'77% of children are in unsupervised daycare centers'

Former MK Moalem-Refaeli claims moving daycares to Education Ministry, reducing number of unsupervised centers, will prevent future abuse.

Hezki Baruch, Chana Roberts ,

Shuli Moalem-Refaeli
Shuli Moalem-Refaeli
Hillel Meir/ TPS

Former MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (New Right) responded to the arrest of an abusive daycare provider in Rosh Ha'ayin.

A bill to supervise daycares for children under 3, spearheaded in part by Moalem-Refaeli, was approved but has not yet been implemented.

In a Facebook post, Moalem-Refaeli said: "Many of us are walking around this week completely shocked by the difficult scenes. We cannot remain indifferent to the knowledge that young, helpless children have been abused so harshly."

"The tears fall on their own. It's the nightmare every parent fears most, it's the nightmare which cannot be allowed to occur again and again. How did we again find ourselves in a situation in which a young woman, 25 years old, is running a daycare with no training, no supervision and no regulations and with horrors which it's difficult to see.

"Pay attention to the following statistic, which should prevent all of us from sleeping: Today, 77% of children are in private childcare centers which are not supervised, and only 23% of children are in supervised centers."

Supervised daycare centers do not ensure quality care. In 2017, footage revealed systematic abuse in government-supervised daycare centers run by Emunah, WIZO, and Na'amat. At the time, both Emunah and Na'amat said part of the problem was "severe manpower shortages."

In March 2019, Israel's Welfare Ministry opened an investigation into a supervised Na'amat daycare center in Ramat Gan, where a childcare provider was recorded screaming at the children and threatening them.

In May, a childcare provider at a supervised daycare center in Herzliya was filmed throwing the children in her care onto mattresses.

And last month, a childcare provider in a WIZO daycare in Tel Aviv was suspended for three months on suspicion of pinching and slapping at least one child in her care.

Moalem-Refaeli continued: "During the 20th Knesset, we worked in the Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee and with the [Special] Committee for the Rights of the Child, together with the Coalition for Education from Birth in order to advance the bill to supervise daycares and create a national council for the daycare years."

"In October 2018, the bill to supervise daycares advanced, but no regulations for implementing it were made, leaving the facts on the ground unchanged.

"Three basic beliefs prompt us to work for the required changes: 1. The period from birth until three years is crucial for children's development. 2. The situation today is awful and must change in every way - human, pedagogical, and safety-wise. 3. The centers must change. We cannot consider them babysitters for working mothers, we must turn them into an integral part of a long-term educational process."

Moalem-Refaeli also explained her proposed plan of action: "1. The most important thing - transferring the daycare centers from the Labor and Welfare Ministry to the Education Ministry. Daycare is the beginning of the educational process. 2. Regulating - mostly regarding the humans - the quality of the significant adult who the child will meet. Training daycare providers and ensuring their professional education, their salaries, and their rights. Regulations for opening a daycare center and supervision of the building and safety. Changing the situation in which any person who wishes to do so can open a center for young children! 3. Expansion - building many daycare centers in order to expand the number of children in quality daycare centers. We have a moral obligation to work quickly in order to prevent the next tragedy. We won't be able to say that the writing wasn't smeared across the wall."

One of the standards for quality daycare is a low staff:child ratio. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a ratio of 1:4 with a group size of less than 8 for children aged 24-30 months, and 1:5 with a group size of less than 10 for children aged 31-35 months.

Israel's supervised daycare centers, however, often offer a 1:6 ratio for infants aged less than 15 months, with a group size of 15 or less, a 1:9 ratio for children ages 16-24 months with a group size of 22 or less, and a 1:11 ratio and group size of 27 or less for children ages 25-36 months. As a result, many parents choose to send their children to private, non-supervised, non-subsidized daycares offering a lower staff:child ratio.



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