“Living in an Orr Shalom home literally saved my life. I went from being a down-and-out victim to a young woman with goals and dreams,” explained one confident graduate of an Orr Shalom Family Group Home.
Every Orr Shalom child is a survivor. Each one of them, in their short lives, has endured immeasurable pain and untold ordeals. In an effort to save them from severe abuse and neglect, the courts have removed them from their dysfunctional families.
When the children come to Orr Shalom they are frightened, fragile and traumatized. Many are plagued with severe emotional and behavioral issues and learning difficulties. Orr Shalom’s challenge is to provide them with a compassionate safe haven where they can tend their wounds, heal and grow up to be healthy, productive adults.
Orr Shalom is a nonprofit organization that has been working under the radar to save children-at-risk in Israel for more than 40 years. Currently caring for 1,300 children and youth-at-risk in foster families and family group homes, the organization summarizes two-and-a-half challenging years in the shadow of COVID-19 as they prepare for a fundraising tour in U.S. Jewish communities in September. In light of the increase in the number of children referred to Orr Shalom’s care, the trip aims to expand infrastructures and to promote new projects that were delayed or created in response to the crisis.
Many studies published during and after the COVID-19 crisis focus on the implications for the family unit. Long periods of quarantine and limitations have turned homes into a “pressure cooker” of sorts. Coping with such constricting conditions was even more complex and demanding for underprivileged families. The collapse of family units, even “normative” ones, became more frequent, and we witnessed an increase in domestic violence. Consequently, the number of children who entered the cycle of violence and risk has significantly increased. This was also felt at Orr Shalom.
This year, the organization was officially granted status as a professional advisory organization for the United Nations and its institutions; recognized as a world-class leader in the field of foster families and care for children and youth at-risk. The organization operates four different programs that provide the children with immediate protection, comprehensive therapeutic support, and a loving home and caring family, to ensure their proper development – and a real shot at a better present and future.
Emergency Foster provides a temporary family framework for infants and young children to age six who were removed from their homes on the spot due to tangible risks to their lives. Foster families provide a loving home and supportive family environment for children and youth, offering a corrective and healthy experience of family life. Family Group Homes run by couples who live in the Home with their biological children, provide 12 children and youth a loving, normative family setting and a nurturing place in which to heal and grow. The Graduates Program provides comprehensive support to graduates of foster families and Family Group Homes after twelfth grade and until age twenty-seven, designed to help them achieve their goals and to live a life of emotional wellbeing.
Despite all of its challenges, through tireless work Orr Shalom concluded 2021 with significant achievements that include the establishment of two new Family Group Homes for 24 children; three DBT groups for 15 teenage girls; 45 young children taken into Emergency Foster care; and psychological treatment given to 40 Orr Shalom graduates. This and more, alongside increased and adapted activities carried out during the pandemic, such as the distribution of hundreds of laptops to foster families and Family Group Homes to enable distance learning.
With the New Year quickly approaching, Orr Shalom’s VP of External Affairs, Naomi Liberman, is embarking on this U.S. fundraising tour in September to finance the purchase of a new Family Group Home for 12 at-risk children and youth. Liberman will hold small gatherings in Jewish communities in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Columbus to expand Orr Shalom’s infrastructure and to be able to increase the provision of psychological therapy to dozens of children who rely on it to reinforce and strengthen their resilience.
Naomi Liberman: “At times of crisis, and even more so during a global crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, we witness the solidarity and support for Israel from donors in Israel and abroad. This is our first visit to the U.S. since the COVID-19 outbreak, and we will be meeting with new and long-time supporters. I hope that with the greater resources, we will be able to take in new children, offer more services, and improve and hone our professional capabilities.”
To learn more about Orr Shalom click here.