Participation as a part of socio-edu­ca­tio­nal support



Prof. Dr. Kathrin Aghamiri
E‑Mail: k.aghamiri (at) fh-muens­ter (dot) de

Dr. Remi Stork
E‑Mail: r.stork (at) muens­ter (dot) de

Participation as a part of socio-edu­ca­tio­nal support

Participation among child­ren and young peop­le wit­hin socio-edu­ca­tio­nal sup­port ser­vices such as resi­den­ti­al care is impe­ra­ti­ve, but at the same time espe­cial­ly dif­fi­cult. It is impe­ra­ti­ve becau­se socio-edu­ca­tio­nal sup­port in any form direct­ly affects its pri­ma­ry reci­pi­ents young girls and boys and their immedia­te lives. Support invol­ving tem­pora­ry accom­mo­da­ti­on in ful­ly or semi-resi­den­ti­al insti­tu­ti­ons requi­res not least that child­ren and young peop­le come to terms with the uncho­sen situa­ti­on of living at a new place with new peop­le as care­gi­vers and fel­low room­ma­tes. Round table dis­cus­sions held by the German Federal Government con­cer­ning the histo­ry of resi­den­ti­al child and youth care as well as cases of sexu­al abu­se wit­hin various insti­tu­tio­nal set­tings have made it clear that con­di­ti­ons wit­hin youth wel­fa­re orga­niz­a­ti­ons and agen­ci­es have in the past repeated­ly restric­ted the rights of young peop­le but also the oppor­tu­nities affor­ded to them to par­ti­ci­pa­te in decisi­on-making pro­ces­ses. Still today wit­hin resi­den­ti­al care set­tings, the­re is an imma­nent risk of abu­se of power car­ri­ed out by resi­den­ti­al care workers or even fel­low roommates.

Although pre­vious pro­blems wit­hin socio-edu­ca­tio­nal sup­port ser­vices, par­ti­cu­lar­ly wit­hin resi­den­ti­al care insti­tu­ti­ons, have been well addres­sed, in prac­ti­ce, the­re does not appe­ar to be a broad con­sen­sus con­cer­ning the impor­t­ance of demo­cra­tic decisi­on-making, co-deter­mi­na­ti­on and par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on. Financial as well as struc­tu­ral logic wit­hin the field over the past two deca­des has con­tri­bu­t­ed to the fact that more impor­t­ance was pla­ced on the tre­at­ment of deve­lo­p­men­tal defi­ci­ts or dis­or­ders in young girls and boys when com­mis­sio­ning a wel­fa­re agen­cy as part of a sup­port plan than in estab­li­shing and designing an enab­ling envi­ron­ment con­du­ci­ve to the deve­lo­p­ment of par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry demo­cra­tic prac­ti­ce. Promoting par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on did not always take top prio­ri­ty among the finan­cing youth offices involved.

It should howe­ver be noted that socio-edu­ca­tio­nal sup­port ser­vices in par­ti­cu­lar have had a long histo­ry of demo­cra­tic child-rea­ring. Starting with so-cal­led “children’s repu­blics” dating back alrea­dy more than 100 years and in which child­ren and young peop­le in lar­ger resi­den­ti­al care insti­tu­ti­ons expe­ri­men­ted with ide­as of auto­no­my and self-government to demo­cra­cy-ori­en­ted resi­den­ti­al group homes and com­mu­nities set up in the 1970’s in many lar­ger cities throughout Germany, resi­den­ti­al child care is also clo­se­ly con­nec­ted to pro­mi­nent European edu­ca­tors (Bernfeld, Korczak, Marenko i.a.) who all have play­ed a signi­fi­cant role in the edu­ca­ti­on and trai­ning of pro­fes­sio­nal pedagogues.

The new federal child pro­tec­tion law ent­e­red into for­ce on 1 January 2012 and with it the topic of par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in ful­ly or semi-resi­den­ti­al child and youth care set­tings has offi­cial­ly gai­ned a who­le new mea­ning. Whether public or pri­va­te, agen­ci­es and insti­tu­ti­ons wit­hin socio-edu­ca­tio­nal sup­port ser­vices are now requi­red to sub­mit docu­men­ta­ti­on con­cer­ning for­mu­la­ted pro­fes­sio­nal prac­ti­ce con­cepts in child and youth par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in order to be gran­ted licen­sing by the respon­si­ble super­vi­so­ry aut­ho­ri­ties. With this action, German legis­la­tu­re has offi­cial­ly ack­now­led­ged the fun­da­men­tal impor­t­ance of par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry demo­cra­tic prac­ti­ce in child rea­ring for the pro­tec­tion of children’s rights and well-being wit­hin orga­niz­a­tio­nal and insti­tu­tio­nal child wel­fa­re settings.


The Institute for Participation and Education can pro­vi­de sup­port in the fol­lowing areas:

  • Conceptual advice and sup­port for insti­tu­ti­ons and agen­ci­es in fur­ther deve­lo­ping pre­exis­ting pro­fes­sio­nal prac­ti­ce con­cepts to inclu­de and/or expand the scope of child and youth participation
  • Advanced trai­ning cour­ses and semi­nars on participation
  • Organization of sym­po­sia on child and youth participation
  • Development of pilot pro­jects on child par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on and education