“The Clinic for me was an opportunity to integrate theory and practice and experience for the first time practical legal work… While in class we learned about the legal rights of children and youth and the surrounding legal issues raised; at the ongoing practical work we learned how to implement these issues. With Shiran's close supervision, we managed to get a taste of the practical work involved in policy change and dealing with legal cases of minors".
Student in the Children and Youth Rights Clinic
The Children and Youth Rights Clinic works to promote the rights of at-risk children and youth in Israel. The Clinic provides individual legal aid and representation, runs education and empowerment programs for children and at-risk youth, and engages in ongoing policy change and legislative reform work that stem from various pressing needs and issues that are raised by the children and youth whom the Clinic’s students encounter in their field work.
The Clinic runs two main projects. Through theStreet Law Program, students lead a year-long weekly workshop for youth at risk, exposing them to the legal system, including citizens’ rights and obligations. The Representation of Children and Youth Projectoffers representation to children and youth who require legal assistance in various civil actions based on insurance claims, National Insurance Institute rights, foster care and adoption issues, as well as criminal charges. Students manage all elements of the cases except for actual court representation performed by the clinical attorney, including emotional help referrals and assistance with housing, employment, education, welfare and other issues. In addition, the students engage in policy-level projects to assist child and youth victims.
Among the Clinic's recent achievement:
- The Clinic represented a minor from Mesila (a locked home for at-risk young girls). The Clinic accompanied the minor through a legal procedure at the juvenile court, in which it was agreed to accept the minor's request to move to a different facility. The Clinic, with the help of a youth Social worker, located an alternative facility for the girl. In the framework of the court discussion, a special emphasis was given to the obligation to hear the minor and respect her request.
- The Clinic wrote a report reviewing the issue of minors running away from out-of-home care facilities. The report, based on the many cases dealt by the Clinic, described the current situation, while examining the difficulties arising from criminal enforcement in this area. Following the report and a roundtable dissuasion held by the Clinic, the Ministry of Justice is working to promote a change of the existing protocol.
The Clinic, together with social-change activists (mainly young women categorized or formerly categorized as being at-risk adolescents), submitted a Supreme Court petition against a decision to close the Beit Ariel, Oranim and Beit Hatzabarit residential care facilities for at-risk adolescents and young adults.
The Clinic petition — filed in 2019 on behalf of several residents and former residents — demanded that the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services be ordered to halt the planned closure of the care homes at the end of June 2019. It stated: “This petition is about saving lives — the lives of minor boys and girls and youths at risk. The agency responsible for their well-being — the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services — is taking decisions in a fundamentally flawed process that is marred by lack of legal authority and substantive unreasonableness… This decision ignores the needs of the minors and violates their dignity…. By so doing, it is not only damaging the lives of the girls under its custody and the therapeutic process they are undergoing, but it also becomes no different from the harmful conduct they suffered at home.” After hearing the arguments, the Court asked the parties to attempt to reach understandings within a week. As part of these understandings, it was agreed that Beit Hatzabarit would continue to operate, Oranim would reopen, and a tender issued to run the Beit Ariel Hostel once it completes renovations.
For the Clinic, the scale of this legal battle was unprecedented. It involved the care homes’ young residents, former residents, past and current staff members, volunteers, academics, therapists and the Clinic students themselves. Activities included demonstrations, extensive press coverage (see Appendix), and meetings with stakeholders, Members of Knesset, the Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services, the Ministry’s Director-General and others. The Clinic and its students led all legal aspects of the case in full cooperation with its main activists.
- The Clinic received a ruling in its client’s favor in a lawsuit against a news site for defamation, violation of privacy, and breaking Israel’s Youth Law (Treatment and Supervision). The verdict awarded the minor $28,500 in compensation. The site operator published a post on his Facebook site that showed the minor’s profile picture, published confidential details about her, and mistakenly accused her of hiding a girl who had run away from a closed residential facility and of failing to provide the police with information about the whereabouts of another girl. In doing so, the news site violated the Youth Law that protects the rights of a minor who is a ward of the court, published libelous claims about her, and violated her privacy. The court accepted all claims in the lawsuit and, in the absence of a defense on the part of the news site operator, awarded the client $28,500.
Reform of governmental policy on ambulance expenses of care home residents: The Clinic handled a case in which the parents of a minor living in a care facility received three payment demands for the ambulance evacuation of their child from the facility. Following a request from the Clinic, the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services amended its policy so that care homes where minors live will cover all their ambulance costs, with funds provided by the Ministry.
Since the pandemic hit, the Clinic has initiated and been involved in several related activities. These include:
Joint discussions with Israel’s National Council for the Child on urgent issues, both general and individual, resulting from the crisis. An example is the lack of computers for children expected to attend school by remote learning. The Clinic approached the Ministry of Public Security regarding fines issued to minors violating emergency regulations, in particular those received by at-risk youth who had to return to their parental homes (from which they had originally been removed!) after their residential care programs were closed due to the crisis.
In collaboration with the clinical center in Ramat Gan College of Law and Business and the Makom nonprofit organization for young women without family support, the Clinic submitted a petition to the Supreme Court demanding that at-risk youth be allowed to return to boarding schools. The schools were closed for the Purim vacation (March 10), and the pupils told not to return due to the Coronavirus. Later, they were allowed to return but only under unreasonable quarantine conditions, which meant that most did not return and some even lived on the streets. As a result of the petition, the Ministry of Education changed its order and the youngsters were able to return to the boarding schools.