Israel Police: Most Caregivers Suspected of Child Abuse Aren't Indicted

Officers tell Knesset committee that 80 percent of cases are closed due to lack of evidence.

Children in a Tel Aviv kindergarten.
Tomer Appelbaum

Police representatives admit they have trouble indicting caregivers suspected of abusing toddlers and that 90 percent of such cases are closed, mainly for lack of evidence.

According to police figures given to the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child on Monday, about 500 children under the age of 6 were suspected of being abused by caregivers between 2010 and 2015. However, an indictment was served in only 10 percent of the cases, with 80 percent closed for lack of evidence.

According to the police, in many instances caregivers suspected of previously abusing toddlers return to work with children, and violent caregivers who are not convicted are often rearrested on similar suspicions.

The Economy and Industry Ministry does not supervise all private nurseries and kindergartens, and even the supervision of those institutions for which it is responsible is extremely limited due to budget restrictions.

Many of these places lack security cameras, and the absence of documentation makes it difficult for the police to formulate an evidentiary basis for filing an indictment, say Superintendent Dafna Roman, a consulting and youth investigation officer, and Commander Liat Lev, an investigating officer. Both officers spoke at the committee discussion.

The law does not prevent a person with a criminal record opening a private preschool and taking care of children and infants. According to estimates, some 300,000 children under the age of three are in private preschools supervised by the Economy Ministry. According to Gil Yakobov, director of the Daycare Centers Division in the Economy Ministry, an insufficient budget means the ministry is limited to inspecting the buildings and checking the training of the caregivers.

“There are a total of 16 inspectors for all the preschool play groups, afternoon child-care facilities and day-care centers that operate under the ministry, and therefore the policy is that we only visit a place if a complaint or information is received. To begin the monitoring of these private frameworks, we have the Inspection Law and hope to advance it soon.”

The Knesset panel discussion took place at the initiative of MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), in light of the case of Simona Raz, a caregiver suspected of shaking a 4-month-old infant, Daniel Gerson. Gerson was hospitalized in serious condition earlier this month, but was released from a Petah Tikva hospital last week. Two weeks ago, Shmuli submitted a draft bill requiring the installation of cameras in preschools and private kindergartens. The bill was signed by 80 MKs and will be discussed in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation at the beginning of the summer session.

The Knesset committee also discussed the need for more stringent legislation – a subject upon which the MKs, police representatives and the State Prosecutor’s Office were all in agreement. The committee chair, MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu), said they should consider a draft bill that would forbid a staff member who harmed a toddler from returning to the education system, and examine the possibility of demanding a certificate of integrity from every hired caregiver.