In June, the Jerusalem Post reported that the child abuse rates in Israel had surpassed the rates in the U.S. According to the article, “While part of the rise in reporting of child abuse cases in Israel stems from greater awareness among professionals and society as to what constitutes abuse and how to report it … it has more to do with an alarming increase in violence throughout Israeli society in general.”
The source of the data for the article was the Haruv Institute, established by the Schusterman Foundation-Israel in 2007, with the mission to enhance the knowledge-base and develop advanced educational programs for professionals and allied care-givers who work with abused and neglected children and their families. The Institute aims to find solutions to the myriad challenges facing professionals who work with this population.
Many of Israel’s top experts in the field are affiliated with Haruv, and their research and expertise inform its agenda and activities. Haruv has also trained professionals in other countries, including China. In September, Haruv joined with University of Oklahoma-Tulsa to host a two-day conference for leading experts in the U.S., with a focus on identifying areas of potential collaboration. Conference participants included a number of well-known researchers in the U.S.:
- Dr. David Olds, Director of Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health at the University of Colorado, Denver;
- Dr. Larry Aber, Distinguished Professor of Applied Psychology and Public Policy at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University;
Dr. Richard Gelles, Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania;
- Dr. Cindy Christian, Director of Safe Place: The Center for Child Protection and Health at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and
- Dr. Richard Barth, Dean and Professor of the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland.
According to recent data, Oklahoma ranks among the highest in the U.S. for instances of child abuse and neglect, and a report released by the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths put Oklahoma in the top five states for the rate of child abuse and neglect deaths.
As part of its work to foster the safety and security of children, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network has been supporting efforts to develop new knowledge and methodologies to confront child abuse, as well as helping to build a network of child protection centers and interventions that will impact all aspects of the cycle of abuse and neglect, in Israel and Tulsa.
In Oklahoma, it supports the OU-Child Abuse Pediatrics, as well as the Child Protection Coalition, Family and Children’s Services, Parent Child Center and Youth Services of Tulsa. In Israel, it supports organizations such Beit Lynn, the National Council for the Child, Noga Center and, of course, Haruv.
Haruv’s Director, Prof. Asher Ben-Arieh, began working in the field of children’s rights and child abuse 23 years ago as a student of social work. He went on to spend two decades at the Israel National Council for the Child, an organization that promotes the rights and wellbeing of children in Israel, before taking over at Haruv. He spoke with us about how the institute is working to counteract these alarming trends in Israel and to become a world center for advanced research in the field of child abuse.
How serious is the phenomenon of child abuse and neglect in Israel? Why are there more cases than in years past?
Asher Ben-Arieh (AB): Very serious. In recent years there has been a clear upward trend above and beyond population growth. It seems that as Israeli society has become increasingly violent, it has influenced the growth in numbers of victims of abuse and neglect. The first to be affected are the weak individuals in society, namely children and the elderly.
Can you tell us about a particularly eye-opening moment for you when you realized that this was a serious issue that needed addressing?
AB: The 1989 death of a young girl named Moran Daminas was the initial trigger. Also, two years ago a young girl named Rose Piaam was murdered, and there had been clear warning signals but no one paid attention.
Why does Haruv focus on professional training programs versus other methods to combat abuse and neglect? Why is field research such a major focus of your agenda?
AB: Haruv chose to not compete with existing programs and to focus on building its own unique niche. We believe that we can dramatically affect the landscape and reduce child abuse and neglect by improving the skills and widening the pool of professionals who deal with such cases. Research for the purpose of gaining knowledge about the realities in the field is necessary if our aim is to formulate strong training programs.
Haruv is now five years old—old enough to have proven its worth. What achievements can you point to in reducing child abuse and neglect?
AB: More than 5,000 professionals have participated in Haruv programs and many groundbreaking research projects have emerged. The professional field is stronger and better as a result of Haruv’s influence.
The Haruv Institute established the first training program for pediatricians, enabling them to better identify and treat children who have been abused or neglected; it was highly successful. We are currently running the second such program. Also, we were the first to lead professional training programs in a systematic way on this issue in the ultra-orthodox community, which previously turned a blind eye to the issue of child abuse and neglect. In addition, we were the first to lead training of clinicians on how to conduct child-parent psycho-therapy.
What impact has the Schusterman network of emergency centers (Beit Lynn) had on this urgent concern?
AB: Beit Lynn has changed the landscape of welfare services for abused and neglected children in Israel. Its major contribution was and still is in reducing the secondary victimization of children, meaning that children who were abused are interviewed in a friendly place and thus are more likely to deal better with their post-trauma.
What do you think is needed now to make real progress in the field? What are the major obstacles?
AB: We must continue to support professionals in the field and give them ongoing training and assistance so they can perform their work in the best possible way, for the benefit of children.
Our aim is to expand our programming in Israel and begin to develop programs throughout the world, being a light unto the world, as it is said that ‘Torah shall go forth from Zion’ (Isaiah 2:3).
What were the key takeaways from the conference in Oklahoma and what comes next?
AB: The major achievement of the Tulsa meeting was that we laid the foundation for ongoing collaborations between Haruv and researchers and institutions in the U.S. Specifically, we have already planned a meeting between young Israeli and American researchers where they will be trained and guided by leading researchers in the field. In addition, we will formalize the educational and professional collaboration between Haruv and the University of Oklahoma.