Residential care and other forms of assisted living denotes a wide variety of alternative institutional accommodation, ranging from traditional multi-group residential facilities and Children’s Villages to independent residential groups, children’s homes and various types of assisted living settings.
Residential care can have one of three objectives:
Socio-educational support provided in a home or other form of assisted living is considered a form of residential care. In accordance with Article 34 of Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII), it can have one of three objectives:
Parents whose children have been placed in care are entitled to counselling and support as well as to assistance in maintaining a relationship with their child. This counselling and support is designed to help improve circumstances inside the birth family within an appropriate amount of time given the child’s developmental status to the point that they can return to their parents’ care. If no lasting improvement is possible, the focus of said counselling and support services and any help in maintaining the parent-child relationship turns towards creating an alternative long-term perspective that ensures the child’s or adolescent’s wellbeing (Article 37 ).
There are many reasons why a young person may have to be placed in care in a home or another institutional residential setting. The reasons most frequently cited in child and youth services statistics are “parents’/guardians’ limited ability to provide care”, “insufficient support/care for the young person in the family” and “endangerment to the child’s welfare”.
In 2019, approx. 136,000 young people were living in residential care under this legal basis.
In the child and youth services sphere, there are other legal bases that apply and other forms of assistance some of which are provided in residential settings, including, e.g., integration assistance for young people with a psychological disability. If these cases are included, in 2019 around 165,000 young people were living in residential care under the remit of child and youth services.
Around 60% of them were living in homes for several groups of young people; 36% lived in single-group facilities; and 4% lived in their own homes. Between 2006 and 2018 the number of residential facilities rose by 87% to 12,400.
The largest group of young people in residential care is the 14-18 age group. Over the last decade, however, the number of children in care younger than school-age has risen (2019: 6,300).
Many young people who are living in care have a socially disadvantaged background. In 2019, more than half the families whose children are in residential care received government benefits, 40% were single-parent families. 70% of the single parents were on government benefits. 2% of the young people in care no longer had living parents. Just under half were members of the immigrant community; for almost one third of them, German was not spoken in the family.
Girls are underrepresented in the group of recipients of socio-educational support. Their number only begins to rise once they reach puberty.
Many young people who live in residential care resist the use of the term Heim (home); they call for a different word to be used both in common parlance as well as in the law. This is because, they say, the term stigmatises them as Heimkinder (home children).
Before they can receive residents, homes and other forms of residential care must apply for an operating licence (Article 45), the granting of which is the responsibility of regional child and youth services providers (Article 85  sentence 6). Amongst other things, they must provide evidence of a complaints management and protection concept.
The public-sector organisations bear the cost of residential care (Articles 39, 40 in combination with Article 91 ). Depending on their income, parents may be requested to make a contribution, the amount of which is calculated in accordance with a legal regulation (Article 94 ). Adolescents and young adults are required contribute 25% of their income towards the cost, although the youth welfare office may exercise discretion here (Article 94 ). In calculating said contribution, the following forms of income are disregarded: income from after-school jobs or internships up to an amount of EUR 150; income from holiday jobs; allowances from volunteering or up to EUR 150/month if paid under an apprenticeship.