In Israel, approximately 4,500 children and youth are cared for by about 3,000 foster families.
A foster family is a family that chooses to open its heart and home and take in children who have been removed from their families and homes due to situations of extreme risk.
The foster placement is designed to provide children with a safe and protected environment and to contribute to their physical, emotional and educational development. Foster care is defined as a ‘temporary arrangement for a specific period’, but can continue until 18.
As part of the approval process for foster care families, various criteria, such as age, health, financial stability and living conditions are examined in depth, alongside emotional and personal abilities considered essential for fostering.
Foster families in Israel are defined as “volunteers,” although they receive financial support for the purpose of raising the foster children. They also receive comprehensive professional support from foster care organizations licensed by the State.
Foster care can be terminated for various reasons: the child may be placed in another out-of-home arrangement; one of the biological parents or both may regain custody; or the child may transition from foster to adoption.
Emergency foster families provide immediate and short-term shelter (up to six months) for children in cases where the Court determines that they must be immediately removed from their parents' home due to an imminent danger to their lives. Emergency foster homes can each have up to five children, from infancy up to the age of six (or eight, in the case of siblings).
The emergency fostering system provides a team of social workers, developmental psychologists, and National Service volunteers who help and support the children and the emergency foster family.
Therapeutic Foster Care
Children who are placed in therapeutic foster care are between the ages of three and ten and have a psychiatric profile or background. These children have been severely abused and are in need of care in a small, long-term framework.
Therapeutic foster families are carefully selected. To help them overcome crises and difficult situations and provide the foster child with a caring and safe environment, they receive training and guidance, comprehensive support from a team of professionals, as well as other types of enhanced financial and logistical support provided by licensed foster organizations and the State of Israel.
Youth may remain in therapeutic fostering until the age of 21.
A family that hosts children who live in boarding school after being removed from their homes or orphaned. The family hosts the children for weekends every other week, on holidays and school breaks, creating long-lasting connections.
Hosting families serve as family units, encouraging and strengthening the children and giving them love and care. Children who regularly spend time with a hosting family take part in meaningful personal and family experiences, some of which they never experienced before, and learn from positive role models.
Family Group Home
A small and inclusive family setting that provides an out-of-home solution for up to 12 children and youth who have been removed from their parents and their homes.
The Group Home model is based on a family framework in a private residence with “house parents” - usually a couple who live there with their biological children. In addition to the house parents, the children have a qualified professional team that provides them with practical, emotional, and educational assistance and support. The family framework promotes recovery and integration into the community.
The group homes are operated by qualified organizations authorized by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, which supervises and supports them.
In Israel, approximately 6,500 children and youth reside in Ministry of Welfare boarding schools, out of which about 400 live in residential group homes.
A closed facility operated by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs for the purpose of facilitating supervised meetings between children and their biological parents. Supervision allows contact yet keeps the children protected, such as in cases of divorce disputes, domestic violence, and child abuse. The social workers at the center assist with managing the relationship while providing guidance and direction.
Children Foster Care Law
In Israel, fostering is regulated by the Children Foster Care Law of 2016. The purpose of the Foster Care Law is to secure the rights of children in foster care and the government's responsibility to protect their welfare and their rights, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and recognition of their unique vulnerability and their right for protection and help. The law states that "it is the natural right of a child to be raised in his parents home, and if he has been removed from it - to return to it, except when it is in the best interests of the child to be raised out of his parents home.” Accordingly, it emphasizes that "in respect of any action taken concerning a child in accordance with this Law or a ruling made in his case, the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration." The Law also stipulates that the first preference for placing a child will be in a foster home with relatives and, only if this is not possible, in a foster home or a boarding school .
Closed and Open Adoption
Adoption is the legal procedure by which a child becomes, through court action, part of a family other than that of his or her birth parents. In Israel, “closed adoption” is the standard. A closed adoption permanently severs ties between the adopted child and her or his birth parents and relatives. In some instances, the Court issuing the adoption order may allow an “open adoption” where the adopted child may continue to keep in contact with significant figures from his or her biological family (parents, grandparents or siblings), albeit infrequently.
The declaration of a minor as eligible for adoption involves a lengthy and in-depth legal procedure that can only take place after the birth parents' parental rights and responsibilities previously being permanently terminated.
Approximately 50% of all adoptions in Israel are by foster families.
* The list of terms is worded in the masculine, but the text refers to all genders.
We are grateful to the Orr Shalom Organization for their assistance with information and wording.