The Jerusalem Hills Therapeutic Centers places great emphasis on working with the parents/family of each child in its care, for as long as the child remains at our facilities. Working with the family is an inseparable and integral part of the JHTC’s unique treatment philosophy.
To this end each child's family is assigned an in-house social worker who meets for therapeutic sessions with each family/parent on the average of once per week. Parents come to meet with the social worker and are then able to meet with their children for an extended visit. We maintain a special Parents’ Room that provides both an intimate atmosphere for parents to meet with their children alone, and a comfortable resting place while they wait for their meeting with the social worker. Families who live very far are required to meet with a social worker in their hometown, and consistent updating between the social services and our social workers is maintained.
During their stay at the Children’s Home, the relationship between the children and their parents is critical and valuable for the parents, children and our staff. However, this is a complex relationship. The parents are required to allow other people (at first total strangers) to replace them in caring for their children, a transition that often leads the parents to perceive themselves as parenting “failures”. These feelings of failed parenting many times lead to a loss of parental identity.
The aim of this family support program is to address the parents' needs directly, to help them come to terms with the placement of their child in a residential treatment setting, to develop tools that will help them cope with the grave and difficult issues in their own lives and to facilitate the rehabilitation of the parent-child relationship with the hope of reinstating as much as possible a functioning family environment.
The job of each unit’s social worker is to help the parents deal with the pain of the crisis surrounding the removal of the child from the home, and involve the parents in the child’s treatment on all levels (physical and emotional). This is a complicated process that requires much work at first, until they reach the point where the parents learn to place their trust in the staff and the triangle of child, parents and staff is created. Over the years a unique connection is formed between the parents and the staff. The parents, after the initial major crisis and in light of the improvements they see in their children and in themselves, give the staff their consent to treat and care for their children. Sometimes the consent is only partial, while sometimes a special bond is formed between the parent and a staff member.
By working to rehabilitate both the children and the parents of these fractured families, we are effecting social change and strengthening Israeli society.
Dr. Yoram Shapira, a social worker at the Children's Home for over twenty years, published the seminal paper on the subject of "Treating Parents of Children in Residential Care" (in Hebrew), based on his years of experience at the Home. This paper has become required reading for training professionals in both the academic world and field work in Israel.
One of the highlights for each unit is parents’ day, which takes place twice a year. The parents are invited to spend the day with their children, to work together and become deeply acquainted with the child and the process he is going through. This is done together with the entire inter-disciplinary staff that cares for the child throughout the year.
In preparation for parents’ day, the staff chooses a topic relating to the parent-child relationship and connected to the different stages of development of the unit. Therefore in the first year the topics will be related more to getting to know the staff and children through art activities and games, and by the second and third year there is room to work with the parents and children in groups and common discourse. In addition, when thinking of the day’s content an emphasis is put on activities that will empower the parents and children and strengthen the parents’ feelings that they are important and significant figures in the children’s lives, as well as emphasizing the children’s strengths.
Parents’ Day is always filled with mixed emotions both for the children and for the parents. We take this into account and try to be extremely sensitive to their needs on this important day when we plan the activities
Our social workers try to provide whenever possible a Host Family for the children in our care who have no viable family support system or cannot go home during holidays and vacations because the home environment is too destructive or dangerous.
For the children who do go home during holidays and vacations, the time spent with their families away from the Home is something they look forward to throughout the year. Despite their families’ limitations these visits provide some sense of stability which supports their wellbeing and assists in the therapeutic process. Children who are unable to return to their families or do not have families to return to lack this support system. They are only too aware of what they are missing as they watch their peers leave the campus before holidays and this makes the situation even more difficult for them.
A “host family” is a family that is willing to offer one of these children the experience of a functioning family environment during holidays and vacations and provide the love and warmth that he lacks so much. The family unit encourages the child and strengthens his self-esteem. It realizes the dream of family life that he so desperately needs. A child that visits regularly a hosting family, lives personal and familial experiences that are new to him and he can internalize the normative and beneficial ways of family life.
Since our children are extremely difficult to deal with, in order to ensure that the child - Host Family pairing succeeds our staff must invest much effort and time in guiding and supporting these families. This includes intensive family training, Host Family support groups, home visits throughout the country and additional hours of the social worker’s attention.
We believe that every child deserves a chance and has the right experience family life; therefore we strive incessantly to find a suitable Host Family for each and every one of these children.