60% escape or flee
60% escape or flee iStock

A Hakol Hayehudi website Freedom of Information Act request to the Welfare Ministry revealed that out of 423 girls placed in Welfare-sponsored institutions, 270 went missing in 2017, of whom 110 went missing or fled twice or more. In 2018, 248 girls escaped or went missing, 120 of them more than twice.

This represents over 60% of minors who went missing or escaped from the institutions and over 26% who escaped or went missing twice or more.

Out of 590 boys, 266 were absent at least once in 2017 and 107 went missing twice or more. In 2018, there were 269 boys missing or who ran away, 99 of them twice or more.

In total, 536 minors, boys and girls, went missing or fled in 2017, of whom 217 went missing twice or more, and in 2018, 517 male and female minors fled or went missing at least once and 219 went missing or fled twice or more.

Of all minors, male and female, more than 40% escaped or went missing from the institutions at least once.

Hakol Hayehudi notes that tabulating the data becomes complicated when one goes into the details of the institutions themselves, because the types of frameworks vary from relatively open hostels to locked institutions.

There are also different treatment methods in different institutions and populations in the institutions span various categories such as boys and girls, Jews and Arabs, haredim and religious, and so on.

However, some institutions have earned prominence in reporting many escapes and absences, such that a hostel for girls with 13 places reports that 13 girls were missing twice or more in 2017.

Also, an institution such as Mesila with 44 places and is a locked institution, reports 35 minors who fled in 2017, of whom 17 fled twice and more, and no less than 49 minors who fled in 2018, of whom 27 fled twice.

Hakol Hayehudi submitted the Freedom of Information request to the Welfare Ministry demanding to obtain the data on the extent of the phenomenon when they realized that the many escapes led to immediate life-threatening situations.

The data received by the site was partial and was only forthcoming after about three months and a demand for payment close to NIS 3,000 for the data, and a Hakol Hayehudi threat to petition the court on the matter.

The site requested data from 2015, but the Social Affairs Ministry claimed that the years 2015 and 2016 were "partially saved and therefore not attached".

Following the request by Hakol Hayehudi, the Social Affairs Minisrty pledged that 2019 data "will be reported by the end-of-year frameworks for monitoring and surveillance purposes."

The Social Welfare Ministry responded that "most of the absences without authorization took place outside dormitory walls, whether it meant not returning from vacation or escaping during leave for medical treatment or other activity."

The Labor and Social Affairs Ministry said in response to Hakol Hayehudi: "The data also include a few hours' absence or delay in returning from vacation. Child Protective Services deals with authoritative treatment by law and is not a punishment facility. All children in custody are entitled to furlough, and denying leave of absence will only be granted by the court for a limited period.

"Child Protective Services takes seriously any incident of escape or non-return from vacation and these incidents are reviewed and assessed by oversight staff and lessons are learned."