Child and youth services in Germany encompasses various – at first glance very different – areas of work with children, adolescents, young adults and their parents:
The first four areas of child and youth services are offered to parents and young people on a voluntary basis. As regards the fifth area (sovereign tasks), child and youth services steps in for instance in situations where children and adolescents require special protection – sometimes against the wishes of the parents and the children/adolescents themselves.
Child and youth services supports young people throughout their upbringing and education, offers socio-educational support (in difficult or risky circumstances), works to safeguard equal participation for young people with disabilities and provides protection for at-risk young people.
In Germany all such services and sovereign tasks are grouped under child and youth services and formalised in the Child and Youth Services Act (Book 8 of the Social Code [SGB VIII]). Given the many interdependencies between these different areas of responsibility, the goal is to coordinate their development and structure under the principle of one youth services. This principle articulates a broad mission that captures the essence of the child and youth services "brand":
Child and youth services, spanning numerous fields of work and methodologies, is understood as an attempt to respond to the many challenges parents and their children face by providing an infrastructure of support, guidance and protection. All of its activities are anchored in a broad mandate for political advocacy, social influence and infrastructure-building through public and non-statutory organisations (e.g., as part of pro-active youth services planning, Articles 79, 80 SGB VIII). The more complex the demands of society and the more unequal the distribution of opportunities for people to participate in modern society, the more child and youth services must diversify its programme structures in order to fulfil this mandate. Youth services carries extensive responsibility for shaping the conditions in which young people grow up.
It falls to the statutory authorities (towns, cities, districts) to ensure that all suitable facilities and services required in this context are available promptly and to the extent necessary (Article 79 SGB VIII). By contrast, the services themselves (with the exception of sovereign tasks) are generally provided by non-statutory, non-profit organisations.