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Rethinking participation in child and youth welfare: A project of the Bertelsmann Foundation and CrowdInsights

Participation has always been a central issue in child and youth welfare. To perceive children and young people as social actors is the task and at the same time a great challenge for professionals in child and youth welfare. The Child and Youth Strengthening Act (KJSG), which recently came into force, stands for the strengthening of participation and once again confronts child and youth welfare with the challenge of involving the addressees much more than before in the planning and design of services.

For this reason, CrowdInsights, together with the Bertelsmann Foundation’s project team “No Child Left Behind”, organised a dialogue forum in summer 2021 with experts from child and youth welfare and academia. The aim: to think further about participation in youth welfare.

Within the framework of a thematically very broad online consultation via the digital participation platform and in workshops, the most important questions and instruments were identified together with various experts. The overarching question was:

How should a participatory municipal child and youth welfare service of the future be designed that is even more consistently oriented towards the needs and requirements of children, young people and families?

The first set of questions dealt with obstacles and open needs. The first question focuses on what is missing:

What challenges or obstacles do you see in the topic of participation in child and youth welfare? Which issues do you consider to be particularly important in local youth welfare practice with regard to participation?

The second set of questions aimed at solutions – at what the actors in child and youth welfare could do better and differently and what they need to do so:

How could participation in child and youth welfare be better implemented in your context and what would be needed for this? Which participation formats known from other contexts could be transferred to municipal child and youth welfare services?

All workshops were accompanied by the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s project team “No Child Left Behind” and by participation experts from CrowdInsights. Contributions were recorded as stylised quotes and fed into the Mitdenken platform as contributions. In a next step, all contributions were evaluated by CrowdInsights’ participation experts using qualitative text analysis methods.

All challenges and solutions identified in the course of the process have been recorded in a 40-page report and are available here. The report is intended to offer suggestions on how participation can be implemented even more strongly in the everyday life of child and youth welfare services.