Animal therapy - February 2012
Amy Baranes at Bet Elazraki last week.
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At-risk youth at a children's home in Netanya will continue to enjoy the benefits of animal therapy thanks to the joint efforts of a New Jersey family and a local immigrant from New York.

Last year, Bet Elazraki Children's Home was forced to close down its "petting zoo" due to budgetary issues. But fortunately for the kids, mother and daughter Jessie and Eve Orbach of New Jersey stepped in with a generous donation to keep the project alive.

According to Yehuda Cohen, who along with his wife Riki has been the head of the Bet Elazraki Children's Home for over 20 years, the donation was enough to reinstate the animal therapy program.

The Orbachs visited the home on Friday for a ceremony re-dedicating the program and an opportunity to interact with the children, said Amy Baranes, a full-time social worker at the home who oversees the project.

A Yeshiva University graduate who immigrated from the United States to Israel in 1998, Baranes recently completed her studies in animal assisted therapy at Magen David Yarok College in Ramat Gan, and did her internship at Bet Elazraki, which was founded in 1969 "to help children in great distress," according to its website. At that time, Bet Elazraki served 40 children; today it serves 240 children from across Israel.

Baranes, who is in her second year at the home, told Anglo File this week she became interested in animal therapy after a woman visited the home and demonstrated the technique. She says she saw how quickly the therapy had an impact on the children.

"It's an amazing tool to get them to talk and to develop and advance in life," Baranes said.

Baranes said her specialty is using the communty-at-large to bring animal therapy to children. She recently developed a volunteer program at a horse stable in Moshav Haniel with an 11-year-old child who attends the home's day program.

She also maintains a vet-supervised animal corner in her home, renting animals from a local pet shop to bring home every week for the therapy sessions.