The number of children and adolescents living in alternative care has grown constantly in recent years. The rise between 2014 and 2016 was largely due to the increasing number of unaccompanied refugee minors. The challenges posed by traumatic refugee experiences and language barriers in institutional or foster care have thus also risen sharply.
The considerable regional differences in the provision of support services in Germany is concerning. Children’s rights are breached when location and jurisdictions determine whether or not qualified support services are provided. Families overwhelmed with child-raising and care responsibilities have often not been given any adequate aid or support beforehand. Children living in precarious situations and poverty are particularly affected.
There has also been a rise in the number of children and adolescents living in alternative care settings, which restrict or deprive them of their freedoms (e.g. closed accommodation facilities). This indicates a serious overburdening and skill shortage within the youth welfare system.
Before arriving in their current alternative care setting, many young people have already lived in one or more foster families, other forms of alternative care, and some had their support services discontinued.
The legal situation and reality associated with foster-child support currently leads to foster care often remaining a ‘temporary solution’ for several years. Prospective planning, taking into account the child’s sense of time, is not always adequately provided for in support plans, resulting in the children living in a permanent state of uncertainty. Once their child has been placed in alternative care, biological parents often receive no further assistance in constructively handling the situation in the best interests of the child.
- The National Coalition Germany recommends that the UN Committee call on the German federal government to
- 76. Introduce mandatory professional standards, particularly regarding the involvement of children in decisions relating to institutionalised or foster care;
- 77. Introduce legal regulations that ensure foster children can remain with their foster families for the long term, thereby enabling relationship continuity;
- 78. Implement research findings on the consequences of differing quality of youth welfare offices and abruptly discontinued support services;
- 79. Review alternative care settings restricting or depriving children of their freedoms in terms of compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and ensure any breaches of children’s rights are remedied;
- 80. Significantly improve the material resources and staffing at local youth welfare offices in order to eliminate regional disparities and ensure adequate support;
- 81. Promote skills in linguistic and cultural understanding, taking into account gender-specific aspects, by increasing the training and employment of multilingual social workers or youth welfare specialists.