Youth Policy in Germany
Children and Youth Policy,
Children and Youth Services,
Children and youth policy
Children and youth policy has the task of building bridges to bring young people into society. It cannot and indeed should not replace either school or the parental home, but it can and must provide services which supplement these areas sensibly. It is the aim of children and youth policy to help to ease the arduous process of growing into an open and pluralistic society and into an increasingly complicated world. Children and youth policy is thus more than juvenile law, children and youth protection or children and youth services.
It is also the aim of children and youth policy to support the personal and social development of children and young people and to counter disadvantage by supporting parents and other legal guardians in their upbringing role. Children and young people must be protected against dangers; they must be provided with additional development and educational opportunities, and living and environmental conditions must be geared to the needs of children and families.
These children and youth policy goals are represented at national level by the Federal Ministry for Women and Youth (BMFJ). The central support measure for national children and youth policy within the terms of reference of the BMFJ is the Children and Youth Plan of the Federation. The Federal Government pursues its children and youth policy goals by laying particular emphasis on certain main areas. Following German unification "The Federation's youth polilcy programme for the establishment and expansion of voluntary youth services agencies in eastern Germany (AFT programme)" was passed.
Of particular importance to children and youth policy are the youth reports about situation of young people and the efforts and achievements of children and youth services, which the Federal Government has to present to the Bundestag and Bundesrat in each parliamentary term (Article 84, Children and Youth Services Act). Apart from assessing and analysing the current situation, the reports contain proposals on further developing children and youth services, and each third report should provide an overview of the overall situation of children and youth services.
The youth reports have two important functions, among others. They are intended to make the public aware of the situation of young people and to encourage all spheres of society to take on activities promoting the interests of children and young people.
Children and youth services
The Federal Republic of Germany has a wide-ranging and socially underpinned system of children and youth services.
Children and youth services describes the area of social work which serves to promote the development of young people outside school. The term "children and youth services" was introduced in connection with the new legal foundation for this activity, the law which reformed children and youth services, of 26th June 1990. It replaces the former term "youth assistance" or "youth welfare." Childhood has thus been expressly recognised by the legislator as an independent development stage, alongside adolescence.
The social and political role of children and youth services and of youth work
There are many faces to children and youth services. Its range of tasks is diverse and it encompasses both services directed at all children and young people in individual age groups, such as support in nursery school or youth work, and services directed at parents and children in certain situations, including conflict situations, such as the separation or divorce of parents, crises and disruption to children's development with which parents and children cannot cope alone.
The original task of youth assistance was essentially restricted to measures averting danger to children's wellbeing(youth care). There was a slightly strained relationship between that and support for young people through youth work services(youth assistance), and this was further increased by the division of responsibilities between statutory and voluntary services agencies. The classic separation of youth care and youth assistance has now been abolished and replaced by a broad and diverse range of services.
This has been accompanied by a change in the image of youth services. It is no longer understood as the "fire brigade" in acutely dangerous situations, but as a provider of various services to further the development of children and young people.
Despite stronger links between individual tasks youth work still occupies a special position. Its task is often described as an independent entity. Behind this is the view that youth work with its diverse services constitutes a specific learning and training field for young people, thus promoting the ability to take part in social, cultural and political life.
The principle of subsidiarity and children and youth services agencies
One of the main features of children and youth services in Germany is the activities of voluntary and statutory support agencies, which stand for commitment by society (non-governmental, as distinct from the state), on the one hand, and public youth support provided by Youth Offices, on the other hand.
The range of voluntary support agencies is very diverse, taking in associations and organizations active at national level, regional associations, local initiatives and self-help groups. They are autonomous in their activities, meaning that they set the content and goals of their work themselves within the framework of Germany's legal system. Because they often arise out of concern for a very specific cause, voluntary support agencies do not generally devote themselves to the whole range of youth support services, but are active in certain fields of social work, such as youth work, social-educational provision for young people, residential care or child and youth guidance.
Statutory youth services represent the other main part of the children and youth services system - together with the voluntary youth services - and operate on the basis of the Children and Youth Services Act at four levels:
At federal level, through the ministry responsible for this field(at present the Federal Ministry for Women and Youth) by preparing legislation and financing measures of national importance and measures intended to serve as a model (the Children and Youth Plan of the Federation)
At the level of the federal states, through the ministries responsible for this field by preparing the legislation of the federal states, supporting projects covering the whole federal state and developing youth services policy at federal state level.
At the level of supralocal support agencies, through the Youth Offices of the federal states with advisory, coordinating, regional planning and further training functions.
At the level of local youth services agencies, through the Youth Offices in districts and in towns which are administrative districts in their own right. The main burden of statutory youth services work falls to these bodies. The Children and Youth Services Act entrusts them with all decisions relating to individual welfare cases and with responsibility for compulsory care and guardianship. Following unification Germany has about 700 Youth Offices. As the territorial reform of local government gets under way in eastern Germany their number will fall to about 600 in the next few years.
Participation by young people
The essential aim of education and upbringing is to lead young people towards determining their future and taking responsibility for their actions. Therefore, participation by the child or young person in shaping youth services is not merely a procedural requirement, but also an essential element for the effectiveness of the service itself. The Children and Youth Service Act therefore lays down as a basic principle that children and young people are to be involved, in line with their level of development, in all decisions concerning them taken by the statutory youth services bodies. They must be informed in an appropriate manner of their rights in administrative proceedings and in proceedings before the guardianship court and the administrative court (Article 8, Children and Youth Services Act). Furthermore, the law expressly provides for the participation of children or young people in the selection of an institution or foster home within the scope of upbringing measures (Article 36, Children and Youth Services Act).
Special importance is attached to the participation of young people in youth work. Young people participate in shaping its content and organising it. Their needs and interests are the focus of varied forms of work and organisation. Youth work's primary task is to make a contribution towards personal self-fulfilment and towards greater freedom and justice, by developing and strengthening young people's will and ability to play a responsible part in state and social life.
In order to assist children and youth services at national level the Federal Youth Plan was created in 1959 from which the Children and Youth Plan of the Federation was developed in 1993. As a form of fund management not regulated by law, it is the Federation's main youth assistance measure and since it was announced it has become the cornerstone of Germany's children and youth policy.
The Children and Youth Plan of the Federation encourages and promotes the efforts of children and youth services, including youth work, in as far as they extend beyond the obligations of the federal states and local authorities. The variety of activities funded by Children and Youth Plan resources provides a vivid picture of the current needs of voluntary and statutory children and youth services, which has to provide a broad out-of-school educational service. The role of the Federal Ministry for Women and Youth, as the highest federal authority responsible for this field, is to encourage and assist children and youth services activities, in so far as they are of national importance and by their nature cannot be assisted effectively at the level of the federal states (Article 83, Children and Youth Services Act).
The details of supportive measures - such as the numerous assistance programmes ranging from political, cultural and sport education to youth organisation work or international youth work - are laid down in accordance with the guidelines. Social education - including the Voluntary Social Service Year and the Voluntary Ecological Service Year - is also being supported. In recent years various new programmes have been added, such as a special programme for work with girls. New programmes have also been created to provide new model approaches to socio-educational provision for children with problems and help for children outside the family and the school.
Youth work, youth organisation work, socio-educationalprovisions for the young
Unlike other areas of children and youth services, and also unlike other educational areas, youth work offers children and young people opportunities to organise their own learning and action. Here they can learn and gain practical experience in participating in society and helping to shape their own environment and future.
Political responsibility for this lies primarily with the local authorities. The larger political entity (federal state, Federation) should take responsibility only when the work extends beyond local or federal state level.
Youth work at local level reflects the different values and the most diverse content, methods and forms of work. There is thus no uniform type of local youth work. Rather, this pluralism is the result of the varying needs of young people in individual places.
The main focuses of youth work include various aspects which are distinguished by their individual services. These are in particular:
Out-of-school youth education supplementing the family, school and occupation with: General education, Political education, Social education, Cultural education and Natural history, ecological and technical education;
Youth work in sport, play and social life;
Youth work related to the working environment, school and the family;
Suitable services are offered mainly by voluntary youth support agencies. However, statutory agencies also offer services in the field of leisure activities for young people and run leisure centres for young people.
Youth organization work is a field of social integration which differs greatly from classic socialisation fields through its voluntary nature, self-organisation and self-determination. It offers space in which children and young people can develop.
An important association of youth organisations at national level in Germany is the German Federal Youth Council, to which virtually all major youth organisations and the Regional Youth Councils, with the exception of German Sports Youth and the youth wings of political parties, belong. At the federal state level most youth organistions belong to the Regional Youth Councils (usually excluding the youth wings of political parties).
Out-of-school cultural youth education is an important area for the development of young people. Children and young people, like adults, have a right to play an active and receptive part in art and culture.
Out-of-school cultural youth education makes its specific contribution towards the development of the personality and enables young people to join in society's cultural life.
Socio-educational provisions for the young describes all the services, facilities, and events for young people which support them in finding a place as recognised, active and responsible members of society. Activities focus on occupation-related assistance for young people aimed at helping them to overcome social and individual disadvantage by providing counselling, service and assistance with special emphasis on social education.
Socio-educational provisions for the young encompasses and connects services of different kinds. It is firstly part of children and youth services and as such is contained in the Children and Youth Services Act (Article 13, Children and Youth Services Act).
International youth exchanges, inter-cultural learning, international youth leader seminars and cooperation at various levels of youth work in Europe are the prominent tasks of youth organisations.
International youth policy cooperation focuses on assisting and supporting contact programmes for young people and youth work specialists with the above goals in mind and enabling young people to get to know other countries, peoples and cultures in order to help international understanding, to develop understanding for others and to be able to judge their own position better. In this regard efforts to promote European awareness and European cooperation are of key importance.
The main task of international youth policy is to assist and support extracurricular contact and exchange programmes for people at home and abroad. As with national youth policy, the central support measure for international youth policy is the Children and Youth Plan of the Federation.
At present there are government agreements with 19 countries, linked to the respective specialised committees (consisting of government representatives and the representatives of voluntary support agencies), which agree on the guidelines for the exchange with the country concerned and on the type and scope of the exchange. However, there are also special programmes for training and further training and programmes of a particularly advanced level.
The exchange of leading personnel, employees and specialised staff involved in youth work takes place with the aim of pooling experience in this specialised field. Responsibility for this lies either with the relevant specialised agencies or with the International Youth Exchange and Visitor? Service of the Federal Republic of Germany (IJAB).
Laws relevant to children and young people
In addition to the provision of the Basic Law, many general laws such as the German Civil Code, the German Penal Code, the Federal Social Assistance Act and the Promotion of Employment Act are of particular significance to children, young people and families. There are also laws which deal exclusively with the specific problems of children and young people.:
- Children and Youth Services Act
- Protection of Young People in Public Act
- Distribution of Publications Harmful to Young Persons Act
- Protection of Young Persons at Work Act
- Compulsory Non-military National Service Act
- Juvenile Court Act
- Overseas Development Aid Act
- Promotion of the Voluntary Social Service Year Act
- Promotion of the Voluntary Ecological Service Year Act
Source: Children and Youth Policy Children and Youth Services Youth Work in the Federal Republic of Germany, 1994 (International Youth Exchange and Visitor's Service of the Federal Republic of Germany: IJAB)