Residential Education & Care in Israel

Residential Education & Care in Israel

Application of the Youth Aliyah model on a Nation-wide scale
Dr. Emmanuel Grupper

Dr. Emmanuel Grupper is Director of the Residential Education & Care division at the Youth Aliyah Department in the Ministry of Education and senior lecturer at the Beit Berl Academic College. He is the President of the Israeli National section of FICE – the international association for extra-familiar care and was elected as Vice-President of the International Association of Social Educators (AIEJI).

In most of the industrialized countries, the use of residential education and care as rehabilitation vehicle for children and youth at risk is constantly decreasing (Knorth &Van de Ploeg, 1994). There are many reasons for this phenomenon; however, the main ones are related to the negative stigma attached today to any kind of institutional placement. This is nowadays considered in most European countries as a last resort solution that is being applied only when all other interventions had failed.

In addition to that, the ever increasing cost of treating a child in a residential care therapeutic program is encouraging policy makers to look for less expensive solutions, even though their effectiveness is often doubtful (Grupper, 2002). These remarks are needed in order to understand the very original and particular phenomenon related to residential Education and Care system in Israel. Its particularity lie in the fact that between 9 – 14% (depending on the year), of adolescents and their families, from various Cultural and social origins are opting for this kind of programs for their children’s high school education.

Different periods in Youth Aliyah history
Youth Aliyah was established 75 years ago as a rescue operation for Jewish adolescents, taking them out of Nazi-Germany and placing them in educational residential programs in Israel. First, in Kibbutzim and later on in youth villages too. This network of residential education and care programs grew up and developed along the years includes nowadays 283 institutions where almost 40,000 adolescents are receiving in them both, their high school academic needs, cultural enrichment, psycho-social counseling and last but not least, all their primary needs being an extra-familial care program. The characteristics of the youth population taking advantage of this unique educational and rehabilitation network have changed many times along these 75 years. The main factors influencing it are the changing needs of the Israeli society. During first years of the state of Israel, these were orphans and children who survived the holocaust in Europe. Later these were mainly new immigrants from various countries. Since 1971 it became a very original mixture composed of young immigrants integrated together with Israeli born adolescents being in need of extra-familial care due to family problems or difficult and unhealthy social environment.

Nine periods can be identified in this long history of Youth Aliyah:
•First period – 1933 – 1940 – First groups of Jewish young people leaving Germany for being integrated in Kibbutz groups in Israel.
•Second period – 1940 -1950 – Integration of orphans and youth that survived the Holocaust and arrived to Israel without family.
•Third period – 1950 – 1960 – Youth Aliyah as an educational tool helping the newly born state to inte- grate the mass immigration from all over the world.
•Fourth period – 1960 – 1971 – Integration of youth coming before their parents from North Africa. This period is also characterized by an ongoing effort to establish and strengthen the unique professional ideology and educational methods of Youth Aliyah.
•Fifth period – 1971 – 1981 – Here starts the “Israeli project”, when following the government’s request, 4,600 Israeli born adolescents, mainly from cultural underprivileged background, are integrated in Youth Aliyah educational network. At the same time, new immigrants continue to come from Romania, Iran, Turkey and elsewhere and all these young people learn to live together in the youth villages as an integrated youth society.
•Sixth period – 1981 – 1989 – Here starts the Ethiopian era in Youth Aliyah. In 1983 “Operation Moses” and thousands of children and youth from the Ethiopian Jewish community arrives to Israel, mostly with- out their parents, and new programs are developed for them before they can be fully integrated in the Youth Aliyah villages. At the same time, new short-term projects are developed for Jewish youth from different countries like France, England, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia and elsewhere, that can strengthen their Jewish identity by spending a semester or more in a Youth Aliyah village in Israel.
•Seventh period – 1989 – 1996 – The second large-scale operation “Salomon” takes place in May 1991. During the summer of 1991 Youth Aliyah integrates 2,500 Ethiopian youth that arrived to Israel in this rescue operation. In 1990 starts the mass immigration to Israel of Jews from the former Soviet Union and many of their adolescents are integrated in Youth Aliyah educative network. “Nailed” project starts with the aim to bring from the CIS young people before their parents. At the same time, the war in Yugoslavia takes place and Youth Aliyah operates a special rescue operation giving a safe shelter for Jewish young people from the fighting areas. Many of them staid in Israel, some went back home when the war was over.
•Eighth period – 1996 – 2003 – Youth Aliyah was transferred from the Jewish Agency to be integrated as part of the Ministry of Education. The big challenge to keep the unique spirit and flexibility of an informal organization, like Youth Aliyah, inside a bureaucratic governmental agency. This transition was realized with full success and the network of Youth Aliyah is expending in this period and strengthens its professional structure. Children integrated in this period in the network are: Israeli born, Ethiopian youth and newcomers from the former Soviet Union.
•Ninth period – 2003 – on – Youth Aliyah has become the central agency in the Ministry of Education that supervises and takes responsibility for all Residential Education & Care programs. The challenge being: introducing Youth Aliyah educational philosophy and methods to the larger network of almost 300 residential programs.

