Project: ElternStärken (Supporting Parents)
Organisation: pad e.V., recognised youth welfare organisation, active in youth welfare, addiction and violence prevention for 15 years
Duration / funding: since 2008, Berlin Senate Department for Labour, Integration and Women’s Issues / The State Office for Equal Treatment and against Discrimination Homepage
clear gender distribution – mostly mothers seek out advice, mainly about their sons
The project ElternStärken aims to support and strengthen parenting and self-help skills for parents of right-wing extremist oriented children and adolescents as well as those vulnerable to right-wing extremism. The goal is to increase options for action, overcome helplessness and make existing support programmes and offers available to parents and relatives.
In addition to parents, professionals from the fields of youth welfare, family and parent counselling, schools and nursery schools also receive information, support and further training. Thus, knowledge and experience for dealing with right-wing extremist phenomena in existing fields of work shall be increased and support optimised.
Offers for parents
Parents sensitive to the serious threat posed by their children‘s xenophobia, right-wing extremist orientation and involvement in a scene connected with violence often feel powerless. Fear, shame or feelings of failure in child rearing prevent taking a step forward. Parents often only first seek help when they can no longer cope with the problem on their own. The conflict caused by the situation frequently push them to their physical and mental limits and the quality and stability of relationships within the family are threatened. In this case, parents need professional support as well as offers to assist them in helping themselves.
The chance for successfully strengthening parents – and even more so for the adolescents’ exit from the right-wing extremist scene – are not least dependant on the conditions of the broader support context. The advising places emphasis on a cooperation with other offers of support and counselling services. The goal is to create a long-term – and therefore reliable – decentralised offer for parents seeking support. Existing institutions in social spaces are an important reference point: regional social services, education and family counselling centres, parent meetings, family meetings, schools, youth work, among others.
Through discussions parents and relatives are supported in better assessing and understanding their situation. They receive information and material about right-wing extremist scenes and features of youth sub-cultures. In order to first stabilise the acute situation, possible options for action are discussed. Next, alternative possible interpretations are presented and explored and resources detected (e.g., not only in the child’s behaviour, but also the parent’s or school’s, etc.) in order to take further steps.
When requested or required, personal contact to other support offers are made (e.g., family counselling centres, contact partners in schools or youth work who are familiar with the topic) and a case-specific support concept created. Depending on the current needs, counselling can take place as a one-time consultation or over a longer period.
Offers for professionals
ElternStärken offers further training on right-wing extremism as well as workshops for professional consultation on the topic of the family and right-wing extremism as a professional challenge and also make referrals. In additional, one-to-one coaching is also possible for employees in a certain situation who seek support/advice for dealing with a specific case.
In their work (in family support, individual cases, child rearing assistance, etc.) social workers often recognise parents who noticeably identify themselves within the right-wing extremist spectrum. Living rooms and clothing are decorated with telling symbols and statements made indicate right-wing extremist sentiments or scene involvement. For many professionals – regardless of their professional experience – this leads to uncertainty in how to deal with these observations. These refer to the following four topics:
(1)Criminally relevant: What is prohibited and how should one react to banned articles (e.g., displaying prohibited symbols and/or materials as well as consequences when aware of plans for illegal actions)?
(2)Assessing vulnerability (child and youth welfare): When is there a case of child endangerment? Does this at all apply to phenomena of this kind?
(3)Social work case dimension: How does the right-wing extremist orientation/enactment in the individual case correspond to, for example, problems within the family? How must you, how can you and how should you react? For example, when and under which conditions does an intervention make sense and when is an intervention not effective? What connection do the issues with right-wing extremism that have been observed have with the individual situation in the family?
(4)The social worker themselves: What should case workers expect of themselves in this situation and what is expected of them professionally? In what ways does this observation influence their work? What are their own boundaries?
The first step is to gain confidence for dealing with these phenomena – this means to correctly interpret the phenomena and find a way to successfully balance relationship building and setting boundaries and/or positioning oneself in the work. Only after such steps have been taken can possible intervention concepts be introduced. However, the goal of the consulting and further training is not to identify the supposed “right method”, but rather to develop a basis for reflection in family support work.