THE PREVENTION OF CRIME AND THE TREATMENT OF OFFENDERS IN ISRAEL: 1995 REPORT

SOCIALIZATION OF YOUTH AT-RISK

Chaim Lahav,
Youth Advancement Dept.,
Youth and Society Section
Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport

Introduction

The care of alienated youth who have dropped out of the formal education system has been a central priority and goal of the Youth and Society Section of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (MoECS) for ten years now. The two basic premises for the precedence attached to this sphere of action are that (a) the link between these youths and the staff of the Youth Advancement local units is perhaps the last via which the educational establishment can impart to them the values and principles of the wider society, and (b) that these youths have potential that can bear fruit, but have been deprived of the opportunity to realize that potential to any significant degree.

This article describes the educational system’s policy at the macro level. Central to this policy is the reintegration of alienated youth into the normal, socio-educational activity of their peers. All the social, educational and community services developed by the Youth Advancement Dept. are available to them and to the professionals who work with them for this purpose.

In September 1991, the heads of the Ministry of Education decided to extend the provisions of the Free Education Law to alienated youth, a historic decision pursuing the policy to make all the resources and opportunities available to "normal" youth also available to their alienated, "drop-out" peers.

From the very beginning of the massive wave of immigration from the former USSR and Ethiopia, the Youth and Society Section has been a partner in the effort to absorb and integrate immigrant youths into Israeli society and the Youth Development Unit has reinforced that effort by successfully establishing special services for immigrant youth at-risk.

Background: Drop-out from the Educational System and its Significance

Youth drop-out from the formal education system is as old as formal education itself. The loss of contact affects the youths’ development by making it impossible for societal, chiefly educational, institutions to instruct them in their socio-cultural heritage.

Some drop-out is voluntary, the youths go out to work to help support the family, but mostly it is the choice of no choice, the boy or girl just not being able to accommodate himself/herself to what the system offers. Most drop-outs, Jews and Arabs, are aged 15-17: only a few drop out before this. Some 14,300 (5% of the 15-17 age group) take work that permits them to continue studying apprenticeships, external studies, etc. Another 9.500 (3.3% of the age group) take work without any study element, usually unskilled work in small workplaces. 29,600 (10.3% of the age group) neither work nor study. They drop out completely and a large proportion of them live in a partly delinquent lifestyle liable to degenerate into full criminality.

It is conventional to distinguish between three groups. One is fully in the education system "normative" youth. The second youth "at-risk" are mostly int he lower streams of the educational system, show signs of adaptive difficulties and deviance and are in danger of drop-out, alienation and degeneration. In other words, they already have one foot outside the system, in the work market and/or in vagrancy. The third group is the "hard core" who have already dropped out and no longer look for any alternative to their drop-out lifestyle.

Accumulated experience and data now permits Youth Advancement Units to identify students who are at-risk of drop-out by a combination of four or five characteristics:

* Lack of skills and learning habits;
* Consistently low educational achievement;
* Being in a low-achievement track or setting that conveys low expectations;
* Poor self-image and motivation to learn;
* Frequent truancy;
* Problematic and deviant behavior (indiscipline);
* A record of drop-outs and transfers from educational settings.

Treatment Policy

With most youths, drop-out is not explained by one factor only but by the mutual influence of many. Nor is it static, but dynamic and evolving along a number of tracks and directions. It is important to note that most drop-out youth is in the situation of "looking for something else", for an alternative setting for study, regular or temporary work until their call-up to military service at age 18. Only a minority has given up hope of an alternative and has settled into vagrancy, idleness, delinquency and the like. There is no doubt that most young drop-outs are going through a naturally mobile phase of seeking out a normative setting for themselves, in spite of their past failures and present difficulties in adapting to and functioning in other settings.

THE YOUTH ADVANCEMENT UNIT’S (YAU)

Target Population

The YAU’s target population is made up of the following sub-groups, in the following order of priority:

1. Youth aged 14-18 who have been granted exemption from formal study and/or have completed the period of compulsory school- going but have yet to be called up for military service.

2. Youth not in any regular, normal work or study setting ("Youths who are neither working nor learning").

3. Youth who are constantly switching between study and/or work settings or who spend most of their time in temporary unskilled work.

4. Youths at work but having no supportive educational-caring structure.

5. Youths at-risk of drop-out referred for treatment by municipal education and welfare systems (school counsellor, psychologist, probation officer, social worker, welfare officer, etc.)

With groups 2, 3 and 4, the YAU adopts a "reaching out" approach, considering it essential to locate these youths for diagnosis and treatment. Group 5 receives attention from the YAU only if referred and in collaboration with the referring agency. Where the referrer is the youth’s parents and/or the youth himself/herself, intervention will be considered only if the youth meets certain criteria or there is no other agency competent to provide the care needed. Usually this group is being cared for by various agencies of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

A YAU does not provide care to girls in distress except on the authorization of the regional welfare authority and/or when it has a special team for caring for such girls, supervised by the Girls In Distress Service of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA). (See the article on this and above services in this publication, by M. Hovav).

A recent and growing phenomenon is immigrant youths, individuals and groups, living in complete alienation from the formal and informal settings and agencies for their age group in the community. Several local authorities, with large numbers of immigrants and with the professional infrastructure and the political willingness to tackle the problem, have been given special budgets to provide services and programs for these youths, the target population being defined as follows:

* Aged 14-18 who immigrated after January 1989;
* Dropped out of the educational system and/or have not found a place in any alternative setting;
* Are in some study or work setting but show signs of adaptive difficulties (concealed drop-out, absenteeism and non-functioning) and are at risk of drop- out;
* Have been referred to, or have themselves applied to, the YDU because of problems being accepted for military service, because of delinquency, drug abuse, etc.

