My neighbor’s tips were so helpful that I asked for permission to publish them. She agreed and even suggested the title, “Fighting City Hall.” When you hear the stories about parents who threw chairs and threatened doctors with violence, it’s because the tactics work. I don’t recommend these tactics, nor does my neighbor. But it gives you an idea of the frustration that parents experience. Don’t expect it to be easy. And from what I hear this is not a problem unique to Israel.
Don’t give up—you can fight City Hall. Here are my neighbor’s suggestions.
- Set your goals. This can be hard when you feel overwhelmed, but it is a necessary step. Do you need a new evaluation, additional therapy, more help with day-to-day care, or financial assistance? Once you have a list, decide on your top three priorities and leave the rest for another time.
If you feel that setting goals is over your head, try to find a good social worker. A social worker works either for the city or the health fund, and is most likely to know about available services and resources.
- Be prepared to fight. Never feel guilty or ashamed about asking for help for your special-needs child. After all, it’s not for your child alone—you are asking on behalf of all families with similar needs. Laws have been changed, and services increased, because of “pushy” parents like you.
- Know where to start. There are four places that provide services for children with special needs. 1) The child’s school. 2) Your health fund (kupat cholim). 3) National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi). 4) The iriyah (municipality i.e. City Hall).
- Aim for the top. In a school, start with the principal. In the health fund, ask for the head doctor in charge of services for special-needs children. In City Hall, ask for the head of psychological services.
- Use English. The higher up you go, the more likely you will encounter someone who at least understands English. It’s critical that your requests are understood.
- Don’t be afraid to waive your privacy. You will be asked to sign a waiver allowing documents to be transferred from one department to the other. I recently signed one for my sixth-grader, who does not have special needs, when we applied to junior high. It’s not giving anyone permission to enter your home in the middle of the night.
- Carry a file with several copies of relevant documents. This way you can avoid delay in getting services.
- This last tip is the most valuable. Learn the following key phrases and apply liberally:
- “Dachuf (urgent).
- “Thank you for your help so far. I still need more help.”
- “Mah od?” Is there anything else? This is the most important. A city official once said to my contact, “You must be very good at your job. Most people don’t know what they are entitled to, so they don’t ask for it.”
Can you add any tips to the list?
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