All children and young people should be allowed to develop into confident, independent individuals. This involves ensuring that children and young people know their rights, that they are included in the policy-making process and that their interests are considered in policy-making.
Support from External Experts
Das Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend (Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth) relies to some extent on external expertise. In the governments reports on children and youth, independent experts regularly analyse the real-life situation of young people. These reports form an important foundation for national policy on children and youth. The Bundesjugendkuratorium (Federal Youth Board) is an independent panel of experts who advise the Federal Government in matters of children's and youth welfare, and also on current policy issues concerning children and young people.
JUGEND STÄRKEN Initiative
The Ministry's youth promotion initiative, JUGEND STÄRKEN (Encouraging Youth), consolidates existing programmes for young people from disadvantaged families and for young adults with migrant backgrounds (ages 12 to 26) who experience difficulties in transitioning from school to the working world.
JUGEND STÄRKEN im Quartier
The model programme JUGEND STÄRKEN im Quartier (supporting young people in deprived neighbourhoods) supports local authorities in deprived neighbourhoods in efforts to help socially or personally disadvantaged young people to enter school, vocational training or employment. A further goal is to optimise existing structures for cooperation between public and independent youth welfare organisations, schools, employment agencies, job centres and community managers. The programme provides young people with one-on-one counselling and support. Additional social or environment-focused micro-projects aim at improving young people's social skills as well as conditions in deprived communities.
JUGEND STÄRKEN is implemented in conjunction with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and is financed via the European Social Fund. The first pilot phase ran from 2015 to 2018; the second phase runs from 2019 to 2021.
Throughout the country, almost 460 Jugendmigrationsdienste (Youth Migration Services) advise young people with migrant backgrounds who are no longer subject to mandatory full-time schooling and need help in the transition from school to vocational education and training or to full-time work. The Youth Migration Services also offer socio-educational support to young people before, during and after they attend integration and language courses.
They also advise parents of young migrants on matters of education and vocational education and training. The Youth Migration Services are part of a local network and cooperate with other services and organisations.
Respekt Coaches (Respect Coaches) support schools in teaching the value of a non-violent, democratic and pluralistic society. Respekt Coaches work with groups of students to strengthen their resilience and self-awareness as well as interreligious and intercultural competences, regardless of their origin or backgrounds. They cooperate with organisations that offer civic education, radicalisation prevention as well as youth work in general. Respekt Coaches have a social pedagogical background and may support individual students.
Over 200 Respekt Coaches currently work with approximately 300 schools nationwide. Respekt Coaches are part of the organisational structure of the Youth Migration Services. The programme is part of the National Prevention Programme against Islamist Extremism (Nationales Präventionsprogramm gegen islamistischen Extremismus).
Germany's Jugendschutzgesetz (Youth Protection Act) is primarily designed to protect children and young people in the public sphere. It regulates the sale and consumption of tobacco, electronic cigarettes, electronic shishas and alcohol, and the entry to nightclubs and bars. Also governed by the Act are age ratings for films and computer games and the process for the indexing of films, DVDs and online services by the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien (Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors).
The Youth Protection Act targets retailers, the hospitality and catering sector and the organisers of public events, placing them under obligation to protect children and young people from potential risk. At the same time, it provides parents with valuable guidance on bringing up and protecting their children.
Safe Use of Online Media in Childhood
Digital media have become an integral part of life for children and young people today. Like no other generation, almost all of today’s young people regularly go online, and most of those using the internet do so via mobile devices like smartphones. Even small children use apps and computer games. This trend poses a range of challenges, both in family-based media education and use, and in providing contemporary media-based protection for young people. With the following publications, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth aims to promote a safe and healthy use of online media by children and young people:
- The media guide "SCHAU HIN! Was Dein Kind mit Medien macht" (WATCH! How Your Child Uses Media) provides parents with guidance in matters of media education and use.
- The booklet "Gutes Aufwachsen mit Medien - Ein Netz für Kinder" (Growing up with Media - internet for Children) provides pedagogues, parents and children with information about safe websites and offers guidance on issues such as data protection and cyber bullying.
- A booklet entitled "Spiel- und Lernsoftware pädagogisch beurteilt" (An Educational Assessment of Games and Learning Software) assesses the educational value of new game releases.
- The children's search engine Blinde Kuh and the children's portal Meine Startseite offer children a safe starting point in independent internet use.
European and International Youth Policy
European and International Youth Policy promotes cross-border encounters. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth uses its youth policy to enable young people to experience other countries and cultures with the aim of learning about each other and dismantling prejudice. Child and youth welfare practitioners are also able to familiarise themselves with youth-related topics and structures in other countries to get stimuli for their own work.