In recent years, the YAU has invested special effort in developing a computerized information center that can help locate, and then store data on, drop-out youth (actual and potential). The center can provide national statistics or analyze the data by town and region.

Intervention Approaches

The two main approaches are individual casework and group work (a third, the community approach, is not discussed here).

Individual Casework: more than 70% of youths are treated individually, with the ultimate aim of bringing them into some wider setting that can help them develop constructively.

Group Work: this approach is used when the objective is to change values, norms and attitudes of individuals or groups, since it has been found to be the most effective for such purposes.

Group work may be of two kinds:

Type A: task-oriented groups that are formed to achieve some common purpose or to tackle some joint problem, e.g. preparation for employment groups, preparation for military service groups, leisure activity groups, sports groups, preventive groups in various spheres, etc.

In this case, the group members are not drawn from an existing group and not even necessarily from the same age group. They come together to achieve a common purpose, "sign a contract" with the group leader as to the way the group will work and coalesce in the process of working towards the jointly declared objective.

Type B: socially-oriented groups (natural or brought together): In this case the aim is to modify norms and behaviors of individual group members, often to prevent or stop a certain practice, by means of the effect of the whole. For this reason, the number and nature of the members have to be carefully balanced.

Intervention Programs

At the center of the whole youth development "apparatus" and in effect its sole driving force, stands the youth development worker. For his support the MoECS has developed:

1. A range of programs on different topics and operative in different spheres of action;

2. A professional and organizational support system.

The organizational support system is the local authority’s Youth Advancement Unit which provides support and backing to all YAU workers and programs. The YAU is usually located within a municipal educational system in order that policy towards drop-out youth should form part of the overall approach to youth in general and that the formal and informal resources available to youth in general may also be deployed for the benefit of alienated youth.

The professional support system: senior staff of the Youth and Society Section of the MoECS, with years of experience and expertise in the care of drop-out youth, support field workers with a comprehensive range of guidance and supervision designed to help them expand their skills and help the local unit build up a range of programs and services.

We present here a brief description of a number of programs designed for at-risk and drop-out youth. These programs are only a few of the many available but will give the reader an idea of the range of statutory services built up to serve this target population.

– Supplementary Education

Intended for youths aged 15-18 who are not in any regular, formal educational setting.
Objective: to improve reading, writing and verbal and written comprehension skills and general educational level.

– Preparation for Formal Education

Intended for youths aged 15-18 who are returning to formal education or vocational training after a period of drop-out.
Objective: to re-accustom them to formal learning procedures and facilitate their assimilation into the new setting.

– Preparation for the World of Work

Intended for youths aged 15-18 not in any educational setting or who intend to leave education for paid employment.
Objective: to raise the youth’s motivation for work, expand his understanding of the world of paid employment and teach job-finding skills.

– Citizenship Seminars

Intended for Arab drop-out youths aged 15-18.
Objective: to inform them about the institutions of governance Knesset, Presidency, etc. and the holy places of Islam.

– Orientation in Place and Time

Intended for youths aged 15-18.
Objective: to improve a youth’s ability to orientate him/herself in place and time to raise self confidence in handling unfamiliar situations.

– Training Course for Assistant Sports Instructors

Intended for youths aged 16-17 with special motivation, knowledge and technical ability in music.
Objective: to train in the use of disco equipment and running dance evenings in clubs etc.

– Youth Advice Bureau

Intended for all youth at risk or in distress who need advice and guidance.
An "open door" center run by the local YAU to give advice, guidance and short-term care.

– "Life Without Drugs" Anti Drugs and Alcohol Abuse Program

Intended for youths whose family or surroundings put them at risk of substance abuse. Not intended for regular users or addicts.
Objective: to reduce or prevent substance abuse by giving information, promoting personal opposition to drugs and teaching skills that help say NO to inducements to use drugs.

PROGRAMS AND SERVICES FOR IMMIGRANT YOUTH

A team representing the Ministries of Labor and Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Sport, Absorption and Defence (IDF, Education Corps), the Israel Joint Distribution Committee (Manpower Promotion), the Jewish Agency and ELEM (the Association for Youth) developed an intervention model lto be implemented in the field by the local authority YAUs.

The model is based on the Integrative Model of Izikovitz and Bach which puts the responsibility for successful assimilation both on the immigrant and on the host society. The immigrant is expected to integrate into the local culture and accept its values but has the right to retain his own language and culture. The model presupposes a pluralistic, multicultural society that shows tolerance to minorities and different cultures, perceiving them as a positive contribution to the national mosaic.

– Intervention Goals

To locate and set up contact with at-risk and drop-out immigrant youth; To establish a social-therapeutic framework to support the assimilation process; To supply all available relevant and up-to-date information; To place and integrate in educational, employment and social settings; To prepare for call-up to the Israel Defence Forces.

Here is a brief description of two of the many programs designed specifically for immigrant youth:

– Information and Advice Center

An informal center where, by day, immigrant youths can receive information and counsel on issues troubling them from a trained immigrant youth worker and which, in the evenings, will serve as a social meeting place (instead of the street).

– Working Groups

These are task-oriented groups with a range of objectives filling in gaps in education, learning Hebrew, on-the-job vocational training, familiarization with the IDF before compulsory military service. All the groups take place within a day-today, supportive framework that provides also clothing, pocket money and basic food.

CONCLUSION

The YAU works chiefly at the level of primary prevention but also operates intervention services whose objective is to modify behaviors and teach basic skills so as to return drop-outs to the mainstream and give them a second chance at succeeding at a normative lifestyle. It is our firm belief that youths have a right to this second chance and that it is the State’s obligation to provide it.