Berlin’s Communist legacy has left the city covered in daycare centres that were launched decades ago to allow both mum and dad to keep working just weeks after the birth of a baby. While only 40 percent of children who need daycare can find a spot in the rest of Germany, it’s hard to imagine anyone in Berlin going without a Kitaplatz, or daycare slot. The government will pick up most of the cost of daycare if your child is between six weeks and three years and you can prove that both parents work (or if you’re a working single parent).
All children over three years have the right to subsidised daycare. You’ll have to visit the Jugendamt, child services, in your district (search on www.berlin.de for your district and Jugendamt to find yours) and fill out the paperwork. If your child is younger than three, you'll need to show your employment contracts, or invoices if you’re self-employed, which are proof that you need a daycare spot.
You’ll also have to provide proof of your income—either recent payslips or tax returns—because you’ll pay monthly fees on a progressive scale. You’ll then be given you a piece of paper known as a Gutschein that gives you the right to either a half-day spot that covers four hours or a full-day spot that entitles you to seven to nine hours of care. The slip will also show how much you have to pay each month. For example, if you earn about EUR 20,000 a year, you’ll have to pay just EUR 30 a month and the government will pick up the rest. If you earn EUR 60,000, it’ll cost just over EUR 200 per month. The good news is that a second child will only cost EUR 10 per month.
Then it’s off to find an appropriate daycare. Once again, friends and the internet are your best sources. The city has a number of government-sponsored English-language nurseries, but they generally have small class sizes of about 20 toddlers and lengthy waiting lists. The same is true with special curriculum centres, such as Waldorf and Montessori nurseries. Most daycares are flexible and only require the child to come three days a week, if that works for you. You can find a list of nurseries by district at www.kitanetz.de/bezirke.html.
Be sure to visit a number of Kitas, or nurseries, to find one that’s right for you and your child.
If you don’t qualify for subsidised care or you don’t feel like jumping through the hoops, there are also several private English-language nurseries that will bill you for their care.
For more information on the pre-school system in Germany, click here.
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