Israel privatises child on the basis of hearsay

Privatising children
By Marianne Azizi

Yael is the mother of four children. Her eldest son contracted meningitis as a child – he is now 21 and she is his guardian. The Ministry of Welfare and Social Services helped her throughout, and she was grateful. The social workers she dealt with were not attached to private institutions.

Yael hasn’t had an easy life, but she is a fiery and positive woman. Her father began to suffer from dementia, and her partner was diagnosed with severe Bipolar Disorder. She cared for him too. Her 12-year-old son had a few issues at school; over a year he had got into trouble three times and been involved in fighting. His grades were high, and he was in general a good student, according to the evidence provided by his teacher.

One of the problems she described was the the foreign Jews who had emigrated to Israel [“made aliyah”, in Zionist parlance] through Nefesh b’ Nefesh, arriving to poverty and little work.

Yael got into some financial difficulties. She had been working for housing residents in her local town of Beer Sheva – a very poor city. There had been problems with the water supply, both in terms of the amount and the cleanliness of the water. She was vociferous in her campaign to help with housing. One of the problems she described was the the foreign Jews who had emigrated to Israel [“made aliyah”, in Zionist parlance] through Nefesh b’ Nefesh, arriving to poverty and little work.

So, with her previous trust in the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, she approached it regarding her son. She asked for food parcels and a mattress, and also wanted to have her son tested to ensure that he didn’t have his father’s condition. She signed a “needy” warrant and waited for help. A year passed with no help; in fact she claims she was told she needed to pay for assessments herself, which of course she couldn’t.

She went to a meeting with social workers, and asked them if they could take her boy for a week or two just to give her some breathing space. At the meeting she recalls that the conversation wasn’t going in that direction. So, she left the meeting and took her son to Tel Aviv to a friend. She began to receive calls from the police, asking for her whereabouts.

Yael described herself as a frightened fugitive. After a couple of days she returned to Tel Aviv to collect her son. The police were all around her, and took her to the station where she was held for 12 hours. They then took her back to Beer Sheva and held her for another six hours. She described how she wasn’t even given a drink of water.

Yael made a complaint against the Welfare and Social Security Ministry and the mayor of the town. Within two days, her son was taken away from her.

There was no home visit by social workers before Yael’s son was taken. The action was based on a phone call from an ex-boyfriend who claimed she was drunk and her son was crying.

There was no home visit by social workers before Yael’s son was taken. The action was based on a phone call from an ex-boyfriend who claimed she was drunk and her son was crying. In fact, the night she had drunk some wine her son was staying in another house. She asks: “Isn’t everyone entitled to a glass of wine when they have a free evening?” The police arrived at her house and tried to wake her up. She was told that in her sleepy state she had claimed she was going to hurt herself.

Currently, Yael’s son is still in an institution. She has 30 days to plead a case. She went once to the court and was so emotional that she was removed from the proceedings. This was only a few days after her son was taken.

Yael has passed a psychiatric assessment, and it was acknowledged that her stress was caused by economic problems. She has been informed by the Welfare Ministry that a test was also done on her son, but there are no published results – just a recommendation from the social worker that the boy remains out of his mother’s care.

Yael’s son has repeatedly asked to go home to his mother. The state’s lawyers and the judge claim he could be manipulated by his mother to say these things, so he should be kept in the institution. She is allowed to see him twice a week for three hours each time, and can wander around the complex with him. His teacher filed a letter to say the boy was on target for his academic year and is a smart child, and that his behaviour is fine. The court responded that the teacher doesn’t know the relationship between mother and son.

Yael claims she has had been engaged with the school throughout her son’s education. The child has been told that he cannot talk directly to the judge. He has an appointed state lawyer, who has also advised him that he has no right to speak to the Judge.

Yael has fallen victim to a new style of welfare system, connected to profitable private facilities.

Yael’s son was taken from her on the basis of hearsay. The information according to which he was taken is nefarious and doesn’t seem to justify removing a child from his mother. Yet, after two months she has still not been able to have him returned home.

As we sit and talk, Yael is clearly in trauma and grief at the loss of her son. It is a living hell for her. She believes he will come home, and if she can just tell all the truth and dispel the rumours, everything will be fine. The complainant had actually been declared a dangerous person, but this was ignored.

Yael has fallen victim to a new style of welfare system, connected to profitable private facilities. The cost of keeping a child away from his mother and in an institution is up to 17,000 shekels [USD 4,345]. If the mother is in financial difficulties, she wonders at the logic of paying so much for her not to have her son. She asks, wouldn’t it be better to help her, and keep the family together?

At the time of writing Yael has been denied the opportunity to bring witnesses, has had no home visits whatsoever prior to her son being taken, and both she and her son have had no opportunity to speak in the courts.

Her story is consistent with many parents’ testimonies. It is almost impossible for someone to read this and believe it. Common sense would indicate that something is not right – there’s no smoke without fire, there must be something that has not been talked about, etc.

Yael’s declaration of financial need caused the loss of her child. The financial need prevents her from getting legal help. The removal of her son has caused her to suffer severe trauma, and that trauma may prevent her son from being returned to her. In the meantime, all her rights and those of her child are being denied.

This is every-day life for thousands of people in unreported Israel.

(A video of Marianne Azizi interviewing Yael can be viewed here.)

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