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Israeli children suffer as world keeps silent

Marianne Azizi photo
Marianne AziziISRAEL
Israeli children suffer as world keeps silent
Constant request for UN intervention fall on deaf ears as children suffer in Israel


Discussion on Violence Against Children

Within the Juvenile Justice System

To: Her Royal Highness Princess

Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol

Chairperson of the Commission on

Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

The Coalition for Children and Family (Israel) will be honored to participate in further discussions on the topic of juvenile justice, and contribute some perspectives from Israel.

We believe Israel’s record on removal of children from parents is the worst in the Western world. The numbers of children removed from fit parents is skyrocketing. Children are being plucked away from loving parents and brutally placed in privatized outplacement facilities, where they are subjected to violence, severe discipline, sub-standard physical conditions, use of force and restraints, and over-medication. These children are detached from their parents by sadistic Government social workers who are trained to search schools and playgrounds, and encourage “snitching” to locate potential children for outplacement, exposing parents to tremendous agony and attorney fees. Israel’s Minister of Welfare is willing to pay $3,500 a month to facility operators, but would not give a shekel to rehabilitation within the family.

The Juvenile court system here is a sham. Parents complain that it is a sadistic rubber stamping machine to process social services’ policies of filling up youth facilities and outplacement quotas. The courts simply rubber stamp everything that the Ministry of Social Services wishes. The Courts hardly conduct any evidentiary trials, and they treat the youths and parents with contempt, ridicule and disrespect. It is a despicable, corrupt system in desperate need of overhauling, and perhaps the UN authorities, UNODC, the OHCHR and SRSG on violence Against Children will inspire Israeli authorities to start respecting international standards, transparency, human rights, and new thoughts and ideas of true reform.

We have gathered some observations:

1. Brutal “justice”. At juvenile court, proceedings are conducted to remove children from their biological parent(s) and place them in adoptions, foster homes and other outplacement facilities, such as privatized orphanage homes. This affects the most impoverished sector of society, single mothers and maladapted immigrants, Ethiopians and Russians. Already Israel’s number of children living outside their natural home is the highest in the world (5% as opposed to 0.5% world average). Here too, there are problems with ex parte orders of child removal, lack of ability to defend such proceedings, lack of funds to fight the child removal, as well as falsified transcripts by Judges, lack of adherence to evidentiary rules and libelous/hearsay foundation. Ex parte orders may result in dispatch of policemen to seize children from their parents’ homes or schools, in a procedure that is brutal, degrading and devastating, much to the surprised of the shocked parents, based on rumors or neighbor’s vindictive complaint alone. Is the government willing to open up these trials, appoint counsel to the indigent, cancel the use of ex parte orders, and implement measures to rehabilitate children within the extended families?

2. Child removal without judicial review. Children may be removed by social services from parents for up to seven days without even opening a court case (Section 11 of the Juvenile Act). There is no need for evidence or Court approval. In one such recent case, a teenage woman was removed from her parents, because someone told a social worker that the Jewish girl was dating an Arab boy. After seven days, on application to the Juvenile Court, the removal can be extended to 60 days, again without evidence, and without the ability for the parents to contest it. Interim orders of child removal can be issued for 365 days without a trial or evidence, solely upon the application of a social worker. Expert opinions from experts who never saw the children are submitted to the Judges “in camera” without disclosure to the parents. While Section 14 requires a hearing every three months, the law is ignored, and decisions to extend removals are issued without hearings. Whereas a detention of an adult in the criminal system requires a judicial order, a detention of a minor (emergency removal of a minor to a closed emergency lock up facility), does not require any judicial consent.

3. No publication. Decisions, orders and Judgments of the Juvenile Court are not published at all, not even under the moniker “Jane Doe”. The public does not even know what precedents apply, and what arguments may be used to contest a child removal, because they are not published.

4. Secrecy. Juvenile courts are closed to the public, to make them "immunized" from public scrutiny. Thus, behind this wall of secrecy, judges routinely turn all the familiar principles of justice upside down. Among many cases reported to us, children were removed from their parents, for the most absurd reasons. In many cases judges accept extraordinary and incredible claims by welfare workers without allowing the parents to challenge them, and without evidences. Only rarely do these cases get publicity, usually via Supreme Court. Having investigated hundreds of such cases, we found out how consistently the Israeli family protection system, behind the wall of secrecy, built around itself to hide its workings, turns the basic principles of justice and humanity on their head. Innocent parents find themselves in a Kafkaesque world, treated as criminals, while the whole system seems stacked against them. The result is that Juvenile courts have become a one-sided system, designed to serve the interests of the Ministry of Welfare (headed by Moshe Kahlon). Behind its wall of secrecy, Judges allow these Welfare workers to seize children who are enjoying a happy family life with loving parents, only to be plunged into foster care and orphanages, for reasons they cannot understand. The number of children in care is breaking all records.

