Keywords Search

25. Family Office

25.1. Short description

Each family is different and has different needs, problems and concepts of their individual family life (for example concerning child-care facilities or the reconciliation of family and job). In everyday life, it is sometimes not easy for parents to find a suitable contact person for their individual concerns and needs. “Surely it cannot be that everyone calls up the office in order to get a child care facility”27, explained the head of the Youth Office. In 2003, the office for children, youth and families set up a Family Office, which forms part of the Youth Office. Its primary goal is providing advice with respect to family-related issues. The office understands itself as a kind of signpost through the jungle of German bureaucracy. Concurrently, the office is supposed to serve as a kind of “ambassador for the Youth Office”28, fighting against the negative image of the Office. It is located in the same building. With its own outside entrance, the Family Office invites parents to enter:

“You don’t need an appointment. You can leave the office without giving any personal data. That is the particular feature of the Family Office the clients appreciate.”29

25.2. Conceptions and ways of addressing users

The employees of the Family Office understand themselves as service providers. “We are the ‘citizens’ advice office for parents and families”30. During daily consultation hours and via the telephone they support people in difficult situations by putting them in contact with specialised social service institutions. Their clients range from the pregnant women who need advice about financial assistance, grandparents who are concerned about their grandchild, the uncle who asks about playgrounds in the city, to the mother who is concerned about her 16-year-old son skipping school31.

In addition, the Family Office enables flexible access to child care facilities and baby-minders. Furthermore, a representative of the local Jobcenter is integrated in the facility, providing advice in respect to employment issues.

The Family Office is highly frequented. Contacts with clients range between 5,000 and 6,000 per annum, of which 60 per cent are related to topics of child care, and 40 per cent to a wide range of topics, amongst those labour market topics or family crises (Youth Office Münster 2011). The Family Office plays a particularly important role for socially disadvantaged families in Münster. It wants to be perceived as a kind of “admission ticket” for any further contacts with the Youth Office, as a representative of the Family Office explains.

25.3. Internal organisation and modes of working

The team of the Family Office is composed of two pedagogues. Due to their educational background, they are well positioned to detect the underlying problems of their clients. “Often parents feel when something goes wrong they are not able to localise the real problem”32. That is why the Family Office does not employ administrative staff who primarily hand over address lists. The employees of the Family Office see their function as a signpost for clients. Their job is to put the clients in touch with the right person in the right institution to solve their problems. This is to be achieved within a maximum of two contacts (by phone or personally) between the client and the Family Office. Staff also supports clients by establishing contact with specific institutions (e.g. counselling or child-care facilities).

Both employees consider networking a very important aspect of their work. Consequently, they cooperate with local politicians as well as with service providers (advice centres, family educational institutions etc.)33 Due to existing networks and word-of-mouth-recommendation, the office is also well known outside the municipality.

25.4. Interaction with the local welfare system

The Family Office is the flagship of the Youth Office, presenting it as service provider. It can be seen as the starting point in this process of image change. Both Family Office and the prevention visits have very similar goals: improving the image of the Youth Office; more “customer focus” and expanding the prevention policy as a central pillar in local welfare policy. This new understanding is based on an increasing differentiation of social services on all political levels over the past decades. The Family Office underlines its new role as service provider and partner for the families by the fact that its employees are pedagogues, not administrative staff, and they maintain close relationships with other local stakeholders (from local politics and civil society). Local welfare policy seems to work more and more in networks as opposed to operating in a hierarchical process. This is also underlined by the establishment process, which was led by the highly embedded and active head of the Youth Office.

Unlike the prevention visits, the Family Office serves as a flagship for the whole municipality in presenting the city as a family-oriented city. In 2011, the Family Office received 6,641 enquiries (5,000 was the aspired number for 2011). Overall, the number of requests is rising continuously (from 5,421 in 2009 to 6,641 in 2011; Youth Office Münster 2012: 97). Implementing prevention policy is only one part of the daily work. Most requests concern child-care facilities and the issue of reconciliation of work and private life. The Family Office has turned into an important institution in the field of child-care politics. It is a kind of lighthouse that adds to the city’s reputation even beyond the municipality. Only 9 per cent of the municipalities in North-Rhine Westphalia have a Family Office, at federal level only about 3 per cent34. “Münster has taken up the cause of the reconciliation of work and private life. This is the topic of the future per se35, a representative of the Family Office explains in an interview. This indicates the importance generally ascribed to the labour market in Münster.

The evaluation of the prevention visits, interviews with employees of the Youth Office and local media coverage regarding the innovations indicate the success of both measures in changing the image of the Youth Office and establishing better connections to families. This can ensure more effective protection of children as well as serve the different needs of families, while strengthening Münster’s image as a family-friendly city at the same time.


Content keywords

Keywords: Activation | Activation policies | Case management | Child care | Child education | Citizen initiatives | Citizenship | Civil society | Co-funding | Co-production | Collaboration | Community | Community development | Democracy | Deregulation | Development | Diffusion | Disability | Employment services | Empowerment | Enabling | Entrepreneurialism | Entrepreneurship | European Social Fund | Family caregivers | Family Centres | Family needs | Family-minded | Gentrification | Governance | Grassroots initiatives | Housing corporation | Housing policy | Incubator | Integration | Labour market | Labour market integration | Local context | Local governance | Local governments | Local initiatives | Local welfare | Local welfare system | Lone mothers | Lone parent support | Micro-credit | Municipality | Neighbourhood | Neighbourhood revitalisation | Network | Networking | Participation | Partnerships | Personalising support | Political administrative system | Precarious working conditions | Preschool education | Privatisation | Public administration | Regional government | Segregation | Single mothers | Social and solidarity-based economy (SSE) | Social capital | Social cohesion | Social economy | Social enterprise | Social entrepreneurship | Social housing | Social housing policies | Social inclusion | Social investment | Social media | Subsidiarity | Sustainability | Third sector organisations | Unemployment | Urban gardening | Urban renewal | User choice | Welfare governance | Welfare mixes | Workfare | Young mothers | Youth unemployment

25. Family Office

Categories: Child and family care

25. Family Office