The Israeli “youth Aliyah” model for residential education & care The prototype of the leading Israeli residential education model, forged and developed in Youth Aliyah educational movement, is the youth village. It was created as part of the resettling of the land and gathering Jewish people from all over the world after the “Shoah”, to create an Israeli society. The kibbutz movement that represent a new way of voluntarily chosen of community life, was in many respect the modeling for the creation of youth villages, based on shared living of youth and adults in a small and integrated educative community (Eden, 1952; Kashti & Arieli, 1976).

These kind of educational models were largely applied in Israel until today for integrating immigrant youth, to rehabilitate underprivileged and uprooted young people, as a powerful social instrument for creating an integrated and solid society. The basic principles of this model are: The school is an integral part of the residential program. Young people are exposed to normative intellectual challenges, with a large network of support programs, both on the intellectual and emotional level. The child is being looked after in a holistic way – the ecological model. Every part of the day, and any kind of activity, and every staff member, are being part of the overall program aiming to achieve the educational goals.

The child is experiencing in the youth village a real “moratorium”, which gives legitimacy for trial and error learning processes. A multi-cultural and heterogeneous composition of youth society in the village. Young people from various backgrounds, all of them are in need of extra-familial education and care for various reasons. The ability of the staff is to transform this cultural diversity to be an asset instead of a burden.

Bridging the gap between personal goals and community objectives. The concept of “self accomplishment” is often considered nowadays to be in contradiction with activities that are geared towards achieving goals of the community at large. Life in youth Aliyah demonstrate the great potential, in terms of empowerment and psychological growth, of leadership activities where young persons are contributing to community in large and at the same time are developing their personality and gaining most valuable social skills. Self-governance of daily life activities by youth Empowerment of youth is gained also through their active enrollment in leadership activities through which they are experiencing responsibility taking and also the rewarding feeling of having accomplish successfully any kind of activity: at school, in the social activities, in the daily duties, in helping or supporting a young friend, in sports, in the farm etc. Special quality of dialogue between young people and their educators, based on mutual respect and not on hierarchy.

