Children and Youth

Vier Schulkinder stehen arm in arm
Children and young people have rights© Fotolia/jovannig

Children, adolescents and young adults have the right to a good childhood and youth. Right from the start, they should be afforded the same opportunities regardless of their origins, gender, religion or their parents' social status.

All children and young people should be allowed to develop into confident, independent individuals. This involves ensuring that children and young people know they have rights – and by including them in the policymaking process and by making policies with them in mind.

The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth relies to an extent on external expertise. In the Ministry's reports on children and youth, independent experts regularly analyse the real-life situation for young girls and boys. These reports form an important foundation for national policy on children and youth.

The Federal Youth Board (Bundesjugendkuratorium) 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 youth.

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.

The model programme JUGEND STÄRKEN im Quartier (supporting youth in deprived neighborhoods) supports local authorities in neighborhoods with development priority 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 organizations, 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 local communities with development priority.

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 runs from 2015 to 2018.

Throughout the country, almost 460 youth migration service points (Jugendmigrationsdienste) 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.

In a new model project "jmd2start", 24 service points offer a wide range of support for young refugees who have recently fled to Germany.

Germany's Youth Protection Act (Jugendschutzgesetz) is primarily designed to protect children and youths in the public sphere. This involves selling and consuming tobacco, electronic cigarettes, electronic shishas and alcohol, and entry to discotheques and bars. Age ratings for films and computer games and the process for the indexing of films, DVDs and online offerings by the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors (Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien) are also governed by the Act.

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 youths from potential risk. At the same time, it provides parents with valuable guidance on bringing up and protecting their children.

Digital media have become an integral part of life for children and youths today. Like no other generation before them, almost all young people regularly go online. Three-quarters of them who use the internet do so via a smartphone while on the go and 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 safe and healthy use of online media by children and youths:

  • 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 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) evaluates new game releases for their educational value.
  • The children's search engine www.blinde-kuh.de and the children's portal www.meine-startseite.de offer children a safe start in independent internet use.

EU and international youth policy promotes cross-border encounters. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth uses 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 suggestions for their own work. Information about key youth initiatives, activities and measures is available online:

  • German-Franco Youth Office: www.dfjw.org
  • German-Polish Youth Office: www.dpjw.org
  • German-Israeli Youth Exhange: www.conact-org.de
  • German-Czech Youth Exchange: www.tandem-org.de
  • German-Russian Youth Exchange: www.stiftung-drja.de
  • International youth cooperation: www.ijab.de
  • European youth cooperation, Erasmus+ Youth in Action: www.jugendfuereuropa.de
  • JiVE (Youth Work International – Experiencing Diversity): www.jive-international.de

With the implementation of the EU Youth Strategy and the EU Erasmus+ Youth in Action programme, the Ministry promotes mobility, mutual understanding, solidarity and cooperation in Europe.

The Implementation of the EU Youth Strategy transforms European ideas and topics into policies and practice. The EU Youth Strategy is implemented at both Federal and Länder level around three topics: Fostering participation and strengthening democracy, social integration and successful transitions into work, and recognising and increasing the visibility of non-formal and informal learning as part of youth work.

"Taking action for a youth-appropriate society" – under this slogan the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth carries out its Youth Strategy. It focuses on young people between 12 and 27 years. The ministry cooperates with various civil society organizations. The participation of young people and their representatives is a characteristic of every youth policy measure pursued by the Ministry.

Main projects of the Youth Strategy:

  • Spreading and implementing a New Youth Policy Approach that follows special guidelines and places adolescents and young adults at the centre of cross sectoral action.
  • Developing and implementing a Youth Check that is supposed to scrutinise federal schemes and bills regarding their compatibility with the interests and needs of the young generation.
  • The working group "Young people shape the future" transfers the interests and needs of young people into the Demographic Strategy of the German Federal Government. The working group focuses on rural areas and cooperates with four model regions. 
  • The coordination office "Taking action for a youth-appropriate society" provides information about the new youth policy approach and promotes local youth strategies.
  • A range of projects receive support from the Innovation Fund of the Federal Child and Youth Plan. Fields of action are: political education, cultural education, youth associations, international youth work and youth social work.

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 2015, over one million young people received educational support, be it from education counsellors, in social group work, in family guidance 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 especially the case for a not inconsiderable number of children and youths 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 child and youth welfare services, both now and into the future.

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 Centre for the Prevention of Youth Crime of the 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 that work and to encourage cooperation among institutions and individuals engaged in it.

The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth places the child and the child's needs at the fore-front of all child and youth welfare policy reform. Such reform must take account of the current and future situations of children and youths. This is why the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth wants to look at the needs of all children and young people – those with disabilities and those with none. The central pillar in the reform of policy for children and youths involves improving their rights. In intensive dialogue with state (Länder) governments, local administrations and welfare organisations, the Ministry wants to ensure better integration of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into the legal framework for the provision of child and youth welfare services.

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.

  • By the end of 2016, the Federal Government had invested some 7.3 billion Euros in expanding daycare services for children under three. In 2017 and 2018 it is allocating an annual amount of 945 million Euros to cover the operating costs involved in expanding and securing the availability of quality daycare.
  • In this current legislative period, the Federal Government has increased the funding allocation for its daycare expansion investment programme to 1 billion Euros. Also, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is using the Third Investment Programme to focus on providing full-day childcare. The Ministry is planning a Fourth Investment Programme starting in 2017.
  • With the Federal Programme "Language day care centres", the Federal Government has allocated 1 billion Euros between 2016 and 2020 to provide additional staff (about 7000 skilled workers) at selected daycare centres to assist existing staff in the provision of speech and language tuition for children and in providing assistance to families.
  • With the Federal Programme "Day care centre PLUS", the Federal Government promotes expanding opening hours in selected child care centres which are tailored to the needs of parents (2016 to 2019).
  • With the Child Day Care Action Programme, the Federal Government promotes the expansion of flexible daycare services which are especially tailored to meet families' needs.

The government wants all girls and boys to grow up free from neglect and violence. To provide the right kind of support for every unique issue, they must be detected at an early stage. The National Centre on Early Prevention (Nationales Zentrum Frühe Hilfen) assists the Federal Government, state (Länder) governments and local administrations in this endeavor with a variety of measures including help for families expecting. The German Federal Child Protection Act (Bundeskinderschutzgesetz) contains provisions allowing the use of early intervention and prevention networks and strengthens family midwife service.

Sexual violence occurs each and every day which is why prevention programs and widely available access to protection, help and support for girls and boys is key. Based on the recommendations of the Round Table on Sexual Child Abuse and in accordance with the National Action Plan, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has developed a policy to prevent sexual violence and protect children and youths. In implementing the policy, the Ministry works closely with the Independent Commissioner for Child Sex Abuse Issues (Unabhängiger Beauftragter für Fragen des sexuellen Kindesmissbrauchs).

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.

Every child in Germany should be aware of their rights and it is equally important that the knowledge about children’s rights extends to adults: parents, caregivers, politics, administration and courts. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees children 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 German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte). In cooperation with NGOs several projects aim to inform citizens about children’s rights such as festivals, teaching modules for kindergartens and schools or children’s books.

The Federal Foundation ”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 fast and unbureaucratic help outside the regular statutory support to people in emergency situations. The "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.

The Heimerziehung West Fund and the Heimerziehung in der DDR Fund help people who were exposed to abuse and ill-treatment while in residential care during their childhood and teenage years and are still suffering from the lasting effects of their experience.