According to Ashalim, an Israeli non-profit organization that works in the field, there are an estimated 350,000 children and youth considered to be at risk in cities throughout the country. These are youngsters who are faced with various types of pressure, trauma, risk, and distress – including, but not limited to, dysfunctional or negligent families, substance abuse, educational failure, and lack of social skills – that endanger their physical, emotional, and mental welfare. In many cases, the effect of these risk factors, which can throw any adolescent off balance, is exacerbated by the unique economic, cultural, and security issues facing all Israelis.
Of Israel’s youth at risk, 36 percent live below the poverty line, nearly 9 percent are raised by single parents, and 10 percent are new immigrants who face additional challenges related to their efforts to acclimatize to an unfamiliar society. Many at-risk youth do not finish school; the dropout rate among Jewish-Israeli students is 9.1 percent (even higher in the ultra-Orthodox sector) and among the Arab population, 17.1 percent.
To a child who lives without much hope, physical appearance can assume disproportionate importance. Teeth that are unsightly and even more, orthodontic problems that affect a youngster’s ability to eat properly, can have an adverse – but often unrecognized – impact on their behavior and interactions with others. Needless to say, many of these teens come from families that cannot afford to pay for braces.
HCS operates two centers, one located in the Bukharan Quarter of Jerusalem and the second in the downtown district with a total of eight dental chairs. A team of 14 dentists (all highly skilled, experienced, and licensed by the Israel Ministry of Health), 2 hygienists, and 9 dental assistants treat thousands of patients each month. Of these, nearly one-third (including children, the elderly, new immigrants, and mental health patients) receive significant subsidies.
Embracing the Future is implemented in full collaboration with the Municipality of Jerusalem’s Department of Social Services, whose social workers identify eligible patients from among their caseload. Every program participant receives a comprehensive examination and X-rays, after which the attending dentist formulates an individualized treatment plan that covers all indicated interventions, such as fillings, root canal treatments, and crowns. Once the youngster’s mouth is healthy, the two-year orthodontia program can begin.
The overriding goal of this pioneering program is to improve the patients’ appearance, and to change the lives of these youth who previously either would not – or could not – smile.
The most valid means of assessing the overall success and effectiveness of HCS programs is to solicit information from patients, who are periodically asked to complete a survey regarding their experience at the clinic. To ease the transition for patients, many of whom have rarely, if ever, visited the dentist and are understandably anxious, the clinic has developed new forms that provide incoming patients with an explanation of the benefits of their participation in the program. The administrative staff contacts each and every patient to schedule follow-up appointments to complete the planned treatment as well as subsequent check-ups.
Internally, the program’s supervisory dentist reviews selected patient cards and treatment plans to ensure that all diagnostic examinations and interventions are implemented at the highest standard. External evaluation is provided by the Israel Ministry of Health, which certifies and supervises the HCS clinics. Furthermore, the Hadassah School of Community Dentistry, and the Dental Department at the Ministry of Health monitor the clinics through periodic on-site visits.
The number of teens who can benefit from Embracing the Future is directly related to the amount of available funds secured. HCS is seeking gifting in the amount of $125,000 to provide vital orthodontia treatment to 50 new patients, at an average of $2,500 per child. Your support would enable HCS to provide braces and hope to some of the most troubled Jewish children in Israel.