Child protection plans in the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany: Maintained, adjusted, or suspended?

Jentsch, Birgit/Gerber, Christine (2022):
Child protection plans in the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany: Maintained, adjusted, or suspended?
In: Child Abuse and Neglect
Jahrg.: 123, S. 1-13

Background: COVID-19 infection prevention measures have enhanced risks of abuse and neglect for children and youth. Simultaneously, they have affected the practice of child protection, especially impacting the social infrastructure on which child protection work tends to rely, as well as the ability of practitioners to meet with family members face-to-face and in their homes. Objectives: This article focuses on the ways in which infection prevention measures have shaped child protection plans in Germany, i.e. family support and counselling, which is accompanied by monitoring and scrutiny. Methods: The article is based on a qualitative study, in which 40 semi-structured interviews were held with first-line management representatives of German Youth Welfare Agencies between July and October 2020. Results: The study's results show that protection plans have either been maintained, modified or (temporarily) suspended. Several influencing factors were identified. First, the extent to which the social infrastructure relevant for child protection could be maintained, or emerging gaps be filled in a timely fashion by child and youth welfare organisations. Second, the degree of effectiveness of the working relationship between practitioners and parents under the new conditions, including practitioners' ability to resort to flexible, digital or hybrid communication methods with families proved important. Moreover, everyday practical help from Youth Welfare Agencies and family service providers could often change the parental perception of these professionals for the better, thereby strengthening the relationship between practitioners and parents. Limitations: A key limitation of the study comprises the fact that the study findings are limited to the earlier phase of the pandemic.