In general, what is meant by family-oriented support is a whole range of socio-educational and advisory services which provide assistance to families in particularly difficult situations. The family welfare formats listed here are those which seem particularly relevant regarding the distancing and deradicalisation of women and girls. It must be noted in advance that, particularly in such fields, it is often even more necessary to sensitise professionals towards topics of extremism and gender. In addition, there is a lack of targeted intervention strategies and support services.
> Health and midwifery services, parent counseling, mother and child groups
> Parent counseling
> Inpatient mother and child facilities
> Outpatient family assistance / homes for children
> Women’s shelters
> Gender aspects
Health and midwifery services, parent counseling, mother and child groups
With suitable awareness raising and training of professionals, youth welfare offices and health and midwifery services could be in a position where they could recognise early on when they have mothers or parents in their care who live in an extremist environment. Furthermore, skills can be acquired to reliably assess whether these circumstances put the child’s well-being at risk – and how this can be prevented. For example, if necessary, attending a mother and child group could be encouraged. This would not only provide relief for the affected mother / family, but also enable the child to come into contact with other, alternative environments.
Other, more targeted interventions of direct interpersonal work require the appropriate training of the respective employee. Therefore, more extensive training already seems to make sense, since parenting often represents a moment of life where great personal changes and developments are possible. Thus, to distance oneself or leave extremist and latently violent milieus can be within reach. With relevant basic skills and initial contact techniques that can be learned in exit strategies and deradicalisation work, even professionals in family welfare can acquire the ability to take an initial exploration in this direction. In this way, at least minimal awareness can be raised furthered by support for the parents / mothers concerned. From here, attempts may be made to motivate the person to participate in further offers of assistance where specialised professionals in accompanying distancing will continue the work.
To a great extent, it seems advisable to make consulting, training and professional support available so that they are able to intervene appropriately and professionally if, in their work, they encounter families in which right-wing extremist or militant Islamist life contexts are recognisable.
From an international perspective, it is striking that colleagues from Great Britain and the Netherlands have recently systematically included the health sector in their national extremism and terrorism prevention programmes. It has actually happened a few times in the past that, before committing their act, terrorists saw their doctors and therapists and, as it were, announced their deeds/plans there. The practitioners themselves did not know how to help in this difficult situation and could not prevent the act from being carried out.
As a result, the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) established the working group RAN Health. It is all the more obvious, particularly for the German context, to take precautions not only with regard to acute lone perpetrators, but also in terms of the broader social radius against violent extremist milieu and promote awareness and education of all health and welfare institutions close to communities.
Parent counseling has proven to be a key instrument for supporting distancing and disengagement. Of course, it is often parents who first notice when their child withdraws, when it begins to grapple intensively with extremist ideologies and change their outer appearance accordingly, or if they spend a lot of time on the computer, and current friendships fade away and they suddenly have a new circle of friends. At parent counseling sessions, it is essentially a matter of strengthening the educational and self-help skills of parents and accompany them in this particularly dangerous situation.
In Berlin and Bremen, for example, there are specific offers for this purpose which:
- advise and accompany parents who want to separate their children from right-wing extremist and militant Isamist environments
- support and facilitate the self-involvement of parents and support and moderate the establishment of parent self-help groups
- conduct training and consulting of trainers (in a train-the-trainer approach)
- who comes into contact with the parents and/or children concerned
Inpatient mother and child facilities
In mother and baby inpatient units, particularly teenage mothers or pregnant girls are place in an assisted living environment to support them in the proper care and upbringing of their children. The Youth Welfare Office can refer mothers in difficult circumstances, who may pose a threat to the child’s welfare, to these facilities. The clientele of mother and baby units / homes often include those young women who live in extreme right contexts or lead lifestyles otherwise dominated by extremism, resentment or group-focused enmity and / or stand out due to circumstances of pronounced alcohol consumption and violence. As a part of WOMEX, we came in contact with women who urgently needed the chance to process their past in the right-wing extremist scene (or still existing membership) as well as deal with their own violent behavior.
Others were served well with the help of experienced counseling after their stay in a mother and child unit. In such cases, this applies even more because isolation or even harassment is to be feared to a larger extent for women who are distancing or exiting right-wing extremist milieus.
