Governmental and Nongovernmental Youth Welfare in the New German Lander

Article excerpt

Youth welfare aims to improve the opportunities for children and young people and to support their families. German youth welfare is in the hands of state-run youth welfare departments and nongovernmental, charitable organizations (NGOs). The duties of these departments are proscribed in the Child and Youth Welfare Law (Kinder und Jugendhilfegesetz--KJHG) of 1991. When the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) joined the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), the youth welfare laws of the latter also became binding on the former. Since youth welfare had a different structure in the former GDR, it had to be completely reorganized in both the state-run and nongovernmental sectors. In the former GDR, youth welfare was not a separate sociopolitical branch complementing and correcting other branches, but was subsumed under a principle according to which economic and social politics form a unity. In line with the former ideology, social services were rendered by companies and combines. Youth welfare was primarily based on intervention. A welfare system comparable to the one in western Germany did not exist (see Stoppe, 1992, p. 2ff.).

Youth welfare comprises the following main areas: general youth and social work, day care for children, and the finding and supervision of foster parents and guardians. Besides helping disadvantaged children and young people overcome their problems in life and education, youth welfare also takes the needs and interests of their young clientele into account (see Jordan & Sengling, 1988, p. 73ff.). Available measures extend from open facilities (e.g., advice or youth centers), where participation is voluntary, to highly interventionist measures (e.g., admittance to a home, revocation of custody). It is primarily the latter tasks that fall within the responsibility of the state-run sector of youth welfare departments. In recent years, Germany's youth welfare departments have moved from a mainly repressive, interventionist approach to a more service-oriented, preventative one. Parallel to this development arose the demand for a much broader "universal" youth welfare system that would deal not only with the afflicted person as such, but try to influence that person's environment (see Munchmeier & Wolffersdorff, 1992, p. 202).

The project "Youth Welfare and Social Change" (carried out by the Federal Ministry for Women and Youth People at the German Institute for Young People in Munich, Germany) has been set up to oversee and document the development of youth welfare in the 1990s. The project monitors how youth welfare changes from an interventionist system that mainly deals with problem groups to a differentiated system offering a variety of personal services and open facilities within the community.

The specific situation in the East, characterized by the complete reorganization of the youth welfare system and severe social changes, renders it particularly interesting for following the development of youth welfare in this part of Germany. First, the state-run sector of the youth welfare system (i.e., the Youth Welfare Department) is examined here, followed by the first results of an investigation of all youth welfare departments in the new German Lander.

To get an overview of the situation in the five new Lander, we prepared a standardized questionnaire to record the general conditions applying to the work of the youth welfare departments. This questionnaire was sent to all 215 departments in existence in June 1992. (Because of their special situation, the youth welfare departments in the east of Berlin were not included in our investigation.) The questionnaire was answered by 181 (84%) of the departments.

RESULTS

Reform and Long-Term Planning

The administrative districts in the five new Lander are smaller than those in West Germany. Reforms planned for 1993 were to result in the reorganization and amalgamation of the existing districts into larger units. …