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Child care in Germany

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Are you wondering where to find childcare in Germany? Here are some tips to guide you.

If you intend to settle in Germany with your children, their education will definitely be one of your main concern, especially if you are going to work. To whom should you entrust your children during your working hours and when you have to go out? Note that working parents can choose from various child care services such as nurseries, kindergartens, child minding services, etc. You can inquire on these with your friends in the country or with the closest local administration office to your place of residence.

Bear in mind that your choice will largely depend on your child's age and your financial means.

Education system

The German education system is governed by the Ministry of Education and Research, that is the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung. Schooling in Germany generally starts at the age of 6 until 15 years. But it usually varies depending on the region. Moreover, public education is free of charge, but you can still find many international and private schools.

 Good to know:

Primary schools offer free educational materials. Some of them can lend them to children. However, parents may be asked to contribute to the cost of educating their children according to their income.

Pre schools

Preschools, on the other hand, operate under the aegis of the Ministry of Family. In general, children attend kindergarten, or Kita, from 3 to 6 years. These schools are managed either by charitable organizations, Verbände der Freie Wohlfahrtspflege,churches or local authorities. However, parents are required to make a financial contribution according to their monthly income.

Note that preschool education is not compulsory in Germany. In some regions, children are enrolled in preschool when they are 5 years old so that they can have preparatory courses before joining primary school.

Some kindergartens are even open to 11 or 12 years children after school hours so as to help working parents.

 Warning:

You are not allowed to enroll a less than three years old child in a kindergarten in Germany. However, parents are advised to register their child on the waiting list in advance as seats are limited in numbers. Note that the registration process takes place only once a year.

Moreover, most preschools operate a half-day, usually in the morning. But you can still find full time schools. In Berlin, for instance, private nursery schools offer flexible hours so as to meet the needs of working parents. Some schools such as Waldorf and Montessori child care centers follow specific pedagogical principles and programs.

Enrollment

You will have to visit the nearest municipality to your place of residence before enrolling your child in a preprimary school. Officers will first assess your financial, family and social situation so as to determine which school will best suit your child. A written confirmation will then be issued by the local Youth office, including the details of your child's care as well as the contribution you are expected to make according to your financial means.

Childminders and nannies

If you prefer to entrust your child to a childminder, the latter should be recommended by the local Youth office. In general, German childminders are professionals having all necessary qualifications and skills. Note that childminding costs less than kindergartens and nurseries.

You can also hire a nanny or an "au pair" to look after your child for a few hours on a regular basis or in the afternoon. Nannies and "au pairs" can be found through word-of-mouth, on the Internet, or through specialized agencies. These are generally paid per hour.

 Useful links:

Expat.com - Germany Forum 
Expat.com - Nursery and kindergarden directory
Ministry of Education and Research www.bmbf.de
Department of Family www.bmfsfj.de
Berlin Senate – Find child care www.berlin.de
List of preschools in Germany www.kinder-kalender.de

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