Families who are economically and socially disadvantaged often do not have the abilities or the resources to give their children the necessary prerequisites for a successful participation in the education system. This is where Opstapje steps in. This play and support program was developed in the Netherlands for small children from socially and educationally disadvantaged families (often with an immigrant background). It promotes child development in language, motoric skills and social interaction in a manner appropriate to their age group. Opstapje aims to strengthen parent-child interaction and thereby create an important basis for the child’s learning ability. Home visitors from the social environment of the families being supported are key to accessing those that are sometimes difficult to reach. They offer the mothers on-the-spot support in engaging in age-appropriate, playful learning with their child. Opstapje was run as a model project in Bremen and Nuremberg, where it was supervised and evaluated scientifically. Its content was then developed further in Germany by a group of pedagogues and psychologists. They created high-quality support measures for implementation and training programs, and founded an association to sponsor and promote the program. This served to kick-start the program’s rapid spread throughout Germany.
Switzerland soon followed, where the a:primo association adjusted the Opstapje program and developed it further in line with local conditions, now naming it “schritt:weise” (“step-wise”).
Today, this support program is active in 85 locations in Germany and in a dozen in Switzerland. And it is still growing. Both organizations offer impressive proof that their programs enable families to see themselves as helpers and supporters in the process of child development. And these programs empower them in it. The Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prize 2010 is given jointly to the two organizations Opstapje e.V. in Germany and a:primo in Switzerland.