Germany’s welfare system treats abused children for the symptoms of their traumas and often sends them through a maze of referrals and insufficient treatment avenues. Claus Gollmann has created an inpatient diagnostic institution—Kind in Düsseldorf—that enables doctors, social pedagogues, therapists, families, and caretakers to build their treatment on a proper assessment of root causes and to work hand in hand with one another. KiD has developed into a knowledge center for all relevant stakeholders in a field seeking creative and practical solutions.
During Claus’ work with abused children in an outpatient center at a hospital in the late 1980s, he became frustrated with the reality of only a few hours of diagnosis determining a child’s future. He knew that the solution to a child’s trauma needs to go beyond physical health and be anchored in multidisciplinary social solutions. In order to buy time to decide the best next steps for children in crisis, Claus and his team began to commit kids to the children’s ward of the hospital for minor physical ailments. He realized that a great deal of important diagnostic information resides in the observations of the nurses who spend their days with the kids. Based on these combined insights, he opened an inpatient diagnostic center, Kind in Düsseldorf (KiD—Child in Dusseldorf), where children may stay up to six months and live together with therapists, social and child care workers, as well as psychologists. This setting and regimen for care brings together several disciplines that were previously separate: It enables them to both delve deeper into the complex psychodynamics of the families and understand the root causes of the trauma.
In addition to its diagnostic function, KiD has developed into a center that reaches out to all players working with abused children. Youth welfare officers, sometimes unclear about where to place children, now feel relieved to have the possibility to send them to KiD because of the deeper diagnoses it ensures. Also, referral institutions, such as children’s homes or foster families, have found a partner in KiD. Even family courts, lawyers, and parents appreciate the experience and knowledge of KiD. Begun in Dusseldorf in 1994, KiD has become the practical knowledge center for a wide range of institutions, shifting the way the welfare system works. Although the six-month diagnostics and referrals by KiD are more expensive than “normal” referrals, 50 youth welfare offices actively refer children to KiD and follow their recommendations for treatment in a majority of cases. 400 children have been diagnosed by KiD so far. Claus is also training welfare officers in intense three-day workshops on how to work with traumatized children, giving speeches at conferences for doctors on this topic as well as training a wide range of other groups, including police officers, lawyers, and child care workers.
In 2008 with the help of a foundation, Claus replicated his work in Hannover using a mix of social franchise and open source management and plans to start two more facilities in Berlin and Hamburg within the upcoming year. He is also working to establish national quality standards for youth welfare officers and institutions working with abused children, as well as a certification body to guarantee and uphold these standards. Claus aims to ensure that every child suffering from abuse receives a diagnosis that reflects state-of-the-art standards and meets the child and family’s particular needs.
Claus describes himself as having led a double life during his teenage years. On the one hand, he was very engaged in Catholic youth groups and reconciliation work between German and Eastern European youth. His aunt was the founder of a famous private development foundation and was one of the early advocates for empowerment and self-help in development aid.