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What are the secrets of the Israeli model in the field of Youth At Risk?

with Damian Filut   April 11, 2016

The last 30 days we went around Israel with a group of 25 professionals of 17 countries trying to understand what is special about the Israeli model and what can be learnt.

Even though the answer is complex, not a straight answer, like a cooking recipe, without any doubt, we can point out some guidelines which evidence of a successful track.


Collaboration as the pillar on the Israeli approach


There is a Youth at risk national program called ´360´. The program, as its name implies, assumes that the challenges are not in one specific field and it aims to tackle them from every direction with a comprehensive perspective.


Six government ministries have joined forces to implement it: Ministry of Welfare and Social Services leads as the comprehensive body for the program, the Ministry of Education co-operates with the program at the different parts of the country. The Ministry of Health, Immigrant & Absorption, Internal Security and Economy & Industry take part in the programs and its implementation. In addition, Affiliate Program, Local Government Center and JDC Israel, participate on its implementation.

One of the principals of the planning and implementation is:


“The children at the center: inter-ministerial management and the pooling of resources depending on the needs of children at the different communities”


In the lecture/workshop with Mimi Ackerman, Head of Training – 360 Program, we learnt that in order to succeed in this inter-ministerial collaboration is fundamental to take decisions based on data, and that good data collection is one of the principals of their success.

   


There is always a ‘second chance’


At many lectures and professional visits, the participants heard at least 20 times: “this is the second and last chance”. At the beginning, when they heard this, it catch their attention because they thought that this specific program, model or approach might be the last resource to catch the ´youngsters´ before they lose them. Nevertheless, slowly they realized that this is also one of the secrets of this model: Not child is left behind; there is always a “second and last chance”.


The passion of the professional and the resources that the model offers are in such way that you always look for a “second chance” that will suit the child/ youth and will aim to respond to some of their needs and will look to empower their strengths. We visited programs in side schools, outside the schools, informal education, professional education, ‘tailored made’ education, government’s programs, local authorities’ program, NGOs’ programs, etc. 


Behind all this effort, there is a simple idea: “It is not our responsibility how this child came under my responsibility, but it is my responsibility how he is going to be when he leaves”. This is a powerful statement, which assumes responsibility for the child. It does not matter what happened until now, but from know on I will make things better.


The three Ss


Significant Adult, Something to do and learn, and Space. These three things are fundamental components to tackle the challenges of the youth.


First, the presence or at least the reference of an adult that could be a role model. Most of these children and youth came from a place that this model does not exists or if exists is a negative one. This role model provides the child with values, normative behavior, and emotional support.


The second ‘S’ refers to the fact that many times these youth have lots of potential and it is not fulfil, the only thing we should do is to ‘open the door’ and let it out. Moreover, sometime the only ´escape valve´ is vandalism, which is no more than a way to ‘do something’ but not in the right way.


Finally, Space, youth need a place to be, to express themselves. If we want to help them we need to understand their needs and the best way to do it is to give them space. This term I use it literary and emotionally. The 360 program offers different approaches but in all of them, they provide the youth space to express and to experiment. Two good examples which reflect this idea clearly are: The Youth Café organized by the Jerusalem Municipality at downtown, it offer a safe place in which they fell safe and receive support and informal treatment. The second is SAJI – a youth movement at poor neighborhoods in which Youth at risk find their place during the evenings and helps families in need.

   


These guidelines reflect how Israel chooses to face the challenges of Youth At Risk from policy level to emotional understanding of these youth. It is a big challenge and it is worldwide. I hope we will continue to joint efforts in order to overcome the challenges and will support our children and youth, it is our responsibility.  

Damian Filut

Deputy Director