If you are pregnant and have a disability or learning disability, you may need extra help once your baby is born. Even if you have been able to cope with everyday life on your own or with your partner, you may now need a little more support. Luckily, there are several types of help that you can take advantage of. It is good to make use of this support. It's better than overextending yourself.
Mothers and fathers with disabilities, learning disabilities or a chronic illness are entitled to benefits for the care and support of their children. According to the law (SGB 9 § 78), there are two types of support for this: what are known in Germany as ‘parenting assistance’ and ‘accompanied parenthood’. In the case of accompanied parenthood, the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) provides assistance. You can get more information on your rights and on how you can get this kind of support by attending what’s known in Germany as ‘supplementary independent participation counselling’, or ‘EUTB’ (short for the German term). This type of counselling is free of charge. Organisations like Lebenshilfe e. V., disabled sports clubs, rehabilitation centres, and religious institutions that campaign for the rights of people with disabilities are all likely to provide such counselling.
Parenting assistance mainly provides help around the house and with looking after and caring for your children. This form of support is primarily intended for mothers with physical disabilities and for parents with chronic illnesses. Mothers and fathers who have learning disabilities can also benefit from parenting support. The person assisting you may help you with the care, companionship, or supervision of your child. You are free to decide which of these activities you would like to have support for. The rearing of your children is left to you and your partner. If you are granted parental assistance, you will either receive a fixed amount of money as a personal budget or a noncash benefit in kind. In the case of money, you will find a person who can help you on a regular basis yourself. This usually has the advantage that you can then decide for yourself at what times the person comes to you and what exactly they should do for you. They can also be relatives, friends or children who help you and whom you pay for their work as a parental assistant. If you receive a noncash benefit in kind instead of money, then you will be referred to a specific person who will support you. This person is also paid directly by the institution that approved your parental assistance. It's good to know that parental assistance does not replace any personal assistance you receive. You are still entitled to this regardless.
With accompanied parenthood, you receive support from pedagogic specialists. In Germany, this is also referred to ‘qualified assistance’, ‘family assistance’ or ‘help with raising children’. Such support is particularly useful for parents with learning disabilities. This support is also aimed at parents with mental illness or addiction problems. This form of help is the right one for you if you need short- or long-term help raising your child. The pedagogic staff will help you organise and cope with everyday life with your child. The focus is on your child’s development. It's about taking care of your health and eating well. The specialist can also help you make arrangements with the kindergarten, school, or civil authorities and to better manage your money. They can support you in a personal crisis or help you with problems at work. In most cases, the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) will draw up a plan for help with you from the start. This plan will be used to determine where and how much support you need. The costs are covered by social assistance for the integration of disabled people and youth welfare services. For ‘accompanied parenthood’, it doesn't matter whether you live in a home, a group home or your own apartment.
There are special parenting classes for people with disabilities that you can attend to learn more about parenting assistance. It is also helpful to talk to other people who have already made use of parenting assistance themselves. That way you can learn from their experiences. If you have any questions or problems, it is best to contact the Bundesverband behinderter oder chronisch kranker Eltern e.V. (Federal Association of Disabled or Chronically Ill Parents) or the Interessenvertretung selbstbestimmt Leben in Deutschland e.V. (Special Interest Group for Self-Determined Life in Germany). The Bundesvereinigung Lebenshilfe e.V. (Federal Association for Self Help) will provide you with further information on accompanied parenthood. They represent the interests of people with learning disabilities and provide counselling. You can also obtain information from your local Youth Welfare Office and from the institution responsible for integration assistance in your town or district.