Original Title: Handbuch Soziale Arbeit mit geflüchteten Kindern und Familien
Luise Hartwig, Gerald Mennen and Christian Schrapper (eds)
Published by: BELTZ Juventa, 2018, 782 pages
Review author: David Yuzva Clement, Canada
According to the latest UNHCR Global Trends Report (2019), the refugee population in Germany continues to increase to almost 1.1 million individuals at the end of 2018. Germany has made global headlines for accepting more than 800,000 refugees mostly from Syria and Iraq in 2015. Although these figures may seem large, according to the Global Trends Report only 16 per cent of the world’s refugees, a total of 70.8 million reaching a record high, are in developed nations.
Refugees represent a particular group of immigrants. In contrast to planned immigration, refugees tend to face unpredictable and considerably more dangerous journeys to their host countries. Refugees are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Moreover, social integration is often delayed because of the lengthy uncertain residence in asylum centers and restrictive policies.
The Handbook of Social Work with Refugee Children and Families provides concrete answers to the multitude of social work related topics in regard to working with individuals seeking asylum and shelter in Germany. The handbook is divided into 8 main parts each comprising of different chapters.
The first part concerns basic aspects of policy and law, including human rights and transnational migration in the context of German national sovereignty, and refugee children as owners of rights. It’s argued that the public discourse oftentimes presents the issue of refugees and integration misleadingly (p. 20). Further, this section provides information about countries and regions of origin ranging from West Sahara to Pakistan in order to familiarize practitioners with conditions which refugees leave behind.
The second part concentrates on refugee migration routes, lived experiences of migration, and the impact of persecution, violence and refugee status on children and families. This section emphasizes how the challenges experienced by refugees has shaped the way practical social work responds to refugees (p. 147). For instance, an empirical study which interviewed child refugees in Germany demonstrates that children are confronted with relationship disruptions, traumatic experiences, and atypical developmental psychological assessments, such as, ensuring the safety of younger siblings (p. 167).
The third part of the book focuses on arrival in Germany. The chapters discuss living in primary care facilities and asylum centers. Moreover, this section examines issues such as legal rights, social benefits, family reunion, mobile counseling, church asylum. For example, considering refugees are under the “Residenzpflicht“ (residence requirement) with restricted freedom of movement within Germany (p. 178). It is further problematic that family reunion under the Asylum Act II is currently abandoned for two years for those refugees under “subsidiary protection“ who fall outside the UN Convention of 1951 (p. 233).
The fourth part describes responsibilities of public authorities and other stakeholders involved in social work with refugees, such as, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, municipal authorities, unemployment services, or child and youth welfare services. It is argued that societal integration will be achieved through integration into the labour market and language acquisition (p. 272).
The fifth part addresses social-pedagogical approaches to adolescence and migration, trauma and families, gender identity as reasons for asylum, health care, religions and faith. It is stated how religion could function as central aspect of identity restoration. Social workers need to acquire a basic level of sensitivity of religion, but also have to reflect situations in which religion could function as an obstacle to integration (p. 373).
The sixth part concentrates on the integration into formal and informal education sectors, including early childhood education. This section describes how some young refugees, especially those who immigrated as unaccompanied adolescents, feel under pressure to provide financial support to their family abroad, which has led to cases of discontinuing educational efforts and inconsistent employment (p. 521).
The seventh part is concerned with aspects of child and youth welfare from family assistance and counseling services, to child protection, foster care and family courts. It is stated that refugee children and families have the right to child and youth welfare services under any sort of accommodation despite the location (p. 571).
The final eighth part concentrates on arts pedagogy, sports and media literacy. It is explained how art supports people with culturally influenced aesthetic forms of expressions to use cultural ambiguity in a creative and utopian way and to achieve culturally sensitive participation in programs (p. 721).
The handbook closes with a glossary and a directory of governmental and non-governmental organizations relevant to working with refugees.
The book supports social workers to develop a more holistic understanding of the challenges during transnational migration and integration. It also provides concrete practice-oriented answers which practitioners were long awaiting. The comprehensiveness of the handbook with its different chapters is not only a great resource, but it also demonstrates that social workers engaging refugees, especially children and families, need to be familiar with a multitude of topics in order to understand complex situations and to provide ethically sound support, advocacy, legal counseling and pedagogy. Further, the book helps social workers to navigate through national, provincial and municipal bureaucracies and supports them to hold their government accountable, irrespective of the potentially unethical policies they might come across. Overall, the handbook should be a standard reference for social work practitioners working with refugees, but also for academics teaching and researching this field.
UNHCR. (2019). Global Trends Forced Displacement in 2018. Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Review author: David Yuzva Clement, Ph.D.; independent researcher and licensed social worker. He finished his Ph.D. in Religious Studies and worked for many years in the fields of youth education, inter-faith dialogue, community engagement and urban development, public policy as well as immigration services particularly with refugees in Germany. Since 2019, he lives in Ottawa, Canada, and works as a research advisor for the Government of Canada.