It is a bad record, which is sad: The youth welfare offices in Germany are reporting that around 60,600 minors are at risk for the Corona year 2020, a full nine percent more than in the previous year.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, this is the highest level of child welfare risk since the statistics were introduced in 2012. There is also a depressing trend: the number had already risen significantly in the two previous years – by ten percent each.
▶ A child’s well-being is at risk if “significant damage to the physical, mental or emotional well-being of a child is imminent or has occurred”, as the Child Protection Act, which has been in force since 2012, defines it.
The number of psychological abuse increased the most in the Corona year. It rose by 17 percent, which is an increase from 3,100 cases.
Most of the approximately 60,600 cases showed signs of neglect (58 percent). In around every third case (34 percent) evidence of psychological abuse was found – for example through humiliation, intimidation, isolation and emotional coldness. 26 percent of the children at risk showed signs of physical abuse and five percent showed signs of sexual violence.
Corona exacerbates the situation even more
“The Corona crisis exacerbates the situation due to the immense burden on families,” explains Martina Huxoll-von Ahn, deputy federal manager of the German Child Protection Association (DKSB).
The special situation of the crisis brings with it burdens that lead to conflicts with children being resolved violently.
Huxoll-von Ahn: “Homeschooling, home office, livelihood worries, lack of social contact both with family and friends, school and daycare closings or alternating lessons, few leisure opportunities outside the house, lack of sports activities, etc. – and all of this over many, many months. If families then still live very cramped, that is another risk factor. “
The increase in psychological violence can partly be explained by the fact that many parents feel overwhelmed, especially in times of long lockdowns.
“We know that many parents, but also skilled workers, are not very sensitized to psychological violence against children and in some cases do not even know what psychological violence is. For example, yelling and humiliating children permanently. In other words, one’s own behavior is often not rated as violence at all, ”explains the child protection expert.
Number of references from the population increased
With regard to the increased number of children at risk, Family and Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (56, SPD) said on Wednesday: “This significant increase in child welfare risks is another important reason for keeping schools and daycare centers open in the future.”
The schools and daycare centers that were closed during the lockdown create another problem in addition to the psychological stress for children: the number of reports from schools to the youth welfare office fell by 1.5 percent in 2020 (minus 300 cases).
▶ If you, as a bystander, discover that foreign children are at risk, you should report this to the youth welfare office. This must investigate such a suspicion, assess the danger and try to avert the danger.
People seem to have become more vigilant in this area: Most of the risk assessments in 2020 were initiated by the population (27 percent) – i.e. by relatives, acquaintances, neighbors or anonymously.
Huxoll-von Ahn: “The increased numbers in this area also indicate that the sensitivity of those who reported the child welfare risk has increased significantly.”
In around a third (35 percent) of the cases, the suspicion turned out to be unfounded. Nevertheless: the authorities also found that in about a third (34 percent) of the cases reported to the youth welfare offices, although there was no risk, they did determine that further assistance was needed.
Many children suffer greatly from the aftermath of the crisis. If they are heavily stressed, the expert advises parents to go to family or advice centers or to take advantage of advice on the Internet. The parents’ telephone number against Kummer is also available anonymously and free of charge on 0800 111 0 550.
Huxoll-von Ahn: “The important message is that you do not have to be ashamed to seek advice and support, but that it is responsible action.”