Sometimes babies and toddlers suffer abuse so severe that the Social Welfare Services are forced to remove them immediately from their homes. Orr Shalom has eight emergency foster families who are ready to receive these children at a moment’s notice, in an emergency situation.
The emergency foster homes care for up to five children, aged 0 – 5 years who require immediate protection. The foster families are given minimal warning of their arrival, and care for these children’s entire emotional, material and developmental needs in a loving family environment, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Since the children are typically removed in an emergency situation they arrive with no possessions and the foster homes must meet all their material needs.
The emergency foster families are sensitive to the children’s traumatic backgrounds and of the extreme upset of their sudden removal from home. In addition, the children are also visited weekly by a social worker who also evaluates them when they join the home. During their short time – typically up to three months – with the emergency families, the Social Welfare Services will assess if the biological parents are capable of taking their children back in the future – if not, a long-term home for the child is found.
While at the emergency foster homes, the baby or toddler receives love and devotion from the foster families and the best possible care from Orr Shalom’s skilled professional team.
A young brother and sister’s story…
One night, a passing motorist narrowly avoiding running over a two-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. The motorist parked his car, got out, and took the two toddlers to the police station. They were siblings. Their mother, who was raising them on her own, had no money for babysitters, so she used to frequently leave them on their own. The children were placed in the care of an Orr Shalom emergency foster family. They are slowly getting used to not having to look after themselves, and have begun to enjoy the attention they get at the home, as well as the opportunity to play games like normal children. Orr Shalom hopes that a foster family can be found for them soon. In the meantime, the emergency foster family continues to give them the most devoted care possible.
Orr Shalom’s eight Emergency Foster Homes are highly demanding environments. Infants and toddlers who have been removed from their homes following severe abuse, neglect, or tragedy are taken in immediately, sometimes with no warning, 24 hours a day. Each Orr Shalom Emergency Foster Home has a team of therapeutic staff who provide the constant, collaborative care that makes it possible to provide for all of the babies’ physical and emotional needs.
Emergency Foster Parents
The core of every emergency foster home is the house mother and father. They provide food, shelter, clothing and material support to these vulnerable children, as well as unconditional love and care each and every day. The emergency foster families are sensitive to the children’s traumatic backgrounds and the extreme upset of their sudden removal from home, and aim to restore each child’s basic trust in a world where there are good, concerned and loving adults. They develop this trust by providing for the basic needs of the child, including regular eating, bathing, and sleeping times, as well as responding to the child’s developmental and emotional needs, giving warmth and love through touch, speech, song and play.
Each Orr Shalom social worker assesses and provides for the therapeutic needs of the babies and toddlers of their Emergency Foster Home. They collect information about the state of every infant and toddler’s emotional, developmental, familial, and health situation, and determine the right therapeutic program for each child.
The social workers examine the inner world of each baby based on their meetings with them, information from the emergency foster parents, and information received from the Ministry of Social Welfare. In addition, they facilitate visitation arrangements between the children and their biological parents in a contact center, and assess the capacity of the child’s biological parents to make a change in their lives. Based on their assessments, social workers regularly advise and facilitate examinations by outside physiologists, psychologists, and health care specialists to provide the right diagnosis and treatment for any given child, which is integral to their normal development in the future. They also provide regular training to the foster parents and volunteers, and equip them with the vital skills and knowledge necessary to work in such an intensive, emotionally and physically draining environment.
National Service Volunteers
Every Emergency Foster Home is staffed by a full-time National Service Volunteer. These bright young women are motivated, capable, and caring girls that support the foster parents in the day-to-day running of the emergency foster home and enhance the quality and level of care and attention given to each infant. They assist the foster mother eight hours a day with all tasks, including: feeding, bathing and dressing the babies, taking them to doctor’s appointments, child development clinics, and visitation sessions with biological parents, as well as playing with them, singing to them, and nourishing them with love. The emergency foster parents could not function without the vital assistance of the national service girl, who works with her at least eight hours a day.
“Without a national service girl in each home, the emergency foster care mothers would collapse. They would not be able to tend to all the physical needs, let alone the emotional and developmental needs, of the five infants on their own. In one emergency foster family, twin babies were hospitalized, while three other infants were at home. While the national service girl stayed with the twins in hospital, the emergency foster mother was at home with the other three infants.”
– Dorit Levinzon, Former Orr Shalom Director of Emergency Foster Care