According to UNICEF, more than 5.5 million children are in urgent need of help across the Syrian region. The Federal Emergency Programme allows for the temporary admission of 55,000 children up to 17 years of age, given that a financial sponsor or foster family can be provided. We cannot help all the people in Syria who deserve aid. But as a society we can help one in a hundred children.
The government of the Federal Republic of Germany presented draft law 18/1333 to the Bundestag on 8 May 2014 setting the legal framework for the admission of especially vulnerable children from Syria. The following persons are deemed especially vulnerable: children whose parents were or are in prison, orphans, older boys in danger of arrest and children able to provide evidence of their families’ homelessness or financial hardship. The programme allows for the temporary admission of 55,000 children of up to 17 years of age given that a financial sponsor or foster family can be provided. Their admission is based on Section 23 (2) and (3) together with Section 24 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz). Children are to be separated from their parents on a purely temporary basis.
As trustee, the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (hereafter: BMFSFJ) can only provide a general guarantee for a maximum of 500 children at a time. New guarantees are issued once one of these children finds a private guarantor (or sponsor).
Bearing in mind that private accommodation in foster families amounts to only a third of costs for accommodation in a children’s home, the federal government prefers children to be placed in family-like accommodation. To that end, the BMFSFJ was instructed to launch its “1 in a 100” campaign in order to identify potential German foster homes. The campaign is first and foremost directed at stress-resilient couples and experienced adults with a mixed cultural background. Foster families and family-like foster homes accustomed to dealing with feelings of alienation are primarily targeted. Foster parents will be in charge of providing a secure and caring environment for their foster children for a limited amount of time. Likewise, psychological stress is to be reduced to a minimum in order to ensure children are able to return home upon termination of the conflict. The federal government intends to only separate infants from their relatives in cases of emergency, i.e. when they are not able to leave the country together with their families.
The government’s aim of placing 55,000 children in temporary full-time care is one of the most ambitious projects in recent German history. The federal government hopes to send a signal to other countries flagging the importance of ensuring the refugee crisis is no longer ignored. The aim is to see similar initiatives be put into place in all EU member states in order to relieve directly adjacent states of their pressure. According to UNICEF, more than 5.5 million children are in need of help across the region. For this reason, the protection and admission of Syrian children is a major concern for the federal government.
The „1 in a 100“ campaign will approach potential foster parents and provide comprehensive information on incentives and opportunities linked to their participation in the programme. A nation-wide appeal by Federal Minister of Family Affairs Manuela Schwesig was published in a selected number of national newspapers.
In order for the programme to be implemented in due course, the BMFSFJ supports all Länder and local authorities in offering comprehensive care for those children who cannot be placed in foster families. The federal government will provide up to EUR 40 million by the end of 2015 for the funding of additional places in children’s homes. The same legal provisions as for all foreign minors with tolerated residence titles apply (according to Section 12 (2) and (4) of the German Law on Residence). The children’s residence area is limited to their foster parents’ place of residence. Children may be granted permission to temporarily leave their tolerated area of residence to allow for participation in city trips, sports events and excursions. Permission must be applied for with the Minister of the Interior in the respective Land. Draft law 18/1333 explicitly excludes the possibility to apply for asylum.
If you wish to take a child into care within the Federal Emergency Programme, you do not have to be married. Single parents, unmarried and same-sex couples are equally authorised to participate as long as they are able to provide a stable and secure environment in which the child can flourish.
German nationality and a command of the Arab language are not a prerequisite for participation in the programme.
It is the government’s declared aim that all children can eventually return home to their families. Children are not adopted by their foster parents. The child is and remains the natural child of his or her parents. You must be aware of the fact that parents and relatives can demand the return of their children ahead of time. In addition, it is important to maintain the relationship between your foster child and his and her family. The programme guidelines aim for one telephone call per week depending on individual circumstances. All telephone calls will be assisted by a professional.
Children need space to play and study. You should therefore dispose of ample living space. This, however, does not mean that the child must have his or her own room from the beginning as he or she wil not be accustomed to German “welfare state” standards. Younger children are allowed to share a room.
You should not be more than 69 years of age when the child reaches the age of majority.
A secure residence permit for Germany is mandatory. A limited residence permit does not suffice. In addition, you should dispose of a stable income and be financially independent of the funds you will receive for your foster child.
You will not be alone with any problems that might occur and have access to professional support at all times. Stiftung Zuflucht (Foundation Shelter) and its consultants will give you advice when needed. Children will receive German language training in close proximity to your place of residence.
The government’s declared aim is the return of all children to their home country. Children will be separated from their parents on a purely temporary basis. According to a resolution by the Conference of State Ministers of the Interior, children who are part of the programme are to remain in Germany until the existing hazards in their home country have been eliminated or until children have reached the age of majority and/or completed vocational training. The latter does not apply to regular employment contracts. According to the above-mentioned decision, the children in question are not considered immigrants. The State Ministers of the Interior have the final say in the duration of the stay as well as visiting regulations for families. Children admitted within the programme will not be adopted by their foster parents. Children are and remain the natural children of their parents. Legal custodians can demand the return of their child at all times. The Federal Foreign Office will make the final decision on whether a return to his or her home country is in the child’s best interest. Foster parents are to provide a guarantee for repatriation amounting to EUR 1,000 where possible. If no guarantee can be provided, the German state will take on the costs that incur with regard to the children’s repatriation.
“The Syrian regime has rendered the lives of civilians impossible. The majority has left the besieged towns. It is only the poorest of the poor who remain under siege and bombardment in cities such as Aleppo. Every day, children in these towns experience terrible things. How could such an existence leave a child’s heart unaffected?”
Manuela Schwesig, Federal Minister of Family Affairs (SPD)
(on 7 April 2014 on the occasion of the programme’s presentation at Caritas Germany in Mainz)
Note: If you wish to apply as foster family you need to have a secure residence permit for Germany as well as a good command of the German language. In order to apply, please switch to German (menu above, right). The application process involves several interviews one of which will take place in your home. During these interviews, you will have to complete different tasks and comment on various topics and questions such as your views on parenting and the Arab world. Please note: A timely submission of the application form does not automatically entitle you to caring for a foster child. The final decision lies with the Ministry of Family Affairs. The Ministry reviews the suitability of all applicants and reserves the right to reject applications without providing reasons.
Any questions? Call us!
Service No. +49-(0)30 679 25 773
The Federal Emergency Programme has several press spokespersons responsible for the recruitment of foster families, travel regulations and entry permits (available during the week and on weekends: +49 30 648 31 712).
Simone Kantala is Head of the Information and Press Department and is affiliated with the Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ).
Phone: +49 30 648 31 712
Fax: +49 30 20 655-1111
Zaina Lindner is Head of Public Relations for the Arab speaking world, affiliated with the Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ).
Phone: +49 30 648 31 712
Fax: +49 30 20 655-1111
Volkmar Gruber is Head of Department 2 (Family) at the Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) and is responsible for coordination between foster families and children.
Phone: +49 30 648 31 712
Fax: +49 30 20 655-1111
Isabella von Ohoven is the Programme’s spokesperson and is affiliated with the German Wollheim Foundation.
Phone: +49 30 679 28 633