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Study: Youth welfare network covered child abuse for years

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Study: Youth welfare network covered child abuse for years

Important actors in reform pedagogy have allowed sexual violence against children and young people for decades. According to a study by the University of Hildesheim, a nationwide youth welfare network operated until the 2000s.

Berlin (epd). A nationwide network of social educators, authorities and scientists covered sexual violence in child and youth welfare until the 2000s. According to a study by the University of Hildesheim presented on Friday in Berlin, the network surrounding the sexologist Helmut Kentler, who died in 2008, extended from Göttingen to Berlin, Hanover, Tübingen, Lüneburg and the Odenwald School in Hesse. The actors, who, among other things, held leading positions in the Berlin State Youth Welfare Office, had represented pedophile positions since the 1960s.

The focus was on the so-called Kentler experiment, in which the youth welfare offices deliberately placed children and young people with pedophile foster fathers with the aim of resocialization. Kentler himself held a leading position at the Berlin Pedagogical Center, a Senate authority, and was a professor of social education at the Technical University of Hanover from 1967 to 1976. He also worked in institutions of the Protestant church.

In the study commissioned by the Berlin education administration, six affected people, among others, have their say. In addition, 1,100 educational administration files were evaluated.

The scientists working with Hildesheim Professor of Social and Organizational Education Wolfgang Schröer state that the Kentler experiment has completely lost its boundaries and was covered by an “old boys network”. These included senior employees in youth welfare offices as well as home managers and scientists.

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The authors speak of a “powerful collaboration between science, experts and authorities” who, together over decades, have established a specialist practice in youth welfare that includes sexual violence. “And authorities like the then Berlin State Youth Welfare Office provided the infrastructure,” said Schröer.

Sexualized violence against young people was consciously accepted by actors in the authorities in the spirit of reform pedagogy and residential care reform: “It was tolerated, legitimized and supported.” According to Schröer, criticism of this was also fended off for a long time in the scientific and professional society scene and trivialized

The study is the third review report on the complex after interim reports from 2020 and 2022. The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) is also currently having Helmut Kentler’s work in the church area examined. A first preliminary study was presented in July 2023.

The Independent Commission for the Comprehension of Child Sexual Abuse stated that the report makes it clear how powerful these structures are to this day. A legal right to inspect files could make the perpetrators and networks visible. Political will is needed for this.

The federal government’s abuse commissioner, Kerstin Claus, emphasized that the investigation into sexual violence against children in youth welfare services was overdue. The results made it clear that problematic case histories in youth welfare services must be systematically reviewed and the causes analyzed.

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