Reports on At-risk Youth Often Don't Reach Authorities

State Comptroller's report says mishandling of information could makes it impossible to protect those in need, sometimes leading to death from abuse or neglect.

The State Comptroller found failures in the way information was shared between the police, educational and health authorities and the welfare services about women, children and the elderly at risk.

According to the State Comptroller's report, issued on Tuesday, because such information is essential in protecting these groups, the failure to receive it could make it impossible to protect those who need it most and in some cases could lead to death from abuse or neglect.

Rose Pizem - Getty Images - 21122011
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By law, the police must report to the welfare authorities on minors and other people considered at risk. But the report notes that 17 out of 117 reports on at-risk minors that the police sent to welfare officials in Holon, Kiryat Malakhi, and Ramle were not received by the authorities in those cities.

Many reports were made following a long gestation period of the police suspecting abuse or neglect of a minor.

In 2010, Education Ministry's Unit for the Advancement of Youth and truancy officers in Holon, Kiryat Malakhi and Ramle were in contact with 3,000 minors.

However, Welfare authorities received only 39 complaints of possible abuse or neglect of minors in those cities.

In February 2010, the interministerial committee on identifying young people at risk published its report. The committee was founded following the murder of 4-year-old Rose Pizem, who went missing in May 2008 and whose body was found stuffed in a suitcase in the Yarkon River some four months later. Her grandfather was convicted of the murder and her mother of soliciting the murder.

It was widely stated that the murder had occured due to lack of information-sharing by authorities who knew the child was at risk. The committee's recommendations, intended to prevent the recurrence of such a situation, were adopted by the ministerial committee on social services in 2010, but the recommendations have yet to be applied.

The comptroller found that the treatment of minors is also flawed because there are not enough of the special investigators that are required to question children under 14, which means that a long period can elapse between a request for an investigation and a report on its outcome.

For example, in 2009, welfare authorities in Holon, Kiryat Malakhi and Ramle asked for 275 children to be questioned. Many reports arrived after a long delay, sometimes as much as a year, which meant that possible intervention for these children was also delayed.

The comptroller also found fault with the way reports are conveyed from health officials to welfare officials about medical treatment of children and the elderly. Six hospitals gave the comptroller information about 2,000 minors and elderly people whom they treated between 2008 and 2010 and then reported suspicion of abuse or neglect to social services. More than one third of the reports never reached the proper authorities, and 220 arrived after a long delay.

The Social Affairs Ministry responded: "Reports to youth social workers, which indicate that a child is at risk or in mortal danger, receive priority. Government ministries have decided to create a legal framework that will allow sharing of information among the various experts dealing with at-risk children and their families. The child investigators' unit has 100 positions for investigators and youth counselors as well as administrative positions. The number of positions has grown since 2007."