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Child and Youth Services in Germany

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Tasks and fields of work > Socio-educational support services > Types of socio-educational support services

Full-time family care

Full-time family care involves placing a child/adolescent with another family. It may be temporary or permanent. It aims to allow children/adolescents who cannot live with their parents to grow up in a family environment.

Full-time family care can be provided in a large variety of different “family” constellations.

Birth parents are entitled to counselling and support, and to assistance in maintaining a relationship with their child (Article 37).

Likewise, carers are entitled to counselling and support (Section 37a).


Like residential care, full-time family care is a traditional form of childcare outside the family home. It is delivered in accordance with Article 33 of Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII), (normally) provided the requirements of Article 27 (socio-educational support) are met. However, it may also be delivered to children and adolescents who require it in accordance with Article 35a (support for children/adolescents with a psychological disability) or Article 41 (support for young adults). Foster family care can also be provided for young people with physical or intellectual disabilities in accordance with Article 80 of Book 9 of the Social Code (SGB IX). In the case of minors, permission is required in accordance with Article 44 of Book 8.

The foster families with whom the children are placed are frequently related to the family of origin; alternatively, they may offer to give unrelated children or adolescents a home for humanist or social reasons. Unless they provide a particularly intense form of family care, foster parents do not require any special training, although the youth welfare office will verify the family’s suitability. Specialist (professional) fostering service providers, most of which are affiliated with the youth welfare office or independent organisations, are responsible for listing, instructing, supporting and advising the foster parents. Each fostering expert should be responsible for no more than 25 foster families. The expert-to-family ratio should be lower when it comes to specific forms of full-time family care (e.g., professional carers, curative therapy providers) for developmentally challenged children or adolescents.

Foster families receive a foster care allowance that covers any outlay incurred in connection with the young person as well as a (small) tax-free allowance in recognition of the service provided. Specialist foster carers who cater to children with specific needs may receive a higher allowance for both the costs incurred and the service provided.

When placing children in foster families full-time, the term “family” must be interpreted liberally. Child and youth services may not limit itself to foster families who correspond to the “traditional” family format, instead, they must also consider unmarried couples, registered civil partnerships, single individuals, or individuals living as part of a larger or other household, provided these persons can provide promising care to the foster child in question.

As regards the children or adolescents, their birth families and foster families, it is vital for them to be aware of the timeline. Article 33 draws an important distinction: full-time family care can be either temporary or permanent.

Temporary care: This form of care is provided when parents are unable to care for their child(ren) for a short period of time.

Permanent care: This form of care is provided to minors who need to be placed in a foster family permanently.

The 2021 Act to Strengthen Children and Youth (Kinder- und Jugendstärkungsgesetz/KJSG) led to the inclusion of a new paragraph (4) in Article 1632 of Germany’s Civil Code (BGB). It stipulates that a court may, either ex officio or if requested by the foster carer, order that a foster arrangement be made permanent if,

  1. (sentence 1) despite the offer of suitable counselling and support services, the ability of the parents to provide care has not improved substantially within a reasonable period given the child’s developmental status, and it appears highly unlikely that such an improvement will happen in future, and
  2. (sentence 2) the court order is required to ensure the child’s wellbeing.

However, under Article 1696 (3) of the Civil Code such a court order is to be lifted if requested by the parents, provided the removal of the child from foster care does not endanger their wellbeing.

Parents whose children are in full-time family care or in a home are entitled to counselling and support as well as to assistance in maintaining a relationship with their child (Article 37 [1] of Book 8 of the Social Code). By the same token, foster carers are also entitled to counselling and support (Article 37a).

In 2021, 77,904 children and young people were living in foster families on the basis of socio-educational support services (Article 27 of Book 8) and 9,425 young adults on the basis of support for young adults (Article 41). (See Quantitative breakdown of socio-educational support services)

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