(1) All young people have the right to receive assistance so they can become independent, responsible and socially competent individuals.
(3) The objectives of child and youth services are, inter alia,
Germany’s Child and Youth Services Act (Kinder- und Jugendhilfegesetz) corresponds to Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII), one of 13 books in total. It represents the federal legal framework for child and youth services. The exact nature and extent of these services (e.g., services provided in child day-care facilities) are detailed in various pieces of federal state (Länder) legislation.
Book 8 of the Social Code came into force on 1 January 1991, superseding the 1961 Youth Welfare Act (Jugendwohlfahrtsgesetz). The intention was to replace the previous rather intervention-centred act with a more service-oriented piece of legislation covering young people and their parents – a transition that at the time was considered a paradigm shift in child and youth services. Over the last three decades, the Child and Youth Services Act has been amended several times, most recently in 2021 through the Act to Strengthen Children and Youth (Kinder- und Jugendstärkungsgesetz/KJSG), one of whose priorities is to strengthen the participation rights of young people and their parents and which incorporates a set of services from a single source for children with and without disabilities.
Article 1 of Book 8 lays out the fundamentals of the Act. Para. 1 spotlights the right of young people to receive assistance so they can become independent, responsible and socially competent individuals. This highlights the fact that child and youth services are designed first and foremost for young people, rather than serving the interests of the parents who raise them or those of the state.
Para. 2 states that “the care and upbringing of children is the natural right of parents and a duty primarily incumbent upon them. The state shall watch over them in the performance of this duty.” The wording is identical to that used in Article 6 (2) of Germany’s Basic Law, illustrating the constitutional limits pertaining to the responsibilities outlined in para. 1. The state as a supervisory body can only intervene in parents’ rights if this is required to protect the child from harm.
Para. 3 describes the objectives to be met by child and youth services:
The wording of Article 1 of Book 8 shows that the tasks of child and youth services are exceptionally broad. It is required to
These expectations are full of ambivalence; neither are the tasks entirely compatible. In other words, child and youth services must engage in a certain balancing act in order to reconcile its general mission to promote child-raising, participation and education with its responsibilities in terms of intervening in emergency situations and protecting young people’s welfare.
Introductory and advanced
Legal commentaries on Book 8 of the Social Code