Youth Aliyah’s international reputation – part of FICE-International Youth Aliyah joined the International Federation of Educative Communities (FICE) in 1952, four years after FICE has been established in 1948. It was accepted as the Israeli National section to represent in the International forum the Israeli residential educators. In 1958 Youth Aliyah hosted for the first time the world congress of FICE. Since then, there was again a FICE World congress in 1983 held in Neurim youth village. In 1991 a FICE international professional seminar on training of social pedagogues took place in Israel and was later documented in a FICE book published in 1983. In October 2007, the Board meeting of this important organization took place in Israel including visits to different types of Youth Aliyah villages, both for Jewish and Arab children. FICE embraces highly qualified and motivated residential educators and administrators from more then 30 countries around the world. None of them dispose of such a large and diversified network that can give adolescents in need of specialized care, a wide range of options to choose the one that mostly fit to his/her specific needs and expectations. This is also the “golden chain” between the past, present and future. The possibilities offered by this unique network of extra-familial care programs, to rehabilitate and empower every young person who encounters difficulties in his/her adolescent days. Recently, a survey was done by Prof. Rami Benbenishty from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The focus of the survey was to follow up graduates of Youth Aliyah villages 3-5 years after having finished their education. Almost all of them recall their experience in Youth Aliyah village as a very rewarding and empowering one. They are mostly satisfied with their lives, looking forward their future in terms of well- integrated adults in the Israeli society. We know from our colleagues in FICE that in Europe, extra-familial care is a much-stigmatized educational solution. Therefore, our European colleagues are full of admiration for this unique model of residential Education and care programs. They are particularly astonished and envy us for being able to gain the full and on-going support of the Ministry of Education, which covers most of the high expenses of this educational network.

The reasons for high demand to residential education in Israel The “Youth Aliyah model” is a residential education and care program emphasizing its multi-cultural feature. Nowadays, 85% of children being in extra-familial care in Israel are placed in these kinds of residential programs. The “Youth Aliyah model” is neither a rehabilitation center nor a boarding school, it is trying to serve both populations together in a heterogeneous integrated setting, and create a stimulating environment that can empower every young person upon its specific expectations and needs. In this kind of residential institution there is a tendency to bridge the gap and find proper educational and rehabilitation solutions for a large variety of young people: New immigrants who are in the midst of their cross-cultural transition process, children and youth who are in need because of family and social problems, young persons who need a second chance after having failed at the community based schooling system, some who need rehabilitation for emotional and behavioral crisis, and also those who are looking for a very specific oriented kind of education, that fit the group care concepts of the youth Aliyah model. In order to keep a high quality of Education and care, our department in the Ministry of Education is closely supervising all 283 residential settings from all kinds: religious and non-religious youth villages, high school Yeshiva for boys and high school Ulpana for girls, Maritime schools, agricultural schools, vocational schools and also programs for Arab youth and for Druze children.

The origins of this phenomenon The reasons for this unique social feature of Israeli society are many, let us take the main ones and elaborate about them:
Cultural factors In the Jewish cultural tradition it was well accepted that as part of the adolescent process of young boys, it is good for them to go out of home to study in a “Yeshiva”(residential rabbinic educational center). Therefore, large middle class population among religious people have positive attitude towards sending their children to residential schools when they reach the age of 12. This has an anti-stigma effect on the overall residential education and care network.

A. Nation building process of Israeli society Like many other societies in a revolutionary phase, or in a nation-building process, group care is often applied as a powerful instrument to socialize young people and prepare them for challenging social duties (Bronfenbrenner, 1970). This is still the case in the Israeli society today although the social challenges are often changing, but still have strong appeal for young people who want to feel actively engaged in the building of the society’s future.

B. Historical circumstances of Jewish people in the 20th century Another factor that contributed to massive use in a big variety of residential models in Israel is connected to tragic and extreme situations Jewish people had been exposed to during the twentieth century. Many children lost their families during world war one and two, and were in need of holistic care that could be supplied in residential homes. One example can highlight these kind of programs: One is a home created in 1945 in Salvino, a small village in the north of Italy, where Jewish children kept under cover and saved in monasteries all over Europe were gathered and later transferred to group care programs of Youth Aliyah in Israel (Meged, 1984).

