Also this year, Tagesspiegel is asking for donations from readers for the Christmas campaign “People Help!”. As with any round of donations, with the 29th campaign we want to help with the problems and crises that we have reported on several times during the year: Corona pandemic, homelessness in Berlin, global climate crisis, humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
In our donation series, we present some projects as representatives of all 42, for which we raise money. Today: The Child Protection Center Berlin e. V
Paul (not his real name) rolled the snowball across the lawn for so long that it is now the size of an oversized football. And now the six-year-old as Munchausen sits on his cannonball, laughing happily, wrapped in a thick ski jacket. It’s 11:30, a cold day in December, and Paul has the whole garden to himself.
There is a swing, a football goal, a sandbox, a basketball hoop, a climbing frame, theoretically he is free to choose. The mess throw, of course, does not make much difference in the cold, the sand is frozen, no one can play.
Of course, Paul should actually go to school now, but he can not go, he has been postponed, he has significant developmental delays. He can hardly express himself, he who listens to him for the first time simply does not understand him.
Six-year-old Paul was abused by his stepfather
The specific causes of the problems are difficult to pinpoint. But there are many indications that they are also connected with the reason why Paul has lived in a villa in Steglitz for half a year. Paul was severely physically abused by his stepfather.
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And the villa is not just a normal beautiful building with a large garden, here is the child welfare center Berlin. Center leader Martin Breibert also stands in the garden and says: “Children are coming to us who should be taken from their families.” Because they were beaten, because they witnessed domestic violence against their mother, because they persevere. psychological violence had to because they were sexually abused or neglected. Often there is a combination of the terrible causes.
The youth welfare service sends victims to child welfare services
Once the youth office has stepped in, the children come to Breibert and his colleagues. If necessary, the youth guard will also call the police if it is necessary to complain. Youth Office experts are empowered to control the family.
“But we,” says Breibert, “have no guard function, we try to get in touch with the parents so that the situation can be rendered harmless.” They are also trying to figure out to what extent they are catching the problem at all. Do they understand what they did to their child?
Many children are traumatized
“A lot of the kids are traumatized,” Breibert says. “When they come to us, we first find out what they need, what is good for them and how they can stabilize again.” They are in a protected space, that is the first, the most important step. They have left the danger zone.
In the villa, they are received with great care and empathy by a total of six social workers, a psychologist and two educators. Breibert is also a social worker. There is also another person who takes care of the household who does the shopping and cooks.
All seats are occupied
The center has nine places, which today are all occupied by children between the ages of four and eleven. They live in a protected everyday life with rules they did not know. You will be awakened in a friendly way in the morning. Children who go to school are cared for and supported with their homework. Dinner is eaten together and each child goes to bed at a time that suits their age.
Those who then lie in bed hear bedtime stories or have songs sung to them by the caregivers. Mobile phones are banned, also as a security measure. Breibert and his team do not want parents talking to their children behind the backs of caregivers. At worst, parents can influence their children and ask them to come home again.
Kids discover creative skills while playing
And television is allowed in the villa for a maximum of half an hour a day. A rule with very positive consequences and one can quickly see them. The children discover the joy of playing together, they discover their creativity, they experience an orderly social life. In his previous life, Paul sat next to his parents in front of the television and watched horror movies. Neither his mother nor his stepfather cared.
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Paul’s sister also lives in an institution, but not in child welfare. “The two had very little to do with each other, so they are in different places,” Breibert says. Siblings often come to the center together. A seven-year-old currently lives in the villa with his four-year-old sister. The oldest children who can live here are 14 years old. “Most of the children,” says Breibert, “come from families living in precarious conditions who receive social assistance, where many people live in small apartments.”
The mix of groups must be right
Breibert also rejects children, but only if they are forced to. “No,” he always says when he thinks the mixture is not right. There is no point in taking a 13-year-old girl when the rest of the group consists of five- or six-year-old boys. Another place must then be sought for the 13-year-old.
How long the kids live here is completely open. The parents give the answer, more precisely: their behavior. Only when the psychologists at the counseling center, the staff at the child welfare service and the youth welfare service have the impression that the parents in question have changed, ie. when they are able to raise their children as caringly as necessary, only then will your child get back. Before then, however, the questions need to be clarified: Do the parents accept the offers of help? Are you in the necessary therapy? Do you accept the Youth Office’s requirements?
Should Paul go back, he will be under the protection of watchful eyes. “Then a family helper comes into the household,” says Breibert. And of course, Paul then goes to a type of school that suits him. “A small group, for example.”
Only a third of children are allowed to return to their parents
The answer to another question is sober. How many children may go back to their parents? Then Breibert presses his lips together and stares out into space for a few seconds. A sensitive subject. “In the last ten years a third,” he says then. “And that’s a generous calculation.” There are far too many parents who are not up to the task even after counseling.
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After all, Breibert says, “Paul’s mother is recovering. But she still needs to understand the role she has to play with her children.” The woman did not prevent the abuse, she has now had another child, it is a year old, Breibert does not know if the youth guard called the police on the violent stepfather.
The children must have new play equipment
But he knows exactly what the kids urgently need. The playground in the garden needs to be renewed so he asks for donations from Tagesspiegel readers. The biddelkast must finally be renovated and the sand replaced. The climbing playhouse needs to be restored and the swing that the kids love is now worn out and needs to be replaced.
The children are dependent on the garden. “Sometimes it is not possible for us to visit public playgrounds because of the threat from families,” Breibert says. Therefore, the exact address of the villa is also protected. How long Paul will stay here is unclear. The decision on whether he can return to his family has not yet been made.