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Child and Youth Services in Germany

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Structures > Institutions

Local public-sector providers of child and youth services

The local public-sector providers of child and youth services are determined in federal state law (Article 69 [1] Social Code Book 8). Generally speaking, the local providers are the towns that are administrative districts in their own right and the counties (in exceptional cases also towns within administrative districts).

Each local public-sector provider must establish a youth welfare office to carry out the tasks required by Social Code Book 8 (Article 69 [3]). The local authorities decide on the specific structure of the youth welfare office.

The public-sector providers have overall responsibility to ensure

  • that the youth welfare offices have access to adequate resources;
  • that people have access to the necessary and appropriate services when they are needed and in an adequate scope;
  • structural plurality across services;
  • the development of standards to ensure quality development across all tasks of child and youth services.


The local public-sector providers of child and youth services, in other words, the towns and counties, are responsible for providing services under Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII). This relates mainly to the provision of social benefits (subjective legal claims and statutory duties of provision), and to fulfilling the other tasks as prescribed in Book 8.

Service obligations arising from Article 3 (2) of Book 8 are, without exception, the responsibility of the public-sector providers. They have the statutory duty of provision. However, the lion's share of the plethora of child and youth services come from non-statutory child and youth organisations, whilst only a portion is delivered by public-sector providers. The other tasks of child and youth services under Article 3 (3) are the remit of public-sector providers. Here, non-statutory providers may only be involved in connection with the tasks listed explicitly in Article 76 (e.g., taking into custody of children, involvement in court proceedings).

The local authorities fulfil their tasks under Book 8 as statutory responsibilities of self-government, i.e., as local providers they are required by law to perform these tasks and must put in place the necessary organisational structures.

The federal structure of child and youth services, which delegates responsibility for their performance and ongoing development to the local authority, gives towns and counties the power to plan, steer and implement infrastructure, offerings and social services such that they are closely aligned with local requirements and the needs of young people and their families.

That said, this same structure tends to propagate regional differences that can and do often lead to significant variations in the quality and focus of local services under Book 8. A multitude of political and regional factors are at play here, including political power structures, economic conditions, cultural divides and professional developments. These factors affect not only how the youth welfare offices fulfil their tasks, but also the nature of their work with non-statutory providers (in case work or as part of youth services planning) to shape social infrastructure for young people and their families.

Further reading
  • Bettmer, Franz (2012): Die öffentlichen Träger der Sozialen Arbeit. In: Thole, Werner (ed.): Grundriss Soziale Arbeit. Wiesbaden, p. 795–812.
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