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Child poverty in GermanyIn Germany, many children experience firsthand what it means to be poor: Many sit in school with a growling stomach, some own only one pair of shoes.

By Daniel Schneider

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What are the reasons for child poverty?? Unemployment or a low income are the main reasons for a lack of money in families. Thus also the most important triggers for child poverty in Germany. Because of their dependence on their parents, children's well-being always stands or falls with the financial and social condition of their guardians.

The study of "Poverty patterns in childhood and adolescence" The Bertelsmann Foundation's 2017 study shows that children of single parents, children with at least two siblings, and children of low-skilled parents are particularly at risk of poverty. So the transfer of the study results to everyday life seems simple. Almost cliche: Many children naturally cause many costs. Single parents either can't earn enough money taking care of their children, or the children are neglected because their parents work a lot. In each case, there is a personal fate behind the statistics.

In addition to material poverty, there are parents who, due to a lack of responsibility, ignorance or personal problems, neglect their children and are unable to support them enough. Here the children are not only financially but also emotionally disadvantaged. Parents are overburdened and cannot treat their children with the necessary appreciation.

But often the poverty is not self-inflicted by the parents and most of them do everything to ensure that their offspring feel as little as possible of their financial worries.

A hot meal a day – not a matter of course for many poor children

Who is considered poor?

Germany is one of the richest countries in the world and has social security systems so that no one should actually go hungry here – and yet many children in Germany live under the severe conditions of child poverty.

A study by the Bertelsmann Stiftung shows that around 21 percent of all children in Germany are in a poverty situation for at least five years, either permanently or every now and then. Another 10 percent live in this poverty situation for a short period of time.

Children from families who have to get by on significantly less than the average net household income or who receive basic state benefits are considered poor in this context. It doesn't mean for these children that they don't have food or a home. However, her development can be significantly affected.

Single parents are particularly at risk of poverty

What are the consequences?

Childhood is crucial for a person's development. During this period, important foundations are laid for later adult life. In the first years of life, millions of nerve connections form in the brain, waiting to be used and strengthened: The urge to explore is born.

It's not a question of money. Romping, playing and discovering – that doesn't have to come at a cost. However, personal development can be decisively inhibited by poverty, as the following exemplary case shows:

Nina is annoyed. Their parents are fighting again. Once again, it's all about money. For the money that the Fischer family does not have, because Mr. Fischer earns little and Mrs. Fischer had to stop her vocational training. Nina's birth came in between at that time. The small apartment in which the Fischer family lives means that Nina cannot retreat; she shares a room with her little brother.

The 13-year-old does not want to burden her parents with additional problems and conceals the fact that she urgently needs new exercise books and pencils. Nina skips the field trip with her class to the nearby big city. She is afraid of having to go on shopping trips with her friends without money. She has been calling in sick a lot lately, her grades are getting worse. Your big dream of taking piano lessons is far away. Too expensive! Two words that Nina hears very often.

Nina's little brother doesn't understand the context of the parents' dispute, but senses the stress and reacts aggressively. During the preventive medical checkups, the doctor finds out that the little boy has behavioral problems.

Nina and her brother experience what is called a lack of "participation opportunities" is referred to. This refers to the effects of child poverty in everyday life, which do not always have to be directly related to the financial situation. A 2007 UNICEF study on the well-being of children in industrialized countries identified the most important areas for development:

1. Material situation 2. Health and safety 3. Education 4. Relationship with parents and friends 5. Risks in everyday life 6. Subjective well-being

Financial disputes – also a stressful situation for children

What is being done?

A look at the past shows the vicious circle: children from socially deprived families often remain poor for life. It is extremely difficult for them to get out of their milieu. Tackling child poverty. Preventing it is primarily the task of politics. Families are already supported by the state with subsidies such as child allowance, housing benefit, advance maintenance payments, minimum wage or the social benefit for children.

The federal Participation Act, which has been in effect since 2017, is also intended to combat child poverty. Here's where children and young people from low-income families can get financial support. They can, for example, go on vacation camps, take part in sports and music activities, receive tutoring if necessary, or take part in school lunches.

However, the balance after five years of the Participation Act is not very positive. Apart from subsidies for school lunches and school trips, demand is low, says a report by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs five years after the decision. The reasons cited in the evaluation report include a lack of knowledge about which agency to turn to for assistance and the cumbersome application process.

In addition to politicians, churches, non-profit organizations, schools and private individuals are also helping to alleviate poverty. There are children's charities and social institutions in many major German cities.

The Christian children's charity "Die Arche" (The Ark) is now active at 25 locations in Germany, Switzerland and Poland and reaches many children and young people. In addition, offers such as low-priced shopping at the clothing store, homework help and the opportunity to talk to someone also support them.

That sounds like a drop in the bucket. But for some children it means that they don't have to sit in school with a growling stomach, but can concentrate better on their lessons.

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