Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nobody does it better....

Israel does it so much better than we do.
Last night I had the privilege of hearing Esther Wachsman speak. Esther is the mother of Nachshon Wachsman, was a corporal in the IDF when he was kidnapped in 1994. He was executed during a failed rescue attempt. The story riveted the world and united Jews from all streams in outrage, contempt and sorrow. Esther, after sharing her personal tragedy with us, switched focus to her passion, the Shalva Children's Center, also named "Beith Nachshon", in honor of her murdered son. The Center works with mentally and physically challenged children. After Nachshon's death, Esther met a sponsor of the home, and he convinced her that they needed her help. He was willing to donate a great deal of money to give the Children's center a real home, instead of the small shack that they occupied. He was only willing to do it if they named the Center Beit Nachshon, which they agreed to do. And the reason that they wanted Esther to help is that in addition to leaving a legacy for Nachshon, she also had a son who had Downs syndrome, and used the Shalva Center. Since that time, Esther has traveled around the world talking about her two special sons... One that was killed, and one who is still alive, but needs special help.
She explained that the Shalva Center used to offer services a few hours a day to special needs children. With Esther's help, they were able to raise money to build a large facility, and offer expanded service. And this is where I feel that Israel has learned to do things better than us. Last week I wrote about the Emunotes, a group of children from the Emuna Afula children's center. In both cases, the Emunah children's center, and Shalva, they have developed a system where they pick the children up in the morning, provide myriad services to them, and return them home in the evening. What this does is alleviate the tremendous stress caused by these children to the families, or avoids subjecting the children to potentially difficult situations. It makes it possible in both cases to have the children remain at home, saving Israeli society tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, and give these families the opportunity to remain intact.
In my more than a dozen years in child welfare systems in several states, we always reacted, as my supervisor used to say, in a myopic way. We never saw the big picture. We were too busy looking to fix, and not to keep things from happening. I love the way at least some of the places in Israel seem to understand that the best way to keep families intact, is by relieving the stress BEFORE it happens. I wish we would learn that here.

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