another few years as an outcome of this program, Haifa will become the best place in Israel for parents to raise their children.”

A few facts:

There are many organizational frameworks in the City of Haifa that deal with children and youth at risk. The topic is high in priority on the agenda of decision-makers today in the city. The National Program for Children and Youth at Risk (Schmid) is also active in the city, and we discovered that there is great potential in pooling resources to leverage the program on this subject.

Fifteen percent of children and youth in the City of Haifa (in all of its neighborhoods) are defined as children and youth at risk (Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, and the Social Services Department). Of this number, about 50% are from veteran families in the country, 30% from families of new immigrants, and 20% from the Arab sector.

The City of Haifa provides responses and many programs to treat children and youth at risk but most are aimed at working directly with the children and the youth.

From a research study carried out by the Brookdale Institute in 2009 in Haifa, which included the Kiryat Eliezer/Bat Galim and Hadar neighborhoods, additional data were revealed:

Eighty-five percent of resources are targeted at working directly with the children themselves (data regarding the Kiryat Eliezer/Bat Galim neighborhood).

Only 13% of resources are allocated to integrated programs for parents and children.

“Belonging to family” is the main risk factor among children and youth at risk: 78% of all children at risk aged 0-18 years were found to have problems in this area.

Academic studies are providing a basis for the fact that parent instruction programs provided at early stages of child development represent an effective tool for preventing severe behavior problems, anti-social and criminal behavior (Iquero et al., 2009). In addition to serving as a tool to solve and prevent behavioral problems, parent instruction programs have additional advantages, such as:  promoting academic achievements in studies, economic welfare and health (Farrington and Welsh, 2007; Reynolds et al., 2007).

In light of the above, and after examining the needs, the committee formulated a very ambitious vision: “Haifa will partner with parents to become the best city in Israel to raise children who are successful academically, morally and socially.”