Helping The Forgotten Child Victims of Rocket Attacks

July 21, 2014

5 min read

As the battle in Israel’s southern region rages and continues to take a heavy toll on the population on both sides, one organization is reaching out to help those who might otherwise be forgotten in the scuffle.

The Summit Institute, whose mission is to care for at-risk youth who have been removed from their homes and placed in foster care by social welfare services due to severe abuse and neglect, is stepping up their support for children and their foster families affected by rocket fire during this time of dire need.

Over 850 children are currently in foster care in geographic locations that Summit focuses on, which range from Jerusalem to Eilat. Many of these children live in the periphery of the Gaza Strip or cities within range of Hamas rockets. They have been facing constant barrages of rockets since the fighting began two weeks ago, and even long before that.

Hamas has been firing rockets at Israel for over 14 years, but in recent weeks has intensified rocket fire to the point that Israel put its foot down and began a military operation aimed at restoring quiet to the region.

Of the nearly 900 children that Summit helps on a regular basis, 395 children are being fostered by 287 families that live under constant rocket fire in the cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ofakim, Netivot, Be’er Sheva, and many others that lie in close proximity to the Gaza Strip.

Local children from the town of Kiryat Malachi running for shelter as an air siren sounds. The previous day, three civilians were killed by a rocket strike in Kiryat Malachi. (Photo: IDF)
Local children from the town of Kiryat Malachi running for shelter as an air siren sounds. (Photo: IDF)

Summit’s goal is to help children who come from broken, abusive or neglectful homes, and provide them with  a loving home. According to the organization’s website, “Summit achieves this through programs and volunteer foster families, who help address the therapeutic and scholastic needs of the children involved in order to provide a secure and stable location where the children can grow.”

“The children yearn for stability and a framework that they can find emotional security,” Yoni Bogot, Executive Director of The Summit Institute, told Breaking Israel News.

“We help these at-risk children move from the cycle of trauma which defined their past into a healthier more secure future as young adults, and the families who help us are simply incredible,” continued Bogot.

But what happens when the very city that the foster family lives in comes under attack by a constant barrage of rocket? The children who have already suffered through one traumatic home now suffer in another, in a completely different way. Summit is again stepping in to help.

“We are rescuing these children and giving them an opportunity to leave the trauma that defined their past and head towards a productive, healthy bright future so that they can grow into healthy stable adults. Now that they are again being threatened we need to help in a new way,” said Bogot. “This time the foster families need our help as well the children.”

Bogot explained some of the challenges and services that the organization is dealing with when it comes to the foster families and their charges who live in the periphery. “Many of the families who foster the at-risk children do not have adequate bomb shelters, and simply run into the stairwells and hope for the best,” he said. “They all desperately want to establish a sense of security for the children in their care, and they are unable to do that.”


Bogot said that Summit has created some respite for a number of these families by sending them on short trips further north away from the rocket barrages.

“We are trying to provide some sort of relief in terms of time away. There is no school, so we are providing emergency relief in terms of packages that they can use at home aimed at keeping the children active and engaged with activities, as well as giving the foster families and the children some days away from the conflict in the south by sending them to locations further north,” Bogot stated.

In terms of psychological assistance, the institute is provisioning for now as well as “the day after” by providing increased psychological support for the children.

“We’ve seen that our regular services just aren’t coping with the increased tensions and trauma that is being caused by the conflict so we are aiming to double the visits from psychologists and social workers to help with support the foster families and children who need it the most,” Bogot said.

Children in Israel's south huddle together during an incoming bomb attack. (Photo: IDF)
Children in Israel’s south huddle together during an incoming bomb attack. (Photo: IDF)

The Summit Institute’s operations for children at-risk are all under supervision of Israel’s Ministry of Welfare and Social Services. However, the government itself provides precious little to the foster families, the amount of which does not even cover the costs of basic psychological counseling.

Summit operates 14 emergency shelter families providing 24/7 critical assistance to children until a permanent family is found for them, and many of these families are also under constant threat of rocket attacks. Bogot has only the utmost respect for these families and the work they do.

“The families who help The Summit institute, are putting all of their resources and giving 110% and they are actually saving a life by taking in these children and providing a safe a stable home for them,” he said.

The institute attempts to avoid institutionalization by replacing it with long-term family-based care as well as short-term crisis intervention for children from infancy through age 18. This mission is compounded in difficulty when the families who are supposed to be protecting the children come under attack as well. For the children it is difficult  to distinguish between one trauma and another.

Summit’s children represent a broad range of children in Israel – from secular to ultra-Orthodox, Arab, Bedouin, and even African refugees – as well as special needs children who suffer from mental retardation and a host of other disabilities.

While the current conflict puts in jeopardy much of the positive work that Summit is trying to do in providing a safe and happy home for these children, Summit continues to provide each child with the tools they need in order to make sure that none of them become “lost victims of the conflict.”

Click here to learn more about The Summit Institute and the work they do. To donate and help support their cause, click here

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