Akinda, voluntary guardians in Germany: Comparison between the realities of Palermo and Berlin

8 October 2018 | Migration, News

Roberta Lo Bianco, our Migration Unit Coordinator and rewarded by Fondazione Cariplo for being one of the first voluntary guardians of unaccompanied minors in Italy, shares the discovery of voluntary guardians system in Germany and the Akinda project.

Here is her story about the study visit.

From 1th to 4th October, I went to Berlin as in December 2017, Fondazione Cariplo  has given me a prize as one of the first person in Italy to assume the role of voluntary guardian of unaccompanied foreign minors. I have received, as an unexpected prize, a study visit in Berlin to discover organisation working with unaccompanied minors and voluntary guardians.

Finally, the fateful day is arrived and here I am in the cold and rainy Berlin, with a fixed appointment with the association Xenion e.V, specifically with Claudia Schippel, to know the project Akinda. It’s a project of psico-social intervention that is included in a network of three organizations that form and advise the voluntary guardians in Berlin.

Akinda offers support, counselling and formative programs to volunteers that have assumed voluntarily the role of guardians.

Also in the case of Berlin, the figure of the voluntary guardian has been designed after a reflection that the guardian identified at institutional level was inadequate to guarantee a takeover process of alone minors living in the territory of Berlin. Inadequate because it was almost formal as the public tutors had more than 50 safeguards each; this meant that no personal relationships were activated with the kids.

In the period 2012-2013 when the number of unaccompanied minors received in Berlin increased, it became necessary the launch of a call addressed to a civil society for the recruitment of voluntary guardians. The answer was significant and Akinda, with a partial financial support from the municipality, started to care about the selection, training, monitoring and support of mentors in accompanying paths of boys and girls aged 15-16 years, which is the average age of them.

Akinda offers a structured path to volunteer guardians, and it is important to share this approach also with the institutions that in cities such as Palermo deal with this area, and with the Guarantors for childhood and adolescence at the metropolitan and regional level. In fact Akinda offers:

  • Informative events once a month for everybody who is interested to have more information about this voluntary role.
  • Counselling and individual interview to know the reasons, attitudes, competences and qualifications of applicant.
  • A training obligatory program about intercultural competences, sensitization for stereotypes and prejudice; introduction to the legal framework in which the voluntary guardian is involved; reflection on the role and the duties of guardians; introduction to the Asylum and migration current laws; finally, a presentation of the situation of minors in the youth system welfare.
  • Matching among volunteers and minors, in collaboration with the educators of social service of Berlin
  • Support e monitoring of voluntary guardian
  • Regular trainings in current topics (education system, trauma, legal frames for residence of minor, asylum procedure, etc.
  • Phone counselling that offers legal and pedagogic counselling and accompanies guardians specially concerning conflicts with the institutions or relationship difficulties with minors taken over.
  • Promotion of networking among guardians by offering group meetings and colleague supervision

Furthermore, Akinda has also identified another support figure for foreign unaccompanied minors who is supportive for voluntary guardians too: the mentor.  A voluntary figure too, the mentor’s task is to search formative, recreational, working opportunities for minors in the German territory. Therefore, this figure collaborates closely with guardians and it is a fundamental resource in the social-work inclusion paths of migrant minors.

Thank you to Claudia Schippel e Anna Lutteroth for their availability and kindness; Aliou Diop of Sunigal to have participated to this meeting, sharing the experience of Milano and overall the Fondazione Cariplo who has allowed me such enrichment and exchange of experiences.