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Child and Youth Services in Germany

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Structures > Institutions

Provider structures in child and youth services

Public-sector providers of child and youth services

Land (state) youth welfare office (regional provider)
Administrates the Land youth welfare office and Land youth welfare committee

  • Advises the local providers
  • Plans, promotes and supports pilot projects
  • Provides employee further training
  • Grants operating licences

i. a. (Article 85 [2]
Social Code
Book 8)

Youth welfare office (local provider)
Administrates the youth welfare office and the youth welfare committee

  • Meets statutory duties (Article 79 Social Code Book 8)
    … to establish infrastructure
    … to fulfil tasks
  • Provides services in individual cases

Non-statutory providers of child
and youth services

Non-statutory, non-profit providers

  • Welfare associations
  • Youth associations
  • Other providers (not organised in associations)
  • Deliver services
  • Shape infrastructure
  • Participate in political decisions

Private commercial (for-profit) providers

  • Deliver services


The term "provider" is a catch-all for all manner of organisations providing non-material, conceptual, developmental, planning and, above all, practical and financial support in the social work field. A defining characteristic of child and youth services is its plurality of providers. As an aid to better understanding, it is generally possible to distinguish between three different types of provider (see  for a quantitative breakdown):

Public-sector providers of child and youth services ("public-sector providers")

Article 69 (1) of Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII) endows the federal states, or Länder, with the power to determine, in corresponding federal state laws, who – or what – constitutes a public-sector provider of child and youth services. At the local level, the public-sector providers are generally towns that are administrative districts in their own right, and counties. Towns within administrative districts in certain federal states (principally North Rhine-Westphalia) can likewise constitute a statutory provider provided they meet set criteria regarding minimum size. Where this is the case, it no longer falls to the county to deliver child and youth services.

Under Article 69 (3) of Book 8, the local provider establishes a youth welfare office (see The dual structure of the youth welfare office) to take on the tasks of child and youth services. The local public-sector providers are obliged to fulfil the tasks in Book 8 within their jurisdiction, with overall responsibility, including for planning and steering, lying with the youth welfare office. In other words, the youth welfare office has three main functions:

  1. in accordance with Article 79, it ensures that all services and tasks within its jurisdiction are delivered when needed and in an adequate scope (youth services planning);
  2. the youth welfare office itself provides services where these are not (or insufficiently) available from non-statutory providers;
  3. it fulfils other responsibilities, some of which are sovereign tasks in nature, e.g., when the state is required to intervene in parents' rights if this is necessary in order to protect children and adolescents.

In addition, federal state legislation lays down who – or what – constitutes a regional public-sector provider of child and youth services and is thus responsible for establishing a state (Land) youth welfare office under Article 69 (3) to fulfil the tasks assigned in Article 85 (2). State welfare offices handle tasks ranging from advising local providers and promoting innovative developments (such as pilot projects, further training and recommendations), to granting operating licences for facilities (as part of measures on the supervision of homes, known as Heimaufsicht).

A defining characteristic of local and state youth welfare offices is their dual structure, consisting of an administrative office and a state youth welfare committee (Article 70 [3]).

Non-statutory youth services organisations

Non-statutory, non-profit providers

These organisations usually take the legal form of a registered non-profit association (gem. e.V.) or a non-profit limited company (gGmbH) under German law. Churches are also considered non-profit, non-statutory organisations. The majority of non-statutory providers belong either to one of the six welfare associations (and their affiliated organisations) or to a youth association. The six umbrella associations of non-statutory welfare organisations are:
- the denominational associations:

  • Caritas,
  • Diakonie and
  • the Central Board of Jewish Welfare in Germany,

- and the non-denominational associations:

  • Paritätische,
  • Arbeiterwohlfahrt and
  • German Red Cross.

Youth associations, which also operate on a non-profit basis, make up the other large group of non-statutory providers. With seats and votes on the youth welfare policy committees of the youth welfare offices, the non-profit providers commandeer a unique position within child and youth services. There are also numerous other smaller non-statutory providers (non-members of welfare associations).

Private commercial providers

To date, private commercial providers are of only marginal importance in the world of child and youth services. They mainly take the form of corporate providers (such as company-run childcare facilities) or non-statutory providers of residential and non-residential youth services.

Further reading

  • Bieker, Rudolf (2011): Trägerstrukturen in der Sozialen Arbeit – ein Überblick. In: Bieker, Rudolf/Floerecke, Peter (eds.): Träger, Arbeitsfelder und Zielgruppen der Sozialen Arbeit. Stuttgart, p. 13–43.
  • Merchel, Joachim (2017): Trägerstrukturen und Organisationsformen in der Kinder- und Jugendhilfe. In: Böllert, Karin (ed.): Kompendium der Kinder- und Jugendhilfe. Wiesbaden, p. 93–113.
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