Escort, encourage, empower – Advising parents in Dortmund in difficult situations
As part of the German wortundtat project, Stern im Norden, Karen Prause regularly invites parents from the neighbourhood. As a first point of contact, she gives them the chance to unload their questions, talk about the letter they’ve received from an agency office, help them apply for housing allowance or other support or share tips with them on raising children. In an interview, Karen Prause talks about what is needed if you want to advise parents in Dortmund like her.
Karen, you’ve been a part of our Parents’ Café for many years. What questions do people ask you?
Many parents need help with job centre papers or asylum matters. Actually, I advise on everything that German bureaucracy affects regarding family matters. Especially for people who are foreign to our culture, this bureaucracy is often mindboggling. Some need help with résumés or to prepare for a job interview. They seek my advice on educational issues, questions about our culture or marital problems.
I can help people where they can’t make it on their own. Recently, I had a situation where the Housing Allowance Office was waiting for the decision of the Child Allowance Office and the Child Allowance Office was waiting for the decision of the Housing Allowance Office. A stalemate at the cost of the person concerned, who then temporarily had to face financial difficulties. Here I was able to mediate between the parties and thus defuse the situation. In another case, I was able to help a woman and her three children, whose father had died. It is always incredibly challenging to face a bereavement. Now imagine what this is like for a Moroccan widow who lives here alone in a foreign culture. In addition, he was buried when COVID-19 measures were in place. It is impossible to cope with all this alone and to navigate the jungle of death insurance, pension applications and funeral forms without knowing our laws and regulations. In such situations, we can be a huge help and encouragement.
“People know that they’re getting correct advice”
There are many reasons … On the one hand, I have been offering this advice at Stern steadily for many years. Continuity is especially important. We are reliable Another factor is good word of mouth. People know that we advise people correctly and we refer them to other operators – such as lawyers or consumer agencies if we cannot solve the situation. In addition, we usually have someone on hand who can interpret.
Do you get positive feedback on your advisory work?
Quite often. Recently, a young man came back to us over the moon. He was waving the papers in his hand that we’d been preparing so that he could apply. He was so thrilled when he showed them to me.
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