The Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk e.V. supports a new project by Social Science Works in Brandenburg, which is aimed at children of refugees, some of whom have been housed for years in so-called transitional refugee homes. These children are severely disadvantaged. Experiences of flight and additional traumas suffered by them and their parents, living conditions in the homes, frequent non-attendance of daycare centers where they can learn the German language and get used to everyday school life, lead to developmental disadvantages and reduced educational and professional opportunities. To counteract these tendencies and prevent the development of a new generation of socially disadvantaged people, the children concerned need additional support and encouragement.

A group of 10 children aged 5 to 8 will be formed with children from the two homes in Rangsdorf, who will be looked after by social pedagogues for three hours a week from September 2022. Activities will focus on building self-confidence, creative play and learning about the world outside the refugee camps.

The project is led by our Fellow Zak Reimer. Zak holds a Bachelor in Psychology from Montana State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Montana. His research interests include childhood development, refugee integration, and conflict mediation. He has been involved in many integration projects in the United States and Germany. For more information on this project, click here.

SSW has conducted various studies in Brandenburg in recent years on the living conditions of refugees and their children. Time and again, the particular vulnerability of children in so-called transitional homes becomes clear. The refugee experience and the insecure life in these homes obviously inhibit their development. In addition, the children often did not attend a daycare center and they were completely unprepared socially and linguistically for entry into elementary school. As their school careers progress, they are rarely able to catch up. Therefore, these children need to be supported in their development as early as possible.

Self-regulation is particularly encouraged in the planned activities. Self-regulation is an important skill that must be learned early. Because many migrant children have had difficult experiences getting to a host country, they can suffer from post-traumatic stress, which manifests itself primarily in problematic behaviors. These behaviors can be disruptive in a school setting. If a child does not learn these skills before entering a school, they will fall behind in their academic progress and social milestones. This project proposes an intervention that teaches children these vital self-regulation skills before they enter the German school system and provides them with a foundation to build upon in that environment. Through a series of games, children will learn self-regulation skills individually and in groups. These skills and practicing their use become important building blocks for dealing with the confusing and challenging environment of school.

With the help of local home leaders and social workers with whom SSW has already worked, a group of about 10 children, ages 5 to 8, will be formed that will meet once a week for approximately three hours. The project will include 16 encounters. Based on the experience, it will then be decided whether the project can be expanded.

In order to support the above educational interventions to increase children’s self-confidence and self-regulation, activities outside the homes are also planned. These include visits to the local library, where the children are introduced to its offerings, a collaboration with a local nature club that takes the children on trips to the forest and teaches them about flora and fauna, and visits to child-friendly cultural institutions such as museums, children’s theater and musical performances.