Germany must do more to protect its children from abuse, according to a new report released by the children's charity "Deutsche Kinderhilfe." The charity pointed to "structural problems" in the youth care system.
The children's charity said it was "shocked" at the new police figures for 2015, which found that 130 children were killed in Germany last year - 81 percent of whom were under six years old. That represented a significant increase on the 108 killed in 2014.
"Three dead children per week, 11 abused and 38 sexually abused per day - that shows that violence against children has become a part of everyday life," said Kathinka Beckmann, social studies professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Koblenz.
"Children are victims of violence and abuse every day," Holger Münch, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office, said in a statement. "They're neglected, sexually abused, and the pictures of the abuse are published on the Internet. Child pornography is a mass phenomenon."
Other crimes, however, showed a slight drop compared to 2014, with the number of abuse victims dropping by nearly 7 percent. Similarly the number of sexual abuse and rape victims also dropped, though only slightly, by just over 3 percent.
But at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday, which happened to be International Children's Day, the children's charity said it "did not share the optimism" of the German government about the effects of its new children's protection law adopted four years.
"Resting on the measures of the child protection law passed four years ago is not possible with these figures, especially since this law hasn't solved the structural problems of youth protection; namely, the orientation around economic instead of needs-based standards," the charity said.
Berlin-based social worker Kerstin Kubisch-Piesk, cited two examples during the press conference when child protection workers were not able to attend to calls, either for lack of a car or because the distance to cover was too great. "This shows both that child protection offices remain underfunded and understaffed," she said.
"Child protection and quality do not come for free," she said. "The staff reductions have left the child protection offices at the limit of their capacity ... reflection and analysis is lacking. The quality of a measure does not determine whether it will be continued or implemented, but its cost."
Cooperation is the key
Beckmann chimed in with this, calling one of the main problems the insufficient number of house visits when dangerous situations are reported. The professor said that some 17 percent of threatened children have no contact with youth protection officers.
But the public image of state child protection offices was also a factor, according to Kubisch-Piesk. "The picture of the child protection office is of taking children away," she said. In fact, she argued those offices always function when they are able to cooperate with families.
"The cooperation with families is the core task of child protection," she said. "Because anyone who isn't able to establish contact with the family in a crisis is threatened with failure."
"Protecting children is no voluntary act of charity, but one of the fundamental duties of the state," said Rainer Becker, chairman of Deutsche Kinderhilfe. "We're not asking for support, but for a paradigm shift. We want more money and more time for quality; we want the voices of all involved, the individual employees, the children and their families, to be heard."