Children’s needs in mind

  1. Giessen General
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Of: Christine Steines

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Team leader Ursula Maier-Elischer (TV) and her colleagues are happy with the new premises. © Oliver Schepp

After a separation, couples often fail to meet the needs of the children. The employees of the Children’s Welfare Association’s advisory center “Solutions” have acted as mediators between parents and children for ten years. Families can get “first aid” there in case of a conflict without having to wait long.

When a relationship breaks down and the partners are unable to part amicably, the children’s needs often get in the way. During the crisis, parents are unable to perceive their children’s suffering. “The danger of the children suffering psychological damage during the separation process is great,” says Gerhard Merz, the chairman of the child welfare association. In order to make up for this, the consultancy center »Solutions« was started ten years ago. It is a joint project of the city and district of Gießen as well as the Child Protection Association and is supported by the Hessian Ministry of Social Affairs and a number of non-profit foundations. “Solutions” is an unusual but well-functioning construction that has proven itself in practice, adds Gerda Weigel-Greilich, head of the city’s youth department. “The diversity of family models also requires a variety of counseling services.”

With “accompanied handling” there is a gap

The six members of staff advise on questions about cohabitation in a partnership in the family, about separation and divorce, about the exercise of parental care and about access rights. For the city of Giessen, »Solutions« is also involved, on behalf of youth welfare, in cases at the family court regarding the transfer of parental authority, contested applications for parental authority and visitation. The employees are concerned about the increased demand for advice on so-called “accompanied handling”, says team leader Ursula Maier-Elischer. She and her colleagues have more and more contact with couples whose children are still very young. Every child has a legal right to contact with both parents or a carer. Conversely, every parent has the right and duty to spend time with their children.

If the regulation of contact does not work smoothly, the specialists at the counseling center are called. Reasons for the “accompanied contact” can be domestic violence or suspicion of kidnapping, but also a mental illness or addictive behavior of the mother or father.

If you look at the past ten years, it is remarkable that the number of families where mental disorders play a role is increasing, says Gabriele Keiner, CEO of the Children’s Welfare Association. For the work in the counseling centre, this means a great challenge in terms of competence and experience.

Another difficulty is that “solutions” now in 50 percent of all cases concern families who have a migration background and whose knowledge of German is poor. It is becoming more and more common for advice to be available only with the help of interpreters. Thanks to a donation from the foundation “Anstoel” and volunteers from the integration office, it has so far been possible to involve translators, but this service poses an increasing funding problem, not only the funding, but also the conversations themselves are becoming more difficult. due to the need for an interpreter. Because the prerequisite for successful counseling is a trusting foundation, which is created by child-friendly communication. The counselors approach their little clients carefully and playfully, they work with games, books, stuffed animals and painting and craft tools. Thanks to new financing agreements with the city and district, the number of consultants has been increased and new premises have been established on Marburger Straße. “We have ideal conditions for our work here,” says Keiner happily.

When families contact the “Solutions” counseling center, they get an appointment within a short time. Merz and Maier-Elischer explain that this is a big plus for the families. In an acute crisis, it is important to be able to act quickly. Until 2012, there was no such short-term “first aid” because the youth office did not have the capacity for it. “We had an urgent need for quality improvement,” says Weigel-Greilich and youth welfare director Holger Philipp.

For the child welfare association, the child’s well-being has the highest priority. “The children need to understand that they have rights,” says Maier-Elischer. In their own pain, parents are often unable to recognize how great the loyalty conflict in their children really is. The counselors support parents and children in finding orientation, stability and security in a new life situation.

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