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100 years of support for Denmark’s parents and children

Oak Foundation Denmark / Partner story

Photo by Josué AS on Unsplash 

In towns and cities across Denmark, families have somewhere to turn if they need a helping hand. Whether they need the friendship of coffee mornings and playtime, or advice on seeking counselling, Mothers’ Aid (Mødrehjælpen in Danish) is there for them. 

Behind these busy local associations is a story of more than 100 years of support, standing by pregnant women and families in vulnerable positions. 

In the early 1900s, single mothers in Denmark living in poverty had few options but to work long hours to provide for their children. By 1924, two private organisations providing women’s refuge and adoption services merged, and Mothers’ Aid was formed. For the next half century, the organisation would support single mothers to care for their children, and expand to provide advice on pregnancy, legal matters, education, and health. 

Following a temporary closure, the need for this work remained. In 1983, former staff and new faces re-established Mothers’ Aid as an independent social-humanitarian organisation, offering support and counselling to pregnant women and families. 

“Every day we see families in vulnerable positions that need an extra hand to participate in society on equal terms,” says director Ninna Thomsen. “We are proud to have been that helping hand for so many years, empowering parents to provide their children with love, safety, and security.” 

Today Mothers’ Aid is a large national organisation, guided by a purpose to provide social, financial, educational, and health-related support to pregnant women and families. By offering help and support to parents, it aims to provide a better upbringing, livelihood, and living conditions for their children. It runs projects for young parents, and parents and children affected by domestic violence. And it campaigns on issues relating to families, including better help for families in crisis and eliminating child poverty. 

Its counselling service is a lifeline for parents to talk through issues such as divorce, children’s wellbeing, and escaping abuse. In 2022, Mothers’ Aid supported 11,578 pregnant women, parents, and children in this way. 

“One fantastic case manager gave me such helpful advice during the most testing time of mine and my children’s lives. I can’t thank you enough for being there for us,” says one woman who received face-to-face counselling.  

At 43 local associations, volunteers provide advice and run social events (more than 22,000 parents and children participated in such events in 2022) to help families build their support networks. Today this includes activities designed for fathers too. While the purpose of Mothers’ Aid remains constant, the nature of its support is ever evolving in response to social changes and the issues affecting vulnerable families. Right now, the highest inflation in 40 years is driving a record demand for Mothers’ Aid services. “Every day we meet families who cannot afford food, heating, clothing, rent… Poverty is not for children!” says Ninna. 

The need is evident in the website’s advice pages, which now feature tips for free summer holiday activities and advice to cope with large energy bills. One mother who received support at Christmas says: “It means that we can get through December with fewer worries and some spare money for the important things. That doesn’t mean big gifts, but we can go out a bit more, be together as a family, and do some Christmas baking.” 

We cannot anticipate all the challenges that families may face in the coming decades – but we can be certain that Mothers’ Aid is ready and able to meet them. 

At Oak, we are proud to have funded Mødrehjælpen (Mothers’ Aid) since our foundation began. We support organisations in Denmark that provide innovative solutions to improve the lives of socially vulnerable and marginalised groups at the community level. For 40 years, Oak Foundation Denmark  and Oak’s Special Interest Programme have always been with Mothers’ Aid, supporting its significant growth – including funding for a new office in Aalborg – as it evolves to meet the needs of pregnant women and families today.