Information about key youth initiatives, activities and measures is available online:
- Franco-German Youth Office
- German-Polish Youth Office
- German-Israeli Youth Exchange
- German-Czech Youth Exchange
- German-Russian Youth Exchange
- International youth cooperation
- Erasmus+ Youth in Action and European Solidarity Corps
"In gemeinsamer Verantwortung - Jugendstrategie der Bundesregierung"
Whether youth welfare or family policy, whether tenancy law, consumer protection or traffic development, whether education or labour market policy - projects and decisions in all policy areas can have an impact on young people and these impacts may differ from those on other age groups. This is because youth is a highly formative phase of life in its own right with specific challenges.
By following this point of view, the Jugendstrategie (Youth Strategy of the Federal Government) is based on the "Independent Youth Policy", which the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has pursued for some years and with which it makes the common interests of 14 million young people and young adults between 12 and 27 years visible.
"In Joint Responsibility" - the Youth Strategy is developed by all ministries together. With its Youth Strategy, the Federal Government aims to involve the younger generation in decisions that affect them and to offer young people the best possible conditions for mastering the challenges of this specific phase of life. A cabinet decision in 2019 marked the transition into the implementation phase.
Equal Opportunities for Children and Young People
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is responsible at national level for child and youth welfare. Child and youth welfare services reach almost all children in Germany: from the time they are three years old until they start school, almost every child is cared for and its development promoted, either in a daycare centre or by a childminder. The same applies to one in three children under the age of three.
In 2018, over 1.1 million young people received socio-eductional support, be it from education counsellors, in social group work, in family advice centres, in residential care or in foster care. Child and youth welfare services are thus an indispensable resource in the lives of young people. This is particularly true for a considerable number of children and young people who are at risk of being excluded both from society and from the opportunity to lead a self-determined, independent life. Securing equal opportunities for these young people is of utmost importance and poses a challenge in the provision of child and youth welfare services, both now and in the future.
Youth Crime Prevention in Germany
In recent years, a number of innovative strategies have been developed and tested in Germany in connection with preventing crime among children and young people. Set up in 1997, the Arbeitsstelle Kinder- und Jugendkriminalitätsprävention (Centre for the Prevention of the Youth Crime) des Deutschen Jugendinstituts (German Youth Institute) provides professionals, politicians, researchers and those engaged in education and training with information on the ideas, strategies and practices of youth crime prevention. The goals are to promote both innovative and tested approaches in preventive work, to establish standards of quality in this type of work and to encourage cooperation among institutions and individuals engaged in it.
Dialogue with Landesregierungen, Local Administrations and Welfare Associations
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth places the child and the child's needs at the fore-front of its child and youth welfare reforms. Any reform must take account of the current and future situations of children and young people. This is why the Ministry wants to look at the needs of all children and young people - those with disabilities and those without. The central pillar in the reform of policy for children and young people involves improving their rights. In intensive dialogue with Landesregierungen (state governments), local administrations and welfare organisations, the Ministry wants to ensure better integration of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into the legal framework for the provision of child and youth welfare services.
Focusing on the Child - Securing the Future
The Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth aims to ensure that children and young people in Germany receive the support that they and their families need to enjoy better opportunities in life. This means providing an effective, needs-based child and youth welfare service. The Federal Government is committed to ensuring that all children, regardless of their background, receive the same development opportunities and the same access to education. Quality, needs-based childcare also promotes better reconciliation of family and working life, and that in turn benefits German industry and business.
The Federal Government advanced the quantitative and qualitative expansion of early childhood education and care services by passing the 2008 Kinderförderungsgesetz (Childcare Funding Act) which since 2013 grants children from one year onwards the legal right to attend an early childhood education and care centre or a family daycare service.
With the Gute-KiTa-Gesetz (Act on Good Early Childhood Education and Care) the Federation will improve the quality of child day-care throughout Germany and reduce the financial burden on parents by reducing or even abolishing childcare fees. To this end, the Federation will be investing 5.5 billion euros in the coming four years until 2022.
With various investment programmes the Federal Government has contributed a total of 5.95 billion euros towards the expansion through various investment programmes. From 2015 onwards, the Federal Government has been investing 845 million euros annually and contributed 945 million euros towards operating costs in 2017 and 2018.
As part of the current fourth investment programme, the Federal Government provides an additional 1.126 billion euros in the years from 2017 to 2021. This allows for the creation of an additional 100.000 daycare places for children up to school age.
According to its coalition agreement, the Grand Coalition plans to provide two billion euros for investment funds to expand the full-time care of primary school children. One billion euros will be available in the federal budget in 2020, a further ona billion euros in 2021. The Coalition also plans to introduce a legal entitlement to full-time care for primary school children. The legal regulations are currently being drafted.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs Senior Citizens, Women and Youth encourages various federal programmes for quality, participation and strengthening social inclusion in early childhood education and care.
The federal programme "Sprach-KiTas" (Language Daycare Centres) is targeted at child daycare centres that have a higher-than-average proportion of children with special language development needs. The programme finances 7.000 specialists who support daycare providers in speech and language tuition for children and who provide assistance to families.
