The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the situation and well-being of children and their families, while simultaneously affecting the ability of welfare services for children and youth to support vulnerable families. As measures of contact restrictions were introduced to contain the virus, and schools and childcare facilities closed, the potential risk to child welfare could hardly be overlooked.
Focusing on Germany, this article aims to explore some of the effects of the COVID-19 measures on children and families. Furthermore, it examines a number of key challenges for child protection practitioners. These include identifying potential cases of child maltreatment without the support normally provided by teachers and child carers; and establishing and maintaining contact with clients under physical distancing rules.
The article is based on a review of German and English language scientific and journalistic articles, position papers from professional associations and other gray literature. It benefits from recently published (interim) results of empirical studies conducted in Germany, which explore child welfare issues in the pandemic.
Under COVID-19, the child welfare system faces unprecedented challenges and uncertainty (e.g. (partial) loss of cooperation opportunities with key partners) whilst showing signs of remarkable resilience (e.g. child protection workers’ ability to adjust to new conditions). While the potential of digitalising work processes in child protection has become apparent in the pandemic, the proven continuous face-to-face contact between practitioners and their clients is neither dispensable nor replaceable.