Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Regarding the SOVRI Helpline and Mandated Reporting

Regarding the SOVRI Helpline and Mandated Reporting 
 By Vicki Polin
 The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - June 20, 2012

The SOVRI Helpline is an organization whose policy is not to make hotline reports in cases where they suspect a child is at risk of harm.  They have been justifying their belief in not following the law in New York by saying that since they are a volunteer based organization, they are not mandated to report.  They fear that no one will utilize their services if they do the right thing, and protect children when they suspect they are at risk of harm and or neglect.  
The Awareness Center is also an all volunteer based organization, and our policy is and has always been to always make reports when we suspect a child is at risk of harm, and let law enforcement and or child protective services make the determination if something is wrong.  Throughout the history of our organization we have found that those who call us find it comforting to know that we do everything in our power to ensure children have the opportunity to grow up in abuse free environments.

Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Halachic Advisor to Ohel and SOVRI
It is also important to note that according to several halachic authorities  all Jews, regardless if stipulated by American law, are considered mandated reporters.  

One would think that any organization who associates with the SOVRI Helpline, who say they care about ending sexual abuse/assault in the orthodox world, would take the high road and do everything in their power to ensure orthodox Jewish children’s civil rights are protected and report all suspicions that a child is at risk of harm would be reported.

SOVRI was originally created many years ago and then folded.  It was revived again back in 2008 as a reaction to the hotline/recorded message put out weekly by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, who was encouraging members of the ultra orthodox community to make hotline reports and work with law enforcement officials.

Unfortunately, SOVRI has a history of having many ties to Ohel, which is a mental health agency based in Brooklyn, NY.  This is an organization that receives federal funding, yet their policy is to discourage individuals from making hotline reports when they suspect a child is at risk of harm.  The four key players in this “helpline" include:  Chaya Mermerstein, LCSW and Cheryl Friedman, LCSW, both of Beth Israel's staff and psychotherapist Yoni Hikind, LMSW (son of New York Assemblyman - Dov Hikind).  The original founder of the organization is Bassya Littman.

SOVRI’s halachic advisor is rabbi Dovid Cohen.  For those of you who are unaware, rabbi Cohen is also the halachic advisor (Jewish legal advisor) for Ohel. Please watch the youtube video of David Mandel, who is the CEO of Ohel providing an educational seminar in Baltimore, in which he gives false information relating to sexual abuse survivors and discourages the audience from protecting children: "Is David Mandel A Mandated Reporter?"

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