At the Crossroads of Jerusalem

In teens on December 11, 2009 at 03:18

My personal assignment in honor of the Circle of Strength’s Volunteer Day was to give an hour-and-a-half self-defense class just off Zion Square at a drop-in center called Crossroads.

Crossroads is a center that serves a subculture of vulnerable teens that have been sidelined.  While many organizations have been established to meet the needs of at-risk teens, one such population is consistently under-served:  the hundreds of Jerusalem’s English-speaking at-risk youth. Poor, isolated and on the streets, they are, nonetheless, stereotyped as being “Affluent Americans” and are, therefore, estranged from the usual governmental rehabilitative frameworks. See the article below for a look into some other problems in the existing youth treatment system.

Any way, The Crossroads Center, established in 2001, is the only organization actively helping Anglo teens find their way through information and referral, recreational activities to keep them away from trouble and danger, psychological care and counseling.

And speaking of finding one’s way, parking in downtown Jerusalem was never easy but what a nightmare the the endless construction on Jerusalem’s infamous light rail has created! Miracle of miracles, I found my way to a parking garage. I walked through Yoel Saloman Street carrying my trusty striking pads, crossed over Jaffa Street, found HaHavatzelet 2 and climbed the three floors to the Center. My assistant, Tova, met me on the stairs.

Our class began with a group of about seven teens, mostly boys, who starting out  sulking because the social workers turned off  “South Park” in honor of my arrival.  By the end, we had about 20 teens in the room who had worked to various degrees on boundary setting, striking and targeting. The teens did what all teens do: testing, interrupting, challenging and generally, making life difficult… But they also learned, challenged each others assumptions and asked insightful questions.

After the class, when I had a few minutes to speak with the staff, they told me that they were impressed by how well the group listened and participated.  The girls in particular  asked them if we could offer more classes. We brainstormed about writing a grant together, trying to get Youth Services to fund a course, looking for a course sponsor with a special interest in helping these kids successfully find their way into safe and healthy adulthood. I don’t know how we’ll do it yet, but, somehow, we’ll find a way. Some things, like these kids, are far too important to leave to chance.

Knesset Discusses 100s of Untreated At-Risk Youth

N. has worked as a prostitute since she was 14. A. accumulated 29 criminal records before the age of 13. There is no room for them in any residential center, not for them nor for hundreds of others due to a lack of of dormitories and staff. A government investigator points his finger at the Welfare Department- and the report on this subject that he prepared was discussed today in the Knesset.

Yael Barnovsky
Ynet News (Hebrew) 09.06.09

N., a 14 year-old girl from the Central Region, fell victim years ago to violence at the hands of her father. At age 13, she got drunk for the first time and was exploited sexually by men much older than she. She received not treatment, and after she was raped by a neighbor, she started using drugs and in order to pay for them, began engaging in prostitution. The court ordered that she be placed in a closed dormitory facility but, the waiting list was too long, so meanwhile, she was placed in an open dormitory from which she regularly flees and continues her work as a prostitute.

A. a boy of 13 form the North, grew up with a violent mother and a father he barely knew, since he is rarely out of prison. Already by 7th grade, he dropped out of school and began wandering the streets. Within a year, 29 police reports were filed against him. A. who is considered a “high-risk youth”, was arrested on suspicion of abusing animals. His imprisonment was extended until the end of proceedings against him. The judge decided that, if he was placed in a closed dormitory facility, he could be released from prison. In this instance also, the answer as to whether he could be accommodated was “no”.

According to statistics from the National Council for The Child, in 2008 there was a 10% drop in the number of youth in treatment under the Youth Shelter Authority of the Welfare Department responsible for dormitory facilities for youth at risk. Since 2002 and until 2007, the number of youth placed in these facilities grew from 1,297 to 1,826- more than 40%. However, in 2008 there were only 1,650, an 11% drop. Do the statistics reflect that there are fewer youth at risk? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The reason is that, as in the examples of N. and A., there is a shortage of space in the dorms and of professional staff— that prevents fast treatment for the youth that need it most.

The Welfare Department Calls This “A Difficult Period”

These statistics were presented today (Tuesday) by the Executive Director of the National Council for the Child Dr. Yitzhak Kedman, in a meeting of the Knesset’s State Review Committee that will discuss the damning findings that arose from the report of the State Comptroller concerning the Youth Shelter Authority.

According to the report, in the 10 government dormitory facilities under the Authority there are 351 spaces and 567 on waiting lists. Of those at least another 98 would have qualified for treatment if all 351 spaces were filled. However, only 253 of the spaces are occupied and a lack of professional staff members prevents the remaining spaces from being filled.

The State Comptroller found that Youth Authority attempts to reach the Welfare Department Management in order to find a solution to the problem of dormitory placement, were not dealt with and that Welfare Department Management failed to cooperate re: the adoption of a multi-year plan that would enable an overall solution to this difficult on-going problem and provide material for dealing with this issue vis-a-vis the Treasury Department.

“If the government was a parent,we would long ago have taken him/her to court for criminal child negligence, failure to fulfill parental responsibilities, defying court orders and false imprisonment,” said Dr. Kedman…


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