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Children of men

Appeared in Eltern/Family, 1/2015

Von Fotograf Sascha Montag und Autor Jan Rübel

When violent conflicts pits parents against their children, they hurry to the rescue: Berlin’s “Child Emergency Service” works around the clock. That’s the idea, anyway. Chronicle of a night shift.

“Let’s start with the easy part,” Grit Nickelsen says as she welcomes her replacement at shift change. “We have three kids downstairs. One’s eleven and a half. He was standing in a window frame threatening to fall out. We found a lamp plugged in and burning in his bed. The other two, from the same neighborhood, were yelling from the balcony that they were by themselves. One we took to the hospital with her mother. She was underfed and dehydrated and the apartment was a disaster area.” Stefan Müller, 48, pours himself a coffee. He stretches his back, legs wide apart, listening to what’s out there waiting for him in the night. “Now it’s a two-year-old. The police just called. Her mother was drinking and lost it. You should leave.”

Müller pulls an infant car seat from a file cabinet. Outside a taxi is already waiting for him and his coworker Dana Boldt. Kindernotdienst (KND) employees leave the office in pairs. There are difficult decisions to be made.

At the Schlesisches Tor U-Bahn station, homeless people gather around a campfire. The taxi glides southeastward towards Adlershof. Boldt and Müller often work the night shift, the time when neighbors are home to hear family life through the walls. The KND is an emergency service, springing into action after the Youth Office closes its doors at six p.m. and on weekends. Its employees take taxis because they’re cheaper than company cars and professional drivers. Taxis leave two pairs of hands free, in case they’re not alone on the ride back to the office …