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Easy Kita Registration: How to Successfully Secure a Spot for Your Child

If you have already immigrated to Germany, you have participated in several rounds of applications-visa, residency and work permits and so forth. Are you and your family now looking to secure a spot in a day care?  Our perhaps you have an employee looking to get his or her children into a local Kita. We want to share the ins and outs of the German childcare system.

Many parents are able to take parental leave for the first year of a newborn’s life. This means that children often enter day care around the age of one, with his or her settling-in period (Eingewöhnungzeit) a few weeks before or after this milestone.

Day care is an age-based system, with programs for children under 3 years old in a Krippe (the German word for crib) and Kindergarten is offered for children turning 3 years old within the calendar year to approximately 6 years of age. The system is focused on play-based learning. (After the age of 7, children are required to attend school in person and home schooling is not an available option. Keep posted for more information about the German school system).

Day care institutions may be state funded, affiliated with a church, employer sponsored or a parent group-sponsored centre, referred to as an Elternverein. You may hear the overall term Kita used interchangeably for Krippe or Kindergarten. Another childcare option for the under three age range is a Tagesmutter. This is not the same as a nanny. Similar to the group leaders in a more traditional Kita, a Tagesmutter has also participated in an apprentice style program to be certified (this would include a theoretical and practical training and exam). His or her workplace would also be inspected by the state for safety purposes and they are typically listed on an official registry.  (Germans do not refer to the staff at Kitas as teachers, this terminology is solely used for the school system and corresponds to a certain University level degree and training). Kindergartens can also feature different structures and organisational styles. For instance, some may follow the Montessori or Waldorf styles (in which the staff has participated in an extra training program called a Weiterbildung); open concept groups, where children can choose to play in a variety of groups after the morning circle; or an outdoor/forest style, which emphases a play-based experience in nature and is referred to as a Waldkindergarten.

While, many federal states have eliminated the monthly fees for Kindergarten, Krippe fees are often paid monthly based on location and income. Parents are also typically responsible for paying a monthly fee for lunch. If you opt for an Elternverein, you would likely be responsible for a variety of tasks, which can include preparing lunch, cleaning, administrative duties, etc. This will vary from centre to centre.

Visiting Kitas and how to apply?
Germany’s application process has in recent years moved online and is often run through the local authorities. (Past versions included parents turning in a paper application at the top choice Kita and the application form had space for alternative choices.) Many of the federal states are accepting applications in the first or second months of the year. You will likely need to provide a copy of your address registration (Meldebestätigung) and a Kita pass as a component of the application process.  Priority is often given to applications, in which both parents are working and/or enrolled in an apprentice training program (Ausbildung).

During this time frame, Kitas typically open to the public for what is called, „Tag der offenen Tür.“ This is held on a specific date and during the noted time frame.

It is important to note that each federal state coordinates their application process and can vary from state to state. Our local consultants can guide you through the whole process.

The Kita system also suffers from a shortage of staff like so many industries Germany-wide. Last year over 385,900 children did not receive childcare spot. If the pandemic taught us anything, childcare is not only an essential social element, providing so many learning tools for children, but also a critical support structure for modern families in which both parents work outside of the house.

What happens if you do not receive a spot?

I wanted to register my second child at 18 months for a Kita spot here locally. My older son was already registered in kindergarten and we had applied timely to the January deadline. With plans to start a B2 German course for upcoming fall, I was devastated to receive a letter stating that there would not be spot for her in the coming year (1. August through July of the following calendar year). We sat for months on a waiting list for a potential spot. I was able to find a spot in a play group-referred to in German as a Spielkreis-at Haus der Familie in our local district. It was coordinate with two caretakers from Spain and was a wonderful multicultural group. My daughter now goes to school with three kids from this group. So if you do not get a spot-all hope is not lost!  

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