Berlin - “We have to do more to ensure that all children have chance to grow up healthy.” Manfred Gahr, Secretary General of the German Academy for Child and Adolescent Medicine (DAKJ), made this request on the occasion of the entry into force of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child collected 25 years ago. The DAKJ recently dealt extensively with the convention at symposium. There were also good examples from other countries.
5 questions to Manfred Gahr, Secretary General of the German Academy for Child and Adolescent Medicine DÄ: Mr. Professor Gahr, your academy recently took the entry into force of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 25 years ago as an opportunity for symposium on “Strengthening Children's Rights”. Why? Gahr: We want to create awareness that children's rights must be anchored even more firmly in Germany. The protection of marriage and the family and the right of parents to bring up children are laid down in the Basic Law. A reference to children's rights does not yet exist there. That has to change.
Attention to the subject of children's rights has certainly increased in Germany in recent years. It is definitely perceived that and what problems there are. This definitely applies to the area of child abuse and child sexual abuse. Overall, however, I'm still too slow. That is why the Academy is also committed to child representative, comparable to the military representative. This is only responsible to parliament and not subordinate to ministry, and it has numerous rights. There should also be such commissioner for children. For example, he could check whether new bills and children's rights are compatible.
DÄ: What would change if children's rights were anchored in the Basic Law? Gahr: I think that could make difference in many areas. Take the kindergartens in Germany as an example. In an international comparison, our childcare ratio is poor, which means that there are far too few teachers for too many children. This may not be problem for children from middle-class family because they are well supported at home. But children from other social classes depend on learning in kindergarten and taking with them what is lacking at home. But that does not work if there are too few educators who can take care of such disadvantaged children intensively, for example in the area of language training. DÄ: What annoys you currently especially when it comes to the topic of children's rights in Germany is leaving? Gahr: At the moment lot of refugee families are coming to Germany. It is just becoming clear again that the children are very poorly cared for here. But Germany has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.That means: It has committed itself to ensuring the best possible protection and the best possible care for all children in the country. In fact, children in refugee or asylum shelters are currently poorly cared for.
Recently there was reports of home where guards appeared to have mistreated refugees. But measles cases also occurred there. This is an indication of inadequate care and lack of vaccinations. Colleagues have also told me of two cases in which refugee children died because they were late to the doctor. This can happen, for example, if you became seriously ill on Friday afternoon and it was only possible to clarify on Monday whether the costs for more comprehensive medical treatment would be covered.
DÄ: Which gaps in the area of children's rights do you perceive children who live here permanently? Gahr: We are concerned that the health of children depends so much on the social status of their family. They are more affected by obesity, mental health problems and other things that we summarize under the term new morbidities if they come from family with low social status. Your health well-being is therefore massively dependent on the status of your parents, and it must not stay that way. We know that health and education depend on social status. But too little is being done to counter this linkage.
DÄ: Are there approaches in other countries to strengthen children's rights, of which you say: this or that could very well be imported? Gahr: From the Scandinavian countries, for example, you can take very good care codes for kindergartens. Sweden is not rich country, but the state does it there. Take another example: support from school psychologists. I live in Saxony, where handful are currently employed for all schools in the Free State. That is far too few.
In Sweden there is school psychologist for every school as contact person and kind of school nurse who is on site for health issues. You can do lot, you just have to want it. Germany should actually have the money for this. In any case, such investments in the future would be worthwhile.