Parents leave their young child alone at home; The mother does not care if her son plays on the smartphone for hours; The alcoholic father regularly freaks out, becomes violent and abusive. According to figures from the Nordic Statistics Office, the number of cases in which youth welfare offices in Schleswig-Holstein find children at risk has risen sharply in recent years. The total increase from 2019 to 2020 was 30 percent. Specifically, there were a total of 1,527 cases in 2019 and a total of 2,006 cases in 2020. If you look back eight years, ie comparing the 2012 figures (898 cases) to 2020, the increase is 123 percent. The Northern Census Bureau does not yet have any numbers for 2021.
Many families need support
In total, youth welfare offices participated in 6,239 cases in 2020 to check if there was a risk to the child’s well-being. It was present in 2006 previously reported cases, but not in 4,233 cases. However, many of these families also need support. In 1950 cases, youth welfare offices identified the need for help – and supported families in their upbringing, for example with social workers.
Corona amplifies precarious living conditions
Lydia Baumann, head of the Child Protection Center in Kiel, can also confirm this development for her local association. She believes the pandemic is also partly responsible for the current surge in numbers. “Corona has led to a significant increase in precarious living conditions,” she says. Home office, homeschooling, closed day care centers, and quarantines would have pushed parents of all seasons to their limits and put them under enormous pressure. There were also financial concerns for some. This situation has partially led to the neglect of children.
By definition, a child is at risk if his or her physical, mental or emotional integrity is endangered through the abusive practice of parental care—that is, if parents neglect their child or use psychological, physical or sexual violence, for example. If the parents are unwilling or unable to change this situation.
§ 1666 Civil Code
It often leads to a vicious cycle.
Rarely can a child’s well-being be determined at one point, Bowman says. “There are always many factors. It often leads to a vicious cycle: stress leads to violence towards children, which then becomes more anxious, which leads to more stress and more violence.” Neglect is often related to existential care. “This may mean that parents do not want to get up at night when their young children are screaming and would rather close the door. With primary school children, it may mean that parents do not want to prepare their children for school in the morning and say: Do it on their own, she gives two examples.
Excessive media use by children
Bowman noticed years ago that children are using more and more media. The epidemic has exacerbated this. “Corona has removed almost all barriers when it comes to media use. On the one hand, parents are using it as a way to reduce the burden. But schools also work a lot with the media now. And then it becomes difficult for parents to control: Now children are looking for something,” Baumann explains. Google it online because it’s important for your next presentation or are you looking for something you shouldn’t see?”
When Bowman and her colleagues ask children what movies, series, and games they know about, they are often told about series and games that are not appropriate for their age. “Public use of the media is changing something on all levels,” Bowman says. “Children are often on their own. Parents don’t sit and watch.” As a result: “Over the years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of young children with delayed language development.” Because language can only be learned through active speaking and not through the media.
Too much pressure on children
The pandemic has often left its mark on parents for whom education is most important. “Many parents are starting to put pressure on their kids so that their kids can keep going in school despite homeschooling,” Bowman says. “We’re seeing an increase in depression and anxiety disorders.”