2013 Best Practice Prize

“The families we are trying to reach have not had an easy life,” says social worker Janet Thiemann, a former student of Armbruster and now managing director of ELTERN-AG. Single parenthood, low levels of education, unemployment and an immigrant background are some of the factors that push families to the fringes of society and into isolation. “We want to improve children’s opportunities in life, and we are doing this by working with their parents.”

“We want to improve children’s opportunities in life, and we are doing this by working with their parents.”

Social Worker Janet Thiemann

ELTERN-AG, which includes a staff of 16 and 196 trained mentors, all of whom have a degree in education, takes a different approach than most early childhood education programs. Consciously recognizing the potential of parents who are excluded from participation in society, the program collaborates with them as equal partners. Mentors reach out to parents in their accustomed environment, inviting them to meet once a week to share their everyday experiences, joys and concerns. In a total of 20 meetings, the focus is on communication, learning to handle frustration and building a social network. This helps participants gain self-confidence and become better able to fulfill their role as parents.

So far, ELTERN-AG has reached 1,600 parents and 3,800 children. Today the program is active in 13 of Germany’s states, working with more than 50 partners, and other cities are soon to follow. Interest has also been expressed in Switzerland and Austria. ELTERN-AG plans to use its prize money to open up new sites, giving even more families access to this program.

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