In Israel, there is not only a shortage of licensed early childhood therapeutic professionals, but because they can earn five times as much in private clinics, publicly-funded centers like ours are struggling to find the human resources to deliver the minimal treatments as mandated by law.
Chimes Israel is leading the discourse on the professional resource crisis in early childhood rehabilitative therapeutic care in Israel. Recently, Shirley Trousel Frenkel, executive director of the eight Chimes Israel early childhood centers, published a powerful exposé in the Mako Israel new site. It explained the urgency of the problem, how the government itself has caused the crisis, the stopgap measures that must be applied, and what can ultimately solve the issue.
“Parents of a child with a disability know how critical the first years are in providing the treatments. For them, and rightly so, the clock is ticking,” explained Frenkel. “A basic ability that the toddler will not learn today may close the window of opportunity. The state, for its part, chose to privatize this service from itself, and also privatized from itself the responsibility to ensure its ability to exist.”
She explained that the ever-increasing demand for speech, physical, and occupational therapy is inadequate compared to the amount of professionals entering the market. “There is a lack of infrastructure, lack of plans to integrate treatment personnel into public settings, and a lack of current budgeting. All of which make the per child hourly state requirement for services an empty promise,” wrote Frenkel.
Frenkel calls for various incentives for young professionals to enter the training track and specializations with the goal of turning the rehabilitation day care centers into the nucleus for professional activity. According to Frenkel, “Any other action (or inaction) turns the private sector into a magnet and thereby robs the young children and their families of the right to receive a supervised, funded and professional service.”
In an article he wrote that was published in Ynet, Shai Chen, a father of a child in our Ashkelon early childhood program, explained the issue from a parent’s point of view with a plea to lawmakers.
“My son Itamar is three-years-old and suffers from cerebral palsy,” wrote Chen. “His right side is completely paralyzed and we are in physical examinations more often than at a playground. In the center for special education where he studies, he is supposed to receive physical therapy services, but there is currently no physical therapist at the center, nor in the community.”
Chen calls for elected officials and those in power to do their job solve these problems. Starting with Band-Aids such requiring therapists’ internships to be at public sector institutions, setting a reasonable minimum salary in relation to the free market, and providing bonuses based on length of service.
“I am shouting here the cry of my Itamari, of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities and their families, of the organizations that provide the service,” wrote Chen.” There are things that only we know: the frustration, the disappointment, the bitterness, the lack of trust in the system, the bureaucracy that overwhelms us time and time again. Will it end after the November elections?”