However, the pedagogical staff at the homes focus – according to their particular task – especially on education and counseling to avert directly damaging behaviour of mothers towards their children (substance abuse, violence). For distancing from extremism, it appears to be all the more advisable to organise gender-specific or gender-focused offers for (young) mothers and fathers and provide professional advice for staff in the facilities.
Close, individual coaching of an employee may be necessary, especially if a stable relationship of trust with the client / parent already exists, so that there is a prospective possibility of working more intensively. However, for the additional and intensive work that is necessary in dealing with right-wing extremism (work up to experience of violence and violent behavior, personal biography and gender perspectives, questioning the ideology, etc ), adequate human resources must be at hand. In addition, so that any security risks are assessed that need to be taken into account for clients and employees, it should be noted that the mother and baby units are often located in close regional proximity to the extremist-dominated social space of the client.
Above all, in-depth training and advice is particularly necessary because social welfare and health care institutions are regularly the target of infiltration strategies by right-wing organisations. This can be prevented only with an appropriately skilled assessment of competence.
Outpatient family assistance / homes for children
In socio-pedagogical family assistance, it is with good reason that children are prevented from being taken away from their families, as long as it is not necessary due to an endangerment to the child’s welfare. For each burdened, but still sufficiently functional family, a care plan is created on the basis of which the support worker will give outpatient treatment on location and regularly visit the families in their apartments. They also come into contact with extreme right-wing parents.
Some cases in recent years in Germany have shown that family support workers who get into this situation often feel unprepared and left alone. In the meantime, training opportunities are occasionally available which raise awareness and can support family support workers with this topic. Moreover, it seems advisable to create opportunities for further additional qualifications for family support workers who are willing to address this particular topic in order to perform family and gender-based exit work. Such training could be aimed at (a) working on right-wing and inhuman attitudes through direct contact, (b) encouraging distancing in the family support process, (c) protecting children from extreme right-wing, militant Islamist or otherwise militant inhuman environments.
Women from extreme right-wing background are often also victims of domestic (and scene-internal) violence and, therefore, seek protection in women’s shelters. It would be much more advisable to sensitise staff in shelters for dealing with extremism and train accordingly. For this, of course, it would be necessary to develop forms and paths for distancing work and support that are tailored specifically to the needs and clients of women’s shelters. This is even more important, because women’s shelters provide a helpful refuge and opportunity for women willing to exit when detachment from the extremist scene should prove risky.
Women – especially those with children – are sometimes exposed to the threat of assault and violence on the part of the scene (and partner) to an increased degree, insofar as their exit is often interpreted doubly as a personal betrayal of the scene. This is apparent in a special way, as it is essential to work in right-wing prevention / intervention with gender-based procedures and methods.
Women from Islamist environments also seek out women’s shelters in order to find protection from violent attacks by their husbands / partners or threatening living environments. For them, this also offers the opportunity to disengage from extremist fundamentalist life contexts. A special feature here is that young women from Islamist environments often escape before the threat of forced marriage.
A women’s shelter can be even more a place where support can be provided for women from different religious and political contexts to deal with the ideological elements that have shaped their lives. The complexity of the gender aspect in the work of women’s shelters in other EU Member States is further increased by the fact that young men are increasingly turning to women’s shelters to escape from forced marriages.
Notions about the inequality of men and women are known both in right-wing extremist, premodern Islamic interpretations of the Koran, as well as in archaic clan cultures and other human rights hostile environments that may show potential towards extremism. As already previously stated, the focus on family support and shelters is not just a marginal aspect of (gender-based) prevention work; as crime cartographies have shown, the urban districts in which there are many gender-based conflict situations are also those where there is a high-density of violent extremist risk potential.
In several respects, gender aspects are inherent in all these measures; firstly, insofar as women play a special role in family and parenting and, secondly, because the family can be considered the primary place of socialisation and gender identity.
LidiceHaus parent counseling
Lichtblicke parent counseling, training and family support accompaniment
Lola für Lulu
Chance for Change /formally REXEL (VPN)