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Child and Youth Services in Germany

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Triangular relationship between individual legal claims under social law

Information on the triangular relationship between service beneficiaries (parent/young person), service providers (service/facility) and public-sector bodies (youth welfare offices) under social law, see notes


The relationship between service beneficiaries (parents, children, adolescents, young adults and so on), service providers (non-statutory providers) and the public-sector bodies (youth services/youth welfare offices) is of both legal and practical relevance. It is known in German as the Sozialrechtliches Dreiecksverhältnis in reference to the triangular relationship between the individual legal claims:

  1. Where beneficiaries have a legal claim to a service under Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII) (child day-care facilities, socio-educational support services, counselling), this generally exists vis-à-vis the public-sector provider of child and youth services (the youth welfare office). In the context of semi-residential and fully residential care, too, this initially means that the youth welfare office is responsible for assuming the full costs; however, it can subsequently claim a portion of these costs back from the service beneficiaries within the scope of their financial means (Article 91 et seq. of Book 8).
  2. When it comes to actually fulfilling this legal claim, this is done through facilities and services – largely under the aegis of non-statutory providers of child and youth services – who are party to service agreements with the public-sector providers (Articles 36a, 77, 78a et seq.). These agreements govern the content, scope and quality of service provision, the fees and aspects of quality development. Generally speaking, (semi-) residential services at federal state (Länder) level are covered by framework agreements (Article 78f). The service providers are legally entitled to conclude these agreements and hence to recover the corresponding costs (Article 78b [1]).
  3. The service in question is taken up directly by the service beneficiary, within the scope of their right to choose under Article 5, who enters into a private legal agreement with the service or the facility operated by the non-statutory provider.

This completes the triangular relationship. The key points in summary:

  • Service beneficiaries select the service provider in line with their right to choose.
  • The obligation on the youth welfare office to assume the costs arises from the legal claim of the service beneficiary (vis-à-vis the youth welfare office).
  • The service content and costs, plus the quality development measures, are fixed in agreements between the service provider and the local provider and must be paid in the event the beneficiary (legitimately) claims the service.
  • Costs can only be recovered from the service beneficiary within their financial means. No cost contributions can be claimed for non-residential support services.

However, under Article 74a these general provisions do not apply uniformly Federation-wide for the financing of child day-care services. Each federal state has the power to enforce its own regulations in this regard.

Further reading
  • Meysen, Thomas et al. (2014): Recht der Finanzierung von Leistungen der Kinder- und Jugendhilfe. Baden-Baden.
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