The Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prize 2012 went to the Off Road Kids Foundation in Germany. For nearly 20 years, the Off Road Kids Foundation has been helping children, young people and young adults in Germany who find themselves living on the streets. These girls and boys often run away from home because of dysfunctional family relationships resulting in violence and abuse. They become so desperate that they flee onto the streets and try to survive there. Stealing, drug use and even prostitution are all these young people have to look forward to since they are left to fend for themselves. Thanks to intra-regional social work, the twenty street workers based at the Off Road Kids stations in Berlin, Hamburg, Dortmund and Cologne offer sustainable alternatives to a life on the streets. In return, however, they expect these young people to show a readiness to work with them and to want to get a grip on their lives.
“We are not a changing room, we’re not a soup kitchen and we don’t give out money. All we give are perspectives for the future. We would like to convince the young people that it makes sense to achieve something and that they will also be rewarded for it,” is how Markus Seidel, the founder and spokesman of the Off Road Kids Foundation, explains the principals of his tried-and-tested support concept. Together with the children and young people, the street workers get to the bottom of their problems. They accompany them on visits to the authorities, they look for training places and play a mediating role in the difficult task of communicating between the runaways and their families. Every year, some 300 young people receive this intensive care and support from the social workers. Since the Foundation was set up, already more than 2600 children have been successfully brought off the streets.