Unimplemented Law Leaves Israeli Foster Children Vulnerable to Abuse

Social Affairs Ministry plans to provide mechanism guaranteed by the law to help children in public care avoid repercussions for complaints

MK Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid), Oct. 13, 2015.
Lior Mizrahi

Although the Knesset passed a new foster care law a year ago which took effect at the end of 2016, the Social Affairs Ministry has yet to appoint an ombudsman to deal with complaints by children in the system or at boarding schools.

This means the law is not being fully implemented, because there is no place for children placed away from home to file complaints or have them addressed.

“The delay in the appointment is unreasonable because this is a substantial and very important part of the law; it’s actually one of the most important achievements of the law,” said MK Karine Elharar (Yesh Atid), sponsor of the legislation.

“The job of the ombudsman can save children for whom it isn’t good in the [foster] family, who are being abused and so on,” Elharar said. “We can’t expect a child to go to the police; there has to be an ombudsman who will deal with these complaints exclusively and properly.”

The law calls to establish a mechanism to examine children’s complaints about whatever framework they’re in, to be headed by an ombudsman. The mechanism is meant to be accessible to youngsters so they can make discreet complaints without fear of repercussions. The ombudsman can recommend to the Social Affairs Minister director-general to take action against the subject of the complaint or any other steps necessary to prevent harm to the children.

The ministry said in response, “we must note that the Foster Care Law went into effect only on December 6, 2016. After writing up an invitation to applicants as required by law, the ministry published a call for applicants for the job of ombudsman. In the coming days the selection committee will meet, after which the chosen ombudsman will take up the post.” The ministry also said it has also established a forum of relevant child-welfare agencies and former foster and boarding school children.