What are the tasks of the "Jugendamt"?
The Youth Welfare Office ("Jugendamt") in Germany has numerous tasks and responsibilities- and almost every family comes into contact with their staff at least once. The Youth Welfare Office not only looks after neglected or abused children and adolescents but also provides advice and support for all other families. If you have any questions regarding childcare or face any challenges concerning your children, you can always reach out to the staff of the Youth Welfare Office at your place of residence. Children can also contact the Youth Welfare Office directly if they face any problems with their parents.
Important: The Youth Welfare Office is responsible for all families residing in Germany, regardless of their nationality or residence status.
What do I need to know?
The Youth Welfare Office is a department within the city administration/municipality specifically tasked with support and protection of children, adolescents and families. In some areas, the Youth Welfare Office has a different name, i.e. "Fachbereich Jugend"("Department of Youth"), "Fachbereich Familie" ("Department of Family") or "Amt für Kinder, Jugend und Familie" ("Office for Children, Youth and Family").
The Youth Welfare Office supports parents or legal guardians in the upbringing and caring for the children. They offer various counselling and support services for parents, children & adolescents. The Youth Welfare Office also provides families with access to family-friendly environments, i.e. free offers for children and adolescents, namely holiday passes ("Ferienpass"), other leisure activities and playgrounds.
Another fundamental task of the Youth Welfare Office is to protect children and youth in need. If a child is neglected or abused, the Youth Welfare Office gets involved and looks after the child in need. Physical punishment or mistreatment of children is prohibited by German law. The Youth Welfare Office also often takes over the guardianship of the children and youth without parents or those with parents currently unable to take care of them.
The Youth Welfare Office provides various offers and opportunities for parents, children and youth, including:
- Counselling and support for parents of babies and young children, also known as "Frühe Hilfen".
- Help in finding child daycare service. You can find out more in our chapter "Kita: Child Care in Germany".
- Aid for youth convicted of criminal offences.
- Assistance for parents who need help with childraising, including childcare counselling, parenting course ("Elternkurs"), or direct support in everyday life by a family helper ("Familienhelfer"). Such offers are known as "child-rearing Assistant" ("Hilfe zur Erziehung"). You can find more information in German, Arabic, Russian and Turkish at drk-wb.de.
- Counselling for parents who want a divorce.
- Placement of foster children or adoptive children.
- Assistance for unmarried mothers in need of establishing paternity and support for legal enforcement of maintenance claims.
- Financial support for single mothers or fathers whose partners cannot pay child maintenance. The service is known as "Unterhaltsvorschuss" or "maintenance advance."
If the Youth Welfare Office learns of a neglected or abused child, one of their employees will speak to the family and possibly the neighbours, teachers or caretakers. If it turns out -during these visits- that the child is indeed in danger, in case there is no other solution, the child will be taken away from the family ("Inobhutnahme"). To do so, however, the Youth Welfare Office needs an official decision from a Family Court ("Familiengericht"). In exceptional cases, the judicial decision can also be filed later.
When a child is taken away from the family, they are first sent to a foster family or a supervised children's shelter. As soon as the situation improves at home, the child can go back to their family.
Keep in mind that the Youth Welfare Office staff want to help you. When they ask if they can visit you or in case an employee is at your doorstep without an appointment, let them in. Don't worry if your home is messy. The only important thing for the Youth Welfare Office is that your child is well.
Taking away a child is always the very last step. Before that, the Youth Welfare Office will try to help you by providing you with support. Make sure you accept and benefit from their help. If your child is taken away by the Youth Welfare Office staff, it means a Family Court has decided so. You should seek advice from a family law attorney. You can find a family lawyer in your area at anwaltauskunft.de.
You can go directly to the Youth Welfare Office or call them and speak with the staff. On jugendaemter.de, you can find the address and telephone number of your local Youth Welfare Office. You can also talk to your teachers or other adults you trust. They will help you and speak to the Youth Welfare Office.
You can also call the employees of "Nummer gegen Kummer" Monday to Saturday, between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. by dialling 116111. The staff speak German- and the call is free of charge. You can also write to them after registering on the website nummergegenkummer.de.
Everyone can contact their local Youth Welfare Office. Children and teenagers can also call or go there and ask for help. You can find the address and telephone number of your local Youth Welfare Office on jugendaemter.de. You can also let them know of your suspicions regarding possible abuse or maltreatment of children anonymously.
Alternatively, you can call the Berlin Emergency Child Protection Service (Berliner Notdienst Kinderschutz) The staff speak Arabic, Turkish, Russian and German and are available around the clock at 030-610066.
Ask for help without fear. If you face problems or are overwhelmed by childcare, the sooner you seek advice and support, the better.