Wednesday, November 04, 2009

David Mandel - An Expert On Abuse? I don't thinks so

Below are two articles.  The first article is an Op Ed written by David Mandel, CEO of Ohel.  It is important to remember that Mandel does not have any clinical training nor does he has any degree in the mental health field, his expertise is in the business realm.  Back in  2008 was also caught on tape telling members of the Baltimore community NOT to report sex crimes to law enforcement officials, instead to report the crimes to their local orthodox rabbi. You can watch a his presentation by clicking here.

The second article provided below is written by one of The Awareness Center's executive board members about 4 1/2 years ago.  There's a major contrast in what Mandel and Dr. Michael J. Salamon have to to say.  One has the clinical training and experience in working with sex crimes, the other does not.

I personally feel it is time that everyone contact the board of directors of Ohel and demand that they stop allowing David Mandel from speaking on an issue he continues to give misinformation about, if he refused they need to ask him to resign as their CEO.  If anyone has the names of Ohel Board members and their contact information, please forward it to me.

Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC
Founder/Director - The Awareness Center

Article #1


It is time to take back the term "children at risk." Educators and mental health professionals popularized the term about ten years ago and we need to withdraw it. Labels can be helpful on clothing and shoes but not on children.
What began as a well-intentioned effort to help identify children with problems that were not being adequately addressed has resulted in branding a generation of kids, families, institutions and communities.
There are several reasons why the situation has developed as it has and why the term has run its course. A little background:
In just a couple of generations our community has evolved from accepting plain vanilla as the norm to requiring a year post-high school in Israel, a $5,000 chosson's watch and a $250,000 down payment on a house.
Keeping up with the Schwartzes is not a cliché and has resulted in an upward spiraling of pressure in our community to do more and be more at all times, beyond the capabilities and resources of most people.
At the same time, our yeshiva system has become too competitive and elitist, with most schools wanting to accept only the best. Where does that leave the average student or, even more so, the youngster with a learning deficit or a lack-of-interest issue?
We have created a caste system of yeshivas and day schools for the best kids - and then some for all the others. Often, a yeshiva principal who wants to give a behaviorally challenged youngster a chance to remain in school feels pressure from other parents to expel that child.
There are boys and girls who were labeled "at risk," who went to "at risk yeshivas," and who are now married with children, leading successful, healthy, normal lives as strong members of their shuls and communities.
Conversely, there are boys and girls who went to name-brand yeshiva high schools, the best kollels and seminaries, and while there were involved in aberrant behavior and illicit activities.
A statistical truism is that there will always be a percentage in a group that will fall behind, just as there are those who will excel. Labeling as "at risk" some of the children who are at the bottom percentile - and, moreover, affixing the same label to yeshivas that specialize in educating these children - will perpetuate a cycle of adolescent rebelliousness and foster long-lasting negative relationships with schools and the community.
Some children simply to do not fit in - whether in a group, a yeshiva, or a community. Labeling them only reinforces their negative image of themselves and they begin to fulfill expectations and be the bad boys or girls we expect them to be. They'll want to hang out with similar kids, go to an "at risk" yeshiva, etc.
Certainly there has been a sea change over the past decade in the way we view children, adolescents and teens who are different. We are quicker to recognize and respond to such difficulties and there are many educational, therapeutic and community supports available.
We have a greater number of professionally trained educators and licensed mental health practitioners with specialties in assessing and responding to telltale signs and risk factors. Extensive school-based services are available, as are well-trained mentors to buddy with adolescents who require such extra attention.
Numerous articles, monographs and videotapes provide helpful guidance and information to parents and educators. Special journals, books, studies and workshops at virtually every major conference of Jewish organizations have served to keep this issue on the front burner for many years. My colleagues at Ohel have contributed to these efforts and are to be commended.
At the same time, however, several negative stereotypes have been created that are hard to dispel.
How does a young person lose the "at risk" moniker? If he is no longer using drugs, if he was a "bad kid" who has now become a "good kid," does he still carry the stigma? Is he referred to as what he once was, or as the good, healthy young man he is today? Better yet, did his family inherit the label?
There can also be an inadvertent misrepresentation of groups. It's been noted that some youngsters who use drugs or alcohol do so to quell the pain and memory of having been sexually abused. But to assume, therefore, that the overwhelming majority of drug- or alcohol-using youngsters were sexually abused is a quantum leap and not correct.
Should we look, then, for an alternative term for youngsters at risk? No. We should not use a label at all. Just as every child is unique, with individual strengths and challenges, it should be left to the individual parents, educators, mentors and mental-health professionals - and as much as possible the youngster himself - to take into account the specific circumstances and develop the best possible plan to respond.
As a prominent rosh yeshiva has said, "We are all at risk of something." Why imply that only young people are at risk?
            Our community - parents, schools, synagogues, mental health professionals - was rightly concerned with a noticeable rise in anti-social behavior among our youth. And our efforts to respond and mobilize resources resulted in many good services and programs.
Those efforts also yielded a term "at risk." And while this has helped to correctly identify and help many youngsters, it brings with it the risk of unnecessarily stigmatizing and branding a child and a family.
Being labeled may take weeks or months. Shedding a label can take years or a lifetime. It is time to stop - and keep ourselves from labeling and stigmatizing a new generation of adolescents.
David Mandel is chief executive officer of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services. 

