Today, youth work in Germany generally follows certain characteristics and principles, including:
- plurality of youth organisations,
- volunteer work,
- supported by youth work professionals,
- activities are voluntary and oriented to the needs and interests of young.
Child and youth work is carried out as part of the child and youth services system in Germany. Child and youth services generally cover all assistance, education and pastoral care services for children, young people and their families outside of school.
Youth work covers a broad spectrum of services and recreational activities for young people. It is for all children and young people irrespective of their age, background, education, sex and – in particular – any problems they may have or which are attributed to them.
Child and youth work is also a place that represents the interests of children and young people, for example by representing youth associations or the alliances to which they belong in (local) political structures.
Child and youth services, and therefore also youth work, is organised independently at a local authority level. The federal (Bund) and state (Länder) governments only lay down general legal provisions regarding the need for child and youth services and the general goals these services must pursue. The majority of child and youth work is organised and financed at a local (Kommune), district (Landkreise) and town/city level. This results in an array of organisational forms, services and structures.
Participation is a recurring topic in child and youth work, not only in terms of how child and youth work can be structured participatively, but also in terms of how political participation by young people in their living environments (such as local participation processes or participation in youth services planning) can be increased and structured.
Topics that have shifted into the focus of youth work as a result of social and legal changes are: the inclusion of young people with disability in child and youth work; young refugees in child and youth work; and the opportunities, limits and consequences of the digital revolution.