Interview | Employed by the Berlin Youth Welfare Office
“Children are traumatized, but there are not enough offers”
More violence in families and increasing care failure: the crisis intervention team from Marzahn-Hellersdorf’s youth office fights every day for the well – being of the affected children. An employee talks about his job between saving and the willingness to help.
rbb: Mrs Schauer, many companies have had major problems as a result of the pandemic. How dramatic is the situation in the social sector?
Anja Schauer: There were still not enough staff, even before the pandemic. During the shutdown and in the meantime, many colleagues were in the home office, there were limited office hours and even closures, so families basically could not contact us as before. And that, of course, means less case processing by colleagues. If you are not on guard, you can not edit the child protection as before.
Speaking of staff: For many years there have been complaints that the youth welfare offices are understaffed. Why is this not improved? What do you say when you ask?
If I ask? Well, then I will turn the question around and say: I do not think there is any interest in improving something or not improving it sufficiently. Because there is money in Berlin for other things. Projects are funded, and I think it’s a kind of prioritization of what’s funded here, or what’s meant to be important, and child protection falls down there.
They also changed sides, and as a consultant in a trade association, they took care of the bureaucracy. But then they returned to “work on the street”. Why?
Well, because I noticed that at the technical or technical political level, it’s actually more about cost centers, about savings. And I could not agree with myself. Restrictions that make me save a place. And somewhere the child or family means – that was not the fulfillment for me. And of course, I missed my team too. So it was already the experience that I am completely away from making changes.
Then the people who then do the work like you – that is, on the street – receive less money. Do you work overtime?
We work non-stop overtime. It really is. We drag ourselves sick to work, we go to work with herniated discs, bronchitis and headaches to keep it going. Because of course you always know what it’s all about. Human life is actually involved, and of course also the colleagues, who then have more work to do and have to work on their own affairs.
What gives you hope that the overall situation of children in need will get better again when the pandemic is over at some point?
I must personally say: I have some hope because, as I said, the situation was dramatic even before the pandemic. In fact, there had been protests for years. Again and again it was pointed out that child protection cannot be adequately guaranteed because we have too few colleagues and there are no long-term measures. There is a lack of places in Berlin for connection help. This means that if children need to be accommodated, we call the fingers sore. There are far too few therapy sites in Berlin. In the child and adolescent psychiatric institutions, it looks terrible. Children are traumatized, but there are not enough offers.
When children grow up in such difficult conditions, it also has an impact on their adult lives. How big is the social mortgage that we will have to carry in the coming decades?
This is probably first and foremost because the welfare state is designed in such a way that the families receive appropriate benefits. And each and every one of us carries these services or pays for them out of our own pocket. But the question is much more interesting: How is it possible for children to grow up in such difficult conditions, which are characterized by addiction, violence, debt and depression? And what is society doing to change that? These are the much more important questions.
Thank you for the interview.
Marco Seiffert spoke with Anja Schauer for Radioeins. The interview is an edited and slightly abbreviated version.
Broadcast: rbb-tv, 27 April 2022, at 22.30