5. False transcripts. Transcripts at Juvenile Court, in the rare cases a parent is given opportunity to be heard, are redacted or sanitized, as the Judges immunize themselves from an appeal. In one case, a three hour testimony was redacted by a Judge to a three line statement. These transcripts are also subject to gag orders, thus foreclosing the right of the public to know, foreclosing public scrutiny and covering up malpractice and malicious retaliations against natural parents. Is the Government willing to allow full verbatim transcripts, recording of proceedings, moratorium on ex parte proceedings, provide the parent with all evidence against him at earliest point possible, publish judgments, and open up the Court for teams of public inspectors and journalists?

6. No electronic recording. Little is reduced to writing in the court hearing, and in many cases transcripts do not match what was really said in the court room. Transcripts are often changed and falsified by Judges, and judges do not allow taping the hearings. This perpetrates the wall of secrecy. The Ombudsman for Judicial Complaints usually ignores such complaints on falsifying transcripts, as this office is comprised of former judges who are not objective, and act like "the cat that got the cream". Falsifying transcripts was discovered even among the most prestigious judges (See, Judge Varda Alshech, Deputy President of the Tel Aviv District Court who substantially changed transcripts). Usually Juvenile courts transcripts are falsified during the hearing, and families get a final transcript full of lies. Since taping is forbidden, they cannot prove the forgery, and Ombudsman thus cannot compare versions.

7. Short hearings and Lack of Explanations. There is nothing more serious than a child removal hearing. Once you lose a child it is very difficult to get a child back. Many children are removed from their homes after a short hearing summarized with few lines and no clear explanation for the removal. In other words, a disrespectful and unprofessional document is produced following a serious matter. Welfare social workers flood the juvenile courts with a lot of files, most of them are false allegations. This is how they overload the judgment system, because they know that the judge would not have time to investigate the case properly, and thus the judge will approve quickly their demands for removal, and move to the next case.

8. Sloppy evidence. Hearsay evidence is accepted in a way that would never be allowed in a normal court, and parents are charged on evidence they are not allowed to see. After the initial shock of seeing their children seized, often with the aid of a gang of policemen, the parents find themselves in courtrooms in front of a team of intimidating social workers, at great public expense, are ganging up against them. Very often social workers make some horrendous initial mistake when they seize or harm children, then spin out the case as they scrabble round for evidence to cover up their failures.

9. “Gun-for-Hire” Experts. In many cases, children are removed from parents were based on “experts”, who never see the children, and simply add their credentials to the wishes of the social worker who decided to fight the parents. Most of these reports are compiled by people who earn their living from mass referrals so, they would never risk their earnings by going against the tide. The courts use these welfare "experts" reports to justify their acts. The parents cannot produce counter-reports. The welfare “experts” accommodate the wishes of their paymasters, thus they are not “independent” in any sense. When the expert’s income depends on their compliance with their paymaster’s demands, there is no inducement for the expert to carry out a deep investigation to find out where the truth lies. For instance, the “Shalem Institute”, is a private company which makes a lot of money every year by supplying welfare social workers with questionable psychological assessments of parents, reportedly on a “cut and paste” basis. The irony is that in many cases, the experts chosen by Welfare charge the parents $4,000, which is 4 times the minimal wage salary.

10. Dehumanization of Immigrant Children. Social services target immigrant families because they are weak, and maladapted without financially solid background. Many of these families are Ethiopians, but the social workers do not respect or accept their culture, customs and way of life, thus on a racism basis, they dehumanize them, and remove their children to orphanages, where they will get "white" education. Lack of language skills (and money) makes it impossible for the Ethiopian parents to defend. Sometimes they are coerced to sign papers they do not understand “willingly” giving away their children without legal counsel. Immigrants usually work very hard to establish their homes and position, and sometimes social workers who usually work few hours a day, consider that working many hours a day is child neglect. A doctor originally from the Russian Federation, who worked long shifts, while his wife studies nursing, lost three children this way. The social worker decided that the children are "neglected", because the parents work overtime.

Coalition for Children and Family (Israel)

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