Kulmbach house “sternstunden”: a perfect world for abused children

Kulmbach house

Ole (name changed by the editors) did not know affection. He grew up in a homeless shelter and experienced fatherly violence as a very young child. Ole had to be hospitalized several times, then came to foster parents and to various youth welfare facilities, which he always had to leave after a short time. He found no support anywhere. He was homeless when he entered the "sternstunden" children's home two years ago as a four-year-old where severely traumatized children find a home.

As if frozen

"The little boy was frozen, couldn't show any emotion", remembers udo dirks, who runs the sibling gummi foundation's facility at schiebgraben. A facility without equal in bavaria. "Because we are the only ones who take in severely traumatized children as young as three years old", as edeltraud dahlhoff, who heads the "family and education" department, explains of the rubber foundation.

Building a relationship

Because the bavarian broadcasting company's aid organization supported the project, the children's home, which was opened in 2015, is called "sternstunden". It is a newly built duplex in which the psychological wounds inflicted on children between the ages of three and eight by their own parents are supposed to heal. Like ole, all 13 other residents have experienced beatings, sexual abuse and neglect. "You could never trust anyone. Our goal is therefore first of all to build up a relationship with them, to give them security", says udo dirks.

Children cannot believe it

No easy task for the 16-strong team of social pedagogues, trauma pedagogues, educators and psychologists. "Because these are children who cannot believe that there are people who care about them and want to help them."

The example of oles shows that it is extremely difficult work. Emotionally "frozen when he came to kulmbach, says the trauma pedagogue. "He was motionless, couldn't even cry.", reports dirks. Ole lived in a world of his own, had linguistic and physical deficits "because his father and mother never took care of him".

He bites and scratches

Because no one understood him, problems arose in the children's home as well. Ole had quickly become aggressive. "He had experienced at home that problems were solved with violence, and then tried to do the same in his new world." At the board game the pieces flew fast. Ole scratched, even bit. Showing youngsters that they don't have to be beaten, but that there are other ways of dealing with frustration, is a task that the "sternstunden" children's home is tackling-team puts. "We try to help the children recognize their own feelings, cope with stress, develop stability, come to terms with their bodies and their environment."

Waiting for punishment

An environment that the little ones encounter with great skepticism. If they had knocked over a glass of water at home, they cursed because they were threatened with punishment. At the beginning, they had also taken refuge in the children's home "because they expected violence, dirks reports. Of course they did not have to be afraid. The caretakers love the children "they were allowed to stay here, no matter what they were doing," says. At the same time, the boys and girls display extreme behavior, for which there is an explanation, according to dirks. Spitting or biting expressed their helplessness. Ole had done his emergency toilet in the room. It wasn't a silly joke, but a cry for help. "It was a sign that he was there, even if he did not want to be there."

Many things fall apart

It's not just glass that breaks in the children's home. Windows or doors are also damaged again and again. "It is good that we have the youth workshop of the rubber foundation for repairs at hand", says edeltraud dahlhoff, who makes it clear that there will be no harsh punishments in the event of damage "even if some kind of reparation is naturally demanded to show that it can't be done that way".

Not only the doors, but also the injuries of the little ones are to be repaired. If possible, the parents are involved in the therapy. Despite the negative experiences, the longing for father and mother is great, says udo dirks: "ole is happy when his mother visits him, even if he feels that she was unable to protect him from his father's violence."

"A fulfilling task"

Over the years, the children's home becomes a substitute home for him and the other kids. Here, the boys and girls learn how to ride a bike, swim and ski, they go on excursions and go on vacation together – and it's not just the kids who enjoy it. Dirks: "it is also a fulfilling task for us educators."

What will become of ole?

The goal is "for the children to learn to come to terms with what they have experienced. Whether ole is on the right track? The trauma pedagogue is convinced of this. "I have a picture in my mind that shows him at 35 years old as a man who masters his life." It's still a long way to go, and after several years in the children's home, the boy will probably first be sent to a therapeutic residential group. The six-year-old has long since woken up from his state of shock. When little ole discovers udo dirks in the conference room, his eyes light up. The boy runs towards the attendant, clinging to his left leg. "Come to us today?", he asks, eager for a "yes" waiting. Ole gets to know happy feelings. He learns to live with his trauma at the children's home.

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