C. Facts and figures about residential care in Israel As stated before, the number of children and young people in residential education and care institutions in Israel is the higher than in any other country. The exact statistics are varying from one period to the other, however, the general features hereby describes aren’t changing significally since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Looking at the age-group 3-18, 4% of the overall children’s population is placed in any kind of residential placement. If we look at the age group of 12-18, which is the age of Youth Aliyah children, the figures are 9-14% depending on the specific year (in the last 20 years). In a survey done by Gottesmann (1994) in 22 different countries members of the international association FICE (Federation International de Communautes Educatives), it was found that no other country, even those which have a long tradition of residential care, haven’t got such a relatively high percentages. Just to name a few: In the UK it goes up to 2% (Kahan, 1994), in Hungary less than 1% (Domvsky, 1991), and in Finland 0.5 %( Kamppainen, 1991).

It is largely accepted that residential care is not a desirable solution in early ages; therefore the age group of 12-18 is the one where most of placements in residential care are done in Youth Aliyah network. In the eighties it was starting with 14% of the age group. In the nineties it went down to 11% and the last statistics (Children in Israel, 2007), are 9%. Although the move is in decrease, it is still a significantly high proportion of the overall age group of Israeli youth.

New trends in Youth Aliyah residential education and care network Residential institutions are bound to modify themselves according to social changes occurring in the environment in which they operate. This is true everywhere and also in the Youth Aliyah model in Israel. The main changes occurring nowadays in this educational network are focused in three areas: Higher priority to academic achievements Major efforts are made in order to guarantee youth in care optimal opportunities to achieve success in their high school studies, as a key element in opening future perspectives for them as adults.

Involving parents in the children’s lives while being in care. Contrary to the past, it is nowadays a common knowledge (Buhler-Niederberger, 1999) that parents, even the most vulnerable among them, should be treated as full partners for their children’s education and care. This is not always easy to realize in residential institutions which used to operate as closed systems. However, today, due to the importance attached to the family, it is a major effort for residential staff to realize this politic in the everyday life.

New and better collaboration with community Most residential youth villages were established in rural and isolated areas, and the nearby community didn’t play any role in their functioning. Nowadays, Geography has changed in the sense that the distances are smaller and the concept of building community services has become a major component in educational and social services. Instead of looking at community based programs and residential ones as opposed to each other, the new approach looks for ways to conceive them both as complementary ones. New collaborations between residential institutions and communities are being developed constantly including the development of new models like half-way homes and extended day programs that take care of the child without having to separate him/her completely from the family and the original environment in the community.

Extra services to graduates without any family support The main objective in Youth Aliyah education network is to empower young people and prepare them for being autonomous and successful independent persons. However, a certain percentage (usually less then 10%) are completely lacking of any kind of family support. Some of these young people are in need of an extended moratorium. They need some extra services even after having finished the high school studies. Some of them are in need of accommodation for an additional period of time, others need follow up and a place for spending their vacations during military service. Others need counseling and emotional sup- port. Others need to feel they are not alone in the world and the home supplied for them in the youth village continue to be their home whenever they need it.

These are rather new programs emerging in some of Youth Aliyah villages these last years. They are now being translated to a new policy matter to be applied through the entire network.

Concluding remarks
Youth Aliyah residential education and care network in Israel was and still is a very important social instrument for successful coping with educational and social challenges. This kind of programs, are proved to be highly instrumental in obtaining successful social integration of immigrant youth (Eisikovits and Beck, 1991; Grupper, 1994). It also proved to be an important asset in reintegrating disconnected youth in at risk situations.

The community life where shared living between young people and their educators is taking place, creates vast opportunities to develop sense of “belonging”, first to the small peer-group, later to the youth community and hopefully it will lead to the development of an adult personality, who feel himself belonging and positively connected to his/her family, community, and society at large. Let us hope that also in the future, this powerful social instrument that was so efficiently applied until now will be allotted sufficient resources in order to empower new generations of young people who are in need of this kind of educational programs. This imply that residential programs shouldn’t be seen as the” last resort”, but on the contrary, the preferred option for those who need it and wish to use it.