Article #2


Many in the frum community believe that we have done much in recent years to help teenagers at-risk. My experience and research have shown that we have not accomplished nearly enough. In fact, I believe that we have not even begun to address this very serious problem properly. Current research demonstrates that alcohol and substance abuse in the general teen population has declined during the past several years. In all segments of the frum community, however, the trend appears to be increasing. While there are several causes, one overriding cause is that we do not intervene properly. We do not intervene properly because we do not even label the problem correctly.

The term teenager "at-risk" is misleading. All teenagers take risks. A major part of all teenagers' view of life is their sense that they are invincible and therefore not subject to consequences. Yeshiva teens take risks daily with smoking and gambling. They also take serious risks with alcohol. It would be interesting to note the number of Hatzolah calls received regarding alcohol abuse this past Purim. We minimize these risk - taking behaviors by excusing them as ''normal'' teenage behavior. Minimizing certain risk - taking is reasonable for many but not for all teens. Therefore, I advocate using the term "troubled teen" to refer to teenagers with significant behavioral or emotional problems who take very significant risks. Correct labeling will enable us to better target appropriate interventions. A teen who smokes occasionally is at-risk while a teen who smokes frequently and abuses alcohol and drugs is troubled. While it is true that at-risk teenage behaviors can lead to worse behavior patterns, this is not always so. These two different categories require two distinct responses. In the frum world, our responses to the two categories are often the same - ignore either or overreact.

Research documents four source causes for teens who become troubled. These four factors are exposure to trauma; having a learning disability or emotional disorder that is not properly diagnosed or treated; inappropriate parenting; and poor socialization. These factors may be additive, or one alone may be sufficient to cause troubled behavior.

Approximately 15 percent of individuals exposed to a traumatic event develop long-term symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. Teen trauma comes in three ways: it can be random, such as exposure to a car accident; family based trauma as in divorce or abuse; or it can be social in nature like when a child is bullied or not accepted socially. Ignoring trauma increases the likelihood that typical teen behavior will evolve into troubled teen behavior.
For the sake of the ''future shidduch'' we pretend that all of our children epitomize perfection. To the degree that we believe this fallacy, we increase the likelihood that children with emotional, social, or learning issues will become troubled teens. We engage in denial by refusing to "label" problems or by creating new programs. We create new programs because we fear the old programs' "labels." In the process though, we may sabotage our own children by diluting the effectiveness of the needed intervention. It is imperative that we stop ''reinventing the wheel'' by launching programs that have not been properly researched and evaluated. We must maintain and strengthen programs with proven records of accomplishment. If we truly care about our children's future shidduch, we should ensure that they receive the best support to help them cope with, and develop strategies to overcome, their challenges.

The third factor, inappropriate parenting, is correlated to the three previously mentioned categories but also stands on its own. Parents can traumatize a child. They may overlook, minimize, or inappropriately treat their child's learning or emotional problems. But, they are also more likely to be guilty of inconsistency. They may appropriately threaten to punish a child for an infraction without following through. On the other hand, parents may threaten for no clear reason. They may be consistent in their inconsistency: giving regular mixed messages. But perhaps the most dangerous parental behavior is simply allowing others to parent for them.

The Rebbe, the teacher, the school are often given license by parents to parent. It is not surprising then, that most teenagers do not communicate their feelings to parents. Several small recent studies in Jewish communities report that most teens would not turn to parents when feeling troubled. In fact, most parents do not even know what their children's concerns are.

In my practice, many parents want their child's therapist to parent. They drop off their child before, and pick them up after, a therapy session but will not make the effort to become integral to the therapy. No one can assume a parent's role and responsibility. Children whose parents do not parent may turn to others for support and understanding; they may turn to the wrong people or may turn away completely.

The frum world has taken a more highly structured and nuanced approach to teenage social interactions. Recently, many Yeshivas adopted the policy that a student seen talking to a member of the opposite sex will be asked to leave the school. This stricter stance may account for the increase in the number of troubled teens. Significant research shows that proper socialization, supervised and structured in an age appropriate manner, acts as a buffer against teenage acting out behaviors. A recent study in which "at-risk" teens were followed in a program designed exclusively for them indicated that 11 of 12 of these teenage boys had a significant problem. It seems that this isolationism is a causative factor increasing their acting out. I have seen programs where boys play pool with Rabbeim for a few hours and then meet up with girls and get into trouble. These programs do not offer socialization that would help reduce this behavior because the isolationism only increases the "forbidden fruit" aspect of teen behavior. Socialization issues must be addressed quickly and sensitively.

The frum community must bring parents, teachers, and community leaders together to stem the tide of troubled teens realistically and effectively.

Dr. Salamon is a long time member of The Awareness Center's executive board.  He is the founder and director of the Adult Developmental Center, Inc. (ADC), a comprehensive psychological consulting practice.  He empowers individuals and families to cope with the various psychological challenges that arise throughout the life span. Among his areas of specialization are substance abuse and alcoholism counseling, crisis management, child, family, and marital counseling, therapeutic interventions, and gerontology. He is a member of the American Psychological Association, a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America's Behavioral and Social Sciences Section and a board certified Diplomate-Fellow Prescribing Psychologist Register. An advocate for effective learning disabilities programming, Dr. Salamon is the co-chair of P'tach's educational advisory board. He has worked as the Chief Psychologist at the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, and the Chief Psychologist at the Gustave Hartman YM-YMHA. He has taught psychology at C.W. Post College of Long Island University, Touro College, and the New York Institute of Technology. Dr. Salamon is the author of hundreds of articles, many assessment tools including the Life Satisfaction Scale and the Addiction Dependency Scale, and several books, including Home or Nursing Home: Making the Right Choice.

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