06/01/2016 - A Psychiatrist’s Perspective: Interview with Negba Board Member Dr. Jocelyn Hattab
Negba calls its after-school frameworks for children at-risk "Houses of Hope" because our desire is to help them achieve their hopes and desires and achieve a better life. It’s not wishful thinking, or even a prayer, but an action based on our knowledge of and experience with a world of suffering in our childhood. Many children from poor neighborhoods in Beersheva or elsewhere are from immigrant families. The grandparent generation has been relegated to the periphery, and suffered a major cultural shift. Because of a poor educational background often these immigrants were dependent on public welfare subsidies. The parent generation then approached adulthood with a heavy economic and social handicap, which was passed on to today’s children. These are the children that we care for at Negba, and try to help them escape the vicious circle of poverty, unemployment and juvenile delinquency, not to mention drugs and domestic violence. The reality is that in western society, social progress is interdependent on social class level. Now these children are no more or less intelligent than their classmates. But to express their real capacities, they need to be stimulated and engaged, and appreciated for their achievements.
The last ten years of Negba’s experience demonstrates the validity of our actions. Our effectiveness is easily verified by the academic progress and improvement in conduct of Negba’s children, both at school, at Negba, and at home. In principle, a child’s place is with his family, with his parents and siblings. We also invest efforts with the parents to improve their parenting skills and help them out of this vicious circle. They are more likely to participate in Negba group activities to demonstrate the skills they possess- be it cooking, sewing, cosmetics or art- and then engage in these activities at home with their children.
As part of the biennial of the France-Israel Conference of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the French participants were invited to visit Negba’s after-school Homes in Beersheva to discuss our model of care for children at-risk. The visitors were impressed by Negba’s offering counseling in the afternoon leisure time, and by the quality and diversity of services offered to the children. They were also surprised by the educational assessment tools used at Negba. And Negba’s rich activities for adolescents at its Teen Clubs, a natural progression from the Houses of Hope, allow experts to consider Negba as an important and effective player addressing social needs in Israel.
Dr. Jocelyn Hattab is a psychiatrist for children, adolescent and adults, psychoanalyst, former director of the Child and Adolescent Department of the Jerusalem Mental Health Center at Hebrew University's Medical School, and Negba Board Member.