The “Early opportunities” portal of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) offers information on early childhood education and care in Germany. It is aimed at education professionals, parents and anyone interested in the child daycare system in Germany.
The portal offers a comprehensive overview of news and current topics, daycare figures, as well as the quality of daycare and childminding services/ preschools and daycare in Germany. Additionally, it provides information on various topics in early childhood education and care, such as integration and inclusion, education professionals and qualification, language education, digitalisation as well as health and prevention.
The child daycare system in Germany
The Child and Youth Services Act (Book 8 of the Social Code, Sozialgesetzbuch VIII) establishes a legal framework for the care, minding and education of children in daycare facilities (Kitas) and childminding services in Germany. One important step towards needs-based and high-quality care services for children under the age of three was the entry into force of the Childcare Funding Act (Kinderförderungsgesetz/KiföG) on 16 December 2008, since the Childcare Funding Act stipulates that all children from the age of one have a legal entitlement to a childcare place. This legal right has been in force since 1 August 2013. Children from the age of three have already had a legal right to placement in childcare since 1996.
In principle, parents can choose between different types of childcare:
In child daycare facilities, children are minded and nurtured until their entry to school by trained educators on a full-day basis or only for part of the day. Daycare facilities may employ differing pedagogical approaches and concepts with respect to care. Within daycare facilities, children up to the age of three years old are often looked after in small groups in crèches. Some daycare facilities also offer mixed-age groups.
Daycare is a particularly family-like and flexible form of care, in which usually at most five children are looked after by a qualified childminder, often within the childminder's own home. Especially for children under the age of three, daycare offers education, nurturing and care in small groups and with a steady caregiver.
Available to children of primary school age are after-school care centres and all-day schools, in which children also receive care and support beyond school-hours.
Care situation in Germany
The number of children who benefit from childcare in Germany has been growing steadily for years. In 2021, 809,908 children under the age of three and 2,613,058 children from the age of three up to the start of school made use of such care services. This corresponds to 34 percent of all children under the age of three in Germany and 92 percent of all children from the age of three to the start of school. Nonetheless, further additional care services are still needed, since the demand for childcare still exceeds the supply across all age groups (Source: Kindertagesbetreuung Kompakt 2021).
Improvement in the quantity and quality of child daycare in Germany
Access to high-quality early childhood education and care creates equal opportunities for all children and has a beneficial impact on their subsequent educational path. Children’s daycare plays a critical role for many parents, particularly when it concerns being able to reconcile work and family life. In order to meet this need, the Federal Government is increasingly supporting the development and enhancement of children’s daycare quality.
The Childcare Quality Act
The Childcare Quality Act (KiTa-Qualitätsgesetz) came into force on 1 January 2023. The Act ties onto the Act on Good Early Childhood Education and Care (Gute-KiTa-Gesetz) from the year 2019. Through the Childcare Quality Act, from 2023 to 2024 the Federal Government is providing the Federal Länder with around 4 billion euros in funding to further develop the quality and improve access to children’s daycare. Furthermore, the law aims to help improve reconciliation of family life and work, and put equivalent conditions in place across the country for raising children. This is based on the results of monitoring and evaluation of the Act on Good Early Childhood Education and Care.
The Childcare Quality Act contributes towards further improving the quality of child daycare, above all in the seven action fields of key importance to quality:
- Needs-based services
- Staff-to-child ratio
- Attracting and retaining qualified personnel
- Strong leadership
- Promoting childhood development, health, nutrition and movement
- Language education and
- Improving daycare
Measures that were already included in the agreements between the Federal Government and the Federal Länder as part of the Act on Good Early Childhood Education and Care may continue under the Childcare Quality Act. However, the Federal Länder must fulfil the requirement that investments are predominantly made in the aforementioned action fields. New measures, on the other hand, must exist within the parameters of these action fields.
New Federal Land-specific parental relief towards daycare contributions will no longer be financed under the Childcare Quality Act.
The Federal Government is supporting the Federal Länder to expand children’s daycare.
In 2008, the first investment programme was launched to advance the expansion of daycare centres.
With the first three investment programmes, the Federal Government provided a total of 3.28 billion euros in funding to expand the number of childcare places for children under the age of three, creating more than 560,000 additional childcare places at daycare facilities and childminding services.
The fourth and fifth investment programmes create a further 190,000 places for children up to the start of school. These funds are still available until the end of 2023. This means that, the Federal Government has allocated a total of over 5.4 billion euros to maintain and expand children’s daycare places and has thus far created a total of more than 750,000 additional places.
Various Federal programmes are supporting this improvement in quality
The Federal Government is supporting the qualitative improvement in children’s daycare through various Federal programmes :
The federal programme “Language day-care centres: Because language is the key to the world” (Bundesprogamm “Sprach-Kitas: Weil Sprache der Schlüssel zur Welt ist”) has promoted language education in day-to-day activities at daycare since 2016. This federal programme is aimed primarily at daycare centres with an above-average proportion of children with special linguistic needs. In combines three key aspects: language education integrated in daily life, inclusive pedagogics and cooperation with families. Since 2021, the “Language day-care centres” federal programme has placed a focus on the use of digital media and the integration of media educational aspects in language education. The federal programme will run until mid-2023. In order to implement the federal programme, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has allocated a total of 1.4 billion euros.
Through its federal programme “Integration Course with a Child: Building Blocks for the Future” (Bundesprogramm “Integrationskurs mit Kind: Bausteine für die Zukunft”), the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community, funds childminding-like services that are offered by integration course providers. Migrant parents with children not yet of school age can thereby participate in an integration course, where they can get to learn the German language and culture – even if they have not yet been given a childcare place at a regular nursery school or daycare facility. Qualified or to-be-qualified professionals look after these children. The federal programme will run until the end of 2023.
31 December 2022 saw the end of the federal programme “Stepping into Childcare: Building Bridges into Early Childhood Education” (Bundesprogramm “Kita-Einstieg: Brücken bauen in frühe Bildung”). This programme enabled many children and families to access children’s daycare. Since the programme began in 2017, over 3,500 pedagogical and early education activities were implemented at 150 locations across Germany. A total of almost 500 skilled positions have been funded and more than 100,000 people have participated in “daycare-accessing opportunities”. It was possible to provide almost 17,000 children with a regular place.
For this federal programme, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has allocated a total funding volume of over 100 million euros. Many of these opportunities continue under municipal responsibility.
Funding for the "ProChildminding: Where Education for the Smallest Starts” (Bundesprogramm “ProKindertagespflege: Wo Bildung für die Kleinsten beginnt”) was also discontinued on 31 December 2022. Through this Programme, children’s daycare was developed further as a family-like and flexible form of care, and childminder qualifications as well as working conditions were improved. Initially, this federal