Evaluation of socio-pedagogical group offers for children and adolescents in outpatient youth welfare" (Socio-pedagogical group offers & evaluation – "SOGREV")

Since 2020 (ongoing) / Lead: Prof. Tamara Fischmann (SFI/IPU)

Funded by the IDeA Center (Individual Development and Adaptive Education of Children at Risk)

Project description
In the project "SOGREV", a socio-educational group offer for children and adolescents who are already in outpatient individual case assistance by the youth welfare office is implemented and evaluated. Due to existing behavioral or family problems, these children are already being cared for by a pedagogical specialist for an average of 6 hours per week. In the case of these children, it is often the case that due to various circumstances (dysfunctional family system, socially precarious living conditions, psychological conspicuities) they have great difficulty establishing contact with peers, for which, however, they often long for. Problems in the social sphere are facilitated by social anxiety, as this can lead to children disengaging very quickly (cf. de Ljister et al., 2018, Spence & Rapee, 2016). A particular difficulty here is that such withdrawal reinforces insecurities and anxiety, as children are now even less exposed to regular social contact (cf. Johnston & Iarocci, 2017). Anxiety disorders are also among the most common childhood disorders (Essau, NcNicol, Doubleday, 2006, cited in Göttken, et al., 2014), as more than 5% of all children in Germany will meet the criteria for such a disorder at least once over a period of time. This percentage is likely to be significantly higher for the children studied and supported by the "SOGREV" project, as problematic behaviors or family problems are already known here.

Due to the corona crisis and associated contact restrictions, anxiety and other stresses were significantly increased, especially in this group of children, as initial results of the COPSY study by Ravens-Sieberer et al. (2020) have already shown. Based on these results, they argue for target group-specific and low-threshold prevention offers (ibid., p. 829) in order to intercept the stresses that have arisen as quickly as possible.

Through the Frankfurter Wirksamkeitsstudie (Leuzinger-Bohleber & Fischmann, 2010) and the EVA project (Fischmann et al. 2020; Leuzinger-Bohleber et al., 2017), it has already been shown how effective targeted prevention projects can be with children, adolescents, and families who already exhibit problematic behaviors from which not only others, but above all often they themselves, suffer. Even if only aggregated data are reported in these scientific evaluations, behind them there are always family and individual fates in their sum. From our point of view, an offer that takes place in a group of children & adolescents can be a particularly helpful means to complement existing youth assistance and to promote the children and adolescents purposefully in contact with their peers. The pedagogical concept mainly includes leisure activities that take place on weekends. The individual offers have superordinate and subordinate goals in order to support the children and adolescents in their development. Superordinate goals are the reduction of anxiety and the improvement of aspects relevant to relationships with peers. Subordinate goals may be getting to know the neighborhoods, awakening new interests, or learning how to use social media safely. All offers are designed to give the children and young people pleasure in dealing with their peers and security in the group. This includes, for example, bicycle excursions, Fifa tournaments (digital soccer game), sports activities, media education offerings and cooking competitions. In summary, the basic aim of the program is to create a particularly protected environment in which children and young people can enter into social relationships with their peers with as little fear as possible. It should be emphasized that social group work (according to §29 SGBVIII) achieves particularly high effects in promoting resources such as social integration, autonomy, and self-confidence (Macsenaere & Knab, 2004; cited in Macsenare 2019), but is only used by 5 in 100,000 young people in the new federal states (Fendrich et al., 2016; cited in Macsenare, ibid.). The Youth Welfare Office of the City of Frankfurt does not currently provide assistance under this paragraph.