In recent years, more and more community approaches to assist youth at-risk have been developed. These responses to the challenges youth at-risk face are taking place in their communities, preventing the need to remove children and teenagers from their homes and schools. This growing trend of treating youth at-risk in their own environment is assisted by identifying the difficulties they face, providing them with individualized treatment, teaching them good study habits, giving them emotional support and teaching and encouraging normative behavioural patterns. While treating the child, an emphasis is also placed on treating his or her family in order to help create the conditions necessary for the child's overall well-being.
In Israel, there are around 350,000 at-risk children and teenagers, youth who are exposed to abuse and neglect. United Israel Appeal Canada works for the sake of at-risk children and teenagers and their families. These are youth who are neglected physically, educationally and emotionally. They suffer from physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse, and their family lives and surroundings are dangerous. They are often in danger of dropping out of school, and many are involved in marginal or criminal behaviour. Almost all are experiencing behavioural and emotional problems.
Our intervention is focused on a number of goals: to improve the quality of treatment and the services that currently exist for youth at-risk; to expand existing programs by placing an emphasis on prevention and identifying problems before it is too late; to strengthen the treatment of children with special needs; and to integrate innovative programs and methods into the existing system of services.
Youth Futures is one of the programs in which United Israel Appeal Canada, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, supports the advancement of youth at-risk. The goal of Youth Futures is to strengthen the capabilities of youth at-risk, increase their potential to succeed and thus help reduce social gaps in Israel.
The program matches each at-risk child with a “trustee,” an adult who serves as a role model and a mentor for the child for an extended period of time and helps each child realize his or her potential.
The trustees, individuals ages 20-30 and based in the child's area, are chosen after a strict selection process. Each trustee mentors a number of children and teenagers for an extended period of time. In cooperation with all those treating the child (the educator, social worker, etc.), the trustee enriches the children's lives with educational and social programs and serves as a mediator between each child and the local education and welfare systems.
The goal of the program is to grant youth at-risk all of the opportunities and positive experiences that children who grow up in "regular" families receive–from extra-curricular activities and developing their personal skills to other positive experiences such as support, individual assistance and more. Additionally, each at-risk child that participates in the project is granted a “personal empowerment basket," a small amount of money for his or her personal needs and goals, as they are identified during a personal mapping process.
United Israel Appeal Canada also supports after-school centres. One of the community responses for youth at-risk are joint after-school centres of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Welfare, which serve as welcoming educational-treatment frameworks for children in need of such environments. There are 15 children in each after-school centre, which operates from the time school ends until around 7pm. Activities at the centres include doing homework under the supervision of counsellors, planned individual and group activities, free time, one-on-one discussions, enrichment activities, two communal meals and more. Each centre's staff includes a counsellor, a housemother and volunteers (National Service participants, soldiers and/or community volunteers).