With the programme "Kita-Einstieg: Brücken bauen in frühe Bildung" (Stepping into Childcare: Building bridges into early childhood education) the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has been supporting low-threshold services to inform families about the possibilities of early childhood education in Germany since 2017.
A recently started Skilled-Labour-Initiative aims to attract additional early childhood educators and care workers by expanding paid and work-place based training and by supporting vocational and practical education with training supervisors in child daycare centres. There will also be financial incentives for professional development and taking on special technical responsibility in the form of bonuses.
Protecting Girls and Boys against Violence
The government wants all girls and boys to grow up free from neglect and violence. To provide the right kind of support in every unique case of neglect and violence, these must be detected at an early stage.
The Bundeskinderschutzgesetz (German Federal Child Protection Act) contains provisions for the use of early intervention and prevention networks and strengthens the family midwife service. Since January 2018 and as part of this Act, the Bundesstiftung Frühe Hilfen (Federal Foundation for Early Childhood Intervention) is in place. The foundation has the objective to support families in order to contribute to a healthy growing up of their children and to protect them from violence. With the establishment of the Federal Foundation for Early Childhood Intervention, federal funding for early childhood intervention became mandatory. The Federal Government has committed around 51 million euros a year to bolster funding provided by the federal states and municipalities.
The Nationales Zentrum Frühe Hilfen (National Centre on Early Prevention) assists the Federal Government, the Landesregierungen (state governments) and local administrations in this endeavour with evidence-based quality development and assurance.
Protection against Sexual Violence
Sexual violence occurs each and every day which is why prevention programmes and widely available access to protection, help and support for girls and boys are essential. Based on the recommendations of the Runder Tisch Sexueller Kindesmissbrauch (Round Table on Sexual Child Abuse) and in accordance with the Aktionsplan (National Action Plan), the Ministry has developed a policy to prevent sexual violence and to protect children and young people. In implementing the policy, the Ministry has worked closely with the Unabhängiger Beauftragter für Fragen des sexuellen Kindesmissbrauchs (Independent Commissioner for Child Sex Abuse Issues). The various measures of the policy also address people in the immediate environment of children, especially parents and teachers, who are to be involved, sensitised and trained to act as part of a robust and reliable network. A successful example is "Trau Dich!" (Speak Out, Get Help), an initiative that empowers children, shows children and parents where to get help and provides information for professionals.
In late 2019, the Nationale Rat gegen sexuelle Gewalt an Kindern und Jugendlichen (National Council on Combatting Sexual Violence Against Children and Young People) was set up by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the Independent Commissioner for Child Sex Abuse Issues. It brings together actors from different spheres of society and aims to develop and implement a new national strategy on the protection of children and young people from sexual violence and exploitation.
Empowering Children and Children's Rights
Every child in Germany should be aware of their rights. It is equally important that the knowledge about childrens rights extends to adults: parents, caregivers, politicians, members of administrative services and courts of law. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees children a number of rights which can be classified as the "3 P's": provision, protection and participation. To ensure the implementation of the Convention in Germany, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has established an independent monitoring body at the Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte (German Institute for Human Rights). In cooperation with Non Governmental Organisations, several projects aim to inform citizens about children’s rights and to better implement childrens rights for instance in local administration or in the judiciary. These projects include festivals, teaching modules for pre-schools and schools or childrens books.
Help for People in Emergency Situations
The Federal Foundation Bundesstiftung Mutter und Kind - Schutz des ungeborenen Lebens ("Mother and Child - Protection of Unborn Life") supports expecting mothers in emergency situations by providing grants to cover the cost of the child's immediate needs and other expenses related to pregnancy and birth.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth offers low-threshold and custom-fit help outside the regular statutory support to people in emergency situations. The Fonds Sexueller Missbrauch im familiären Bereich (Sexual Abuse in the Family Fund) supports those who were sexually abused as children or adolescents in overcoming the lasting effects of their experience (such as covering the costs of therapy). The fund also accepts applications concerning non-family related cases, such as sexual abuse which occurred in sports clubs or at church. In 2019 the Bundeskabinett decided - subject to parliamentary approval - that the financing of the fund is to continue. The central goal of continuing the fund is to significantly reduce processing times for applications and to continually improve processes. Thus, the help granted should not only be accessible and specific to individual needs, but should also be fast.
The Fund Heimerziehung West (Upbringing in Residential Children’s Homes West) and the Fund Heimerziehung in der DDR (Upbringing in Residential Children’s Home in the GDR) were set up to help people who had been exposed to abuse and ill-treatment while in residential care facilities during their childhood and teenage years and are still suffering from the lasting effects of their experience. The term of the fund ended in 2018. In total, about 47.000 people (about 60 percent Heimerziehung DDR, 40 percent Heimerziehung West) registered.
The Conterganstiftung für behinderte Menschen (German Contergan Foundation for Disabled People) provides assistance for thalidomide victims and funds projects to improve their opportunities to participate in society.