Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that he would move the responsibility for day care centers to the Education Ministry from the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. The move comes after a private day care owner was charged with 18 counts of abusing children from three months to three years old.
After reports of the abuse, which was documented by security cameras at the day care run by Carmel Mauda in her home in the central city of Rosh Ha’ayin, demonstrations erupted around the country, with protesters demanding more oversight of private day cares.
Education Minister Rafi Peretz welcomed the decision. Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz said in a statement that the details of the handover would be finalized during a meeting with the prime minister on Wednesday. The statement also clarified that responsibility for registering for day care and receiving fee subsidies would remain with the Social Affairs Ministry, while the pedagogical aspect and supervision of the children’s welfare would be transferred to the Education Ministry.
“The Education Ministry is the most professional and highest quality agency to supervise children under the age of three as well,” Peretz said. He added that he had instructed Education Ministry Director General Shmuel Abuav to prepare to absorb the day care centers, which currently are responsible for some 120,000 children.
There are also around 380,000 babies and toddlers in private, unsupervised day cares, and there is no plan to bring them under the auspices of the Education Ministry. However, supervision of these operations is expected to tighten when the Day Care Supervision Law comes into effect in September.
Under the Social Affairs Ministry’s plan, the first stage of the plan will ensure that anyone working in a private day care center has undergone first aid training and has no criminal record. Workers who meet these very basic requirements will get a preliminary permit to work in private day cares. The ministry is expected to formulate more detailed regulations to define a minimal standard for working in an early childhood center, including educational training, safety training and other requirements.
Until now the care and education of preschoolers has been divided between the Education Ministry, which was responsible for children aged three to six, and the Social Affairs Ministry, which supervises around a quarter of the country’s subsidized and private day care centers caring for babies to three-year-olds. The proposal to make the Education Ministry responsible for both types of centers has come up numerous times in the past. The Committee for Socioeconomic Change, chaired by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, and the Committee on the War on Poverty, chaired by Eli Alaluf, had both recommended this, but it was never implemented because of objections from the Finance Ministry.
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Vered Windman, the director of the National Council for the Child, welcomed the decision, saying, “This is an important step toward formalizing the appropriate supervision of day care centers and recognizing them as educational frameworks.” She added, however, that it was necessary to expedite the supervision of private day care as well: “No more untrained staffers, no more preschools and family care centers with bad safety conditions and no more preschools packed with kids and lacking an compulsory standard for the ratio between caregivers and children.”