CONTRIBUTED BY LUCY B.
This introduction to German childcare (Kinderbetreuung) options. Lucy is in Germany as an American ex-pat with a German spouse in the Stuttgart area. For those of you here under SOFA with the US military, some of these options are available and some are not. There are different rules in different areas of Germany. Check with your local base, post and/or Rathaus for explanation of what you are entitled to in your area.
There are several options for childcare in Germany, but knowing your rights, costs and the appropriate vocabulary, as well as registration times and preferences is essential to finding a suitable place.
These are arranged privately, and may be found online, or by posting a local ad (say in a shop window, for example). Depending on the individual and their age, skills and availability, (as well as number of kids), prices per hour usually start at 5€ and go up from there. If you ask a young person to babysit at night and they do not have their own car, you are obligated to escort them safely home afterwards.
Another option is a Tagesmutter, sometimes also Tagesvater. This is a registered caregiver that usually has a small daycare type of setting run out of her or his own home. They are licensed and trained to watch over small children part time. These are not babysitters and usually a contract is required. Some subsidies may be available from the Jugendamt if the parents show the need for childcare and the inability to find it elsewhere. (For example, we paid 6€ per hour, but were partially subsidized, reducing it to about 3.50€/hour for a time). Here are some links to Tagesmutter organizations http://www.tagesmuetter-stuttgart.de/ http://www.tagesmuetter-boerse.de/
Public Kindergartens and Kitas are open to anyone paying taxes in Germany. They are typically city-run, or religiously affiliated. Although some are run by the Catholic church, for example, the child does not need to be Catholic in order to attend. The level of religious instruction, celebration of holidays and so on varies by institution. City-run daycares may also celebrate some religious holidays (usually Christian). The workers or teachers at these facilities are required to do training and an apprenticeship (internship) before beginning.
There are also private Kitas and Kindergartens. These are sometimes semi-public, with a different pedagogical style, such as Waldorf or Montessori. There are also ones that are entirely private. They may be bilingual or specialized, and can be rather expensive. Additionally, there are some which are Eltern-Kind-Gruppe run. These are run by a group of parents, and usually requires a lot of parent participation (volunteer hours) in exchange for membership. However, in these centers, the parents have more control over the day-to-day decisions made than in other types of facilities.
The prices of public daycares are regulated by the city or state. Here is some more information, including an internal link to the table on costs. Compared to the cost of childcare in the US, the public Kindis are very affordable. Subsidies are available to families of lower income.
Beginning in August 2013, all children 12 months old and older have the right to a Kita (short for Kindertagesstätte) place. These are daycares for infants-3 years old. Usually the ages are mixed in the group. Infants under 12 months old do not have a “right” to a place, although some very few places exist for infants. These places are difficult to acquire and are usually given preferentially to essential workers in society such as doctors.
Kindergarten is the German version of preschool or daycare for 3 years and up (until elementary school begins). A typical day usually involves singing, pretend play, celebration of holidays, snacks (usually provided by the parents and sent in a little lunch bag), and outdoor play. Some US parents find the day in a German kindergarten less structured than they would expect in a US preschool, but there is usually more going on than meets the eye. Children are developing language and social skills all the time in this environment.
Teilzeit or Halbtags means that a place is open part time or half days. Keep in mind that the German idea of half time may be different from what you’re used to. Typically this means a few hours, usually in the mornings, five days a week (M-F). An example would be from 8am-1pm daily. Every place has their own rules, but some restrict when children may be dropped off and picked up, much like a school. Full-time (verlängerte öffnungszeiten) is sometimes available, but places are harder to get if parents do not have full-time work. These are usually open from 7am-5 or 6pm, depending on the place. The idea of Tuesday/Thursday care or every-other-day care is rare.
Although a child of 12 months has the right to a place in childcare, this does not mean one can simply walk into any facility and immediately find an open place. This is a long process and may take a lot of time on your part. Stuttgart lists their childcare (Kindertageseinrichtungen) online. You can specify your age range, location and other preferences. Keep in mind that it may be necessary to register with 10-15 places in order to get a spot. Some places require that you visit during their open house or guided tour before registering, so be sure to call ahead rather than just knock on the door and ask to apply. Some organizations, like Montessori, require membership before applying, so plan ahead. Generally, you can register with all of the local Evangelical or Catholic daycares on one form, which saves some time. If the Stuttgart link does not cover your area, you can visit your local Bezirksrathaus (City hall) or Jugendamt (Child Bureau) for a list of centers.
Registration usually takes place seasonally (much like school registration), with the deadline for fall acceptance being February 15th. After registration in February, letters of acceptance or rejection come out around April-May. If you are entitled to a place and have not been given one, you then can register with the Jugendamt (child services), and they will attempt to assign one to you. This does not mean, however, that the location will necessarily be convenient or that you will get input in choosing the place.
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