German society can be described as extremely divergent (unequal) with respect to living circumstances and very diverse as regards the ethnic, cultural, material, religious or educational backgrounds of young people and their families.
This therefore requires child and youth services to
Actively combating all forms of racism and exclusion is a fundamental task common to all areas of child and youth services.
In German society, a slew of attributes can be defined that characterise very different living circumstances and cultural orientations found within the population (see "Youth milieus" in Germany: similarities and differences, Gender differences affecting life circumstances, Social inequality, Poverty, Migration and displacement, Disability). In addition to immigration background, which tends to be the main focus of discussion (more than one-third of minors in Germany have an immigration background with ties to a wide variety of countries of origin), such attributes include ethnicity or religious background, material status (almost one in five lives on the poverty line, subsisting on social security benefits), health status or restricted status due to disability, and gender. Youth services in Germany deals with young people (and their parents) with a wide variety of back stories, life coping strategies and opportunities.
Given this, it is an overarching commitment of youth services to consider the differences between the individual lifeworlds of its target groups and to familiarise itself with the wide variety of historical experiences and social and cultural reference frameworks of young people. Youth services must demonstrate itself to be sensitive to diversity, and find suitable modalities for reaching its audience and structuring services in a way that makes them accessible, acceptable and helpful to individuals and their personal backgrounds, and relevant to their everyday lives.
The experts and organisations involved in child and youth services face manifold challenges. Firstly, they must structure their services on the basis of nuanced analyses of and reflection on the different circumstances in which young people live. Additionally, educational, funding, participative and support services must be designed in a way that makes them accessible to people with different cultural backgrounds whilst asking how these services can be made relevant to the individual and social needs of the respective target audience. The final step is to make underlying structural changes to improve intercultural awareness in organisations and develop and incorporate diversity awareness and intercultural skills as key qualifications for youth work professionals.
Action that takes account of differences aims on the one hand to enable members of various subcultures (especially disadvantaged ones) to exercise their rights as democratic citizens on an equal footing, both as members of society and as users of child and youth services. Hence, providers must specifically adopt a professional approach that is founded on respect and appreciation for different living circumstances and which forms the basis for groups and individuals – supported by child and youth services – to represent their respective interests.