Lack of Funds Limits Help for At-risk Children in North

Budgetary constraints are limiting the hours in which social workers who specialize in helping children at risk in northern Israel are available to respond to crises.

According to the answering machine at the office of Hava Levy, who is in charge of the social workers that offer specialized assistance to children at risk, their services are unavailable after 4 P.M. for nearly a dozen days each month, due to insufficient funds.

This translates into individual crises: When Nazareth officials called Levy's office on Wednesday, in order to authorize the removal from home of a teenage girl who was threatening to commit suicide, there was no one to respond. Similarly, a call from the National Council for the Child earlier in the week, warning of children who are being neglected as a result of their mother's suspected drug addiction, went unheeded.

The Welfare Ministry says that social workers have to be on call 24 hours a day. However, there are budgetary shortages for overtime in the Northern District, and the available funds can cover only 18 days a month.

A spokesman for the ministry, Ido Nahum, said that the ministry has been trying to obtain more funding from the Finance Ministry for some time.