According to the Austrian constitution, the Federal Children and Youth Services Act provides for uniform principles nationwide. Detailed regulations are made in the implementing laws and decrees of the provinces, whereby regional differences are taken into account.
Specific services and advice are provided by the Youth Offices in the political districts and towns/cities. Services are also offered by approved private bodies.
One of the main concerns is to increase the ability of families to bring up their children for an optimal development of children and young people. They lie primarily in the preventive field, and thus include a series of social services, which offer a broad range of counselling, support, help and guidance as well as parental education.
If the well-being of minors cannot or can no longer be ensured by these offers, measures have to be taken to support their upbringing (whereby the child remains in the family environment) or to assume responsibility for the upbringing of the child by accommodating the child in residential care or with foster parents.
Public youth services may only intervene in family relationships when the parents or guardians objectively endanger the well-being of the child. This is particularly the case when violence is used against the child or physical or emotional suffering is caused.
When carrying out such measures, the Youth Office has to strive to obtain the agreement of the parents or guardians. If this is not possible, the Youth Office has to apply to a court for the necessary orders to preserve the well-being of the child, particularly the restriction and withdrawal of custody. If the child is considered to be in severe danger, the measures have to be taken without delay and the corresponding applications have to be filed at court within eight days.
The mildest means which can be expected to lead to the desired result are to be employed. This means that it should be made possible for the child / young person to remain in his/her original family with the support of social services and/or support of the parents in their upbringing efforts. Only if no improvement for the child can be achieved or expected in this way is it permitted to move the child to other accommodation.
The child should not be accommodated away from his/her home for longer than is absolutely necessary. It thus has to be ensured that the contact between parents and children is maintained and that through the help of social workers, therapy etc. the situation of the parents is improved to such an extent that the child can return to its natural family.