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Child and Youth Services in Germany

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Tasks and fields of work > Socio-educational support services

Legal basis of socio-educational support services

Article 27 (1) of Book 8 of the Social Code is the key provision when it comes to socio-educational support services.

The only possible claimants are parents and guardians.

The requirement to be met is the absence of care provided to a child that is conducive to their welfare.

To assess the scope of the claim, i.e. the provision of “necessary and suitable” forms of support, two questions must be answered:

  1. What form of support is suitable to bring about the desired impact?
  2. What form of support is necessary to meet the need?


Article 27 (1) of Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII) is the key provision when it comes to the provision of socio-educational support services. It lays out who is eligible for these services, what requirements must be met, and what services come under this category.

The only possible claimants of these services are parents and guardians of children and adolescents. It follows that socio-educational support services are no longer available to young adults once they come of age. Young people over the age of 18 are legally entitled to support services for young adults in accordance with Article 41 of Book 8 of the Social Code (see Support for young adults). They can apply for either the continuation of services already provided or apply for new forms of assistance.

The main requirement to be met for receiving socio-educational support is the absence of care provided to a child that is conducive to their welfare. Whether or not this is the case must be diagnosed by socio-pedagogical professionals. Given the multitude of different circumstances under which children, adolescents and parents can live, it is not possible to define clear legal criteria that would help to assess, objectively, whether a legal claim to socio-educational support exists. The law can only specify the objective to be met by services of this kind, without specifying which situation could give rise to a legal entitlement to a certain service. This explains why Article 27 is worded loosely (“no care is provided ... that is conducive to the child’s ... welfare”) and must be carefully interpreted by (socio-pedagogical) professionals on a case-by-case basis. The same is true for the legal consequences should such a situation be deemed to exist. Para. 1 refers to the need to provide support that is “necessary and suitable” for a child’s development; again, the support services to be provided must be carefully selected considering the situation at hand (any problems in the family, living arrangements, the child’s environment, previous experiences made by child and parents, personal and social resources available to child and parents, etc.).

These “necessary and suitable” forms of support refer to socio-educational services that can compensate for any deficits in the child’s environment, or that can help to restore the parents’ capacity to provide such care themselves. The terms “necessary” and “suitable” are key when it comes to selecting the services to be provided.

In other words, these decisions allow professionals to exercise considerable discretion. In initiating and organising the provision of socio-educational support services, experts have to view the situation from a professional angle, need to be highly skilled in interpreting what they see, and must engage in preparing a support plan for each individual case as required by Article 36 (see Support service planning).

When considering the costs of youth services, it should be noted that individual services (socio-educational support, support for young people with psychological disabilities, support for young adults) are grouped together with protective measures. 22.7% (approx. EUR 14 billion) of the youth services budget was spent on this collective area in 2021, making it the subject of particular and constant political scrutiny – especially given the lack of relevant definitions and clearly defined bases of intervention in the law in this field.

Further reading
  • Behnisch, Michael (2021): Hilfen zur Erziehung. In: Amthor, Ralph-Christian/Goldberg, Brigitta/Hansbauer, Peter/Landes, Benjamin/Wintergerst, Theresia (eds.). In: Wörterbuch Soziale Arbeit. 9th fully revised and updated edition, Weinheim and Basel, p. 423−326.
  • Moch, Matthias (2018): Hilfen zur Erziehung. In: Otto, Hans-Uwe/Thiersch, Hans/Treptow, Rainer/Ziegler, Holger (eds.): Handbuch Soziale Arbeit. 6th edition, Munich, p. 632−645.
  • Richter, Martina (2018): Handlungsfeld Hilfen zur Erziehung. In: Böllert, Karin (ed.): Kompendium Kinder- und Jugendhilfe. Wiesbaden, p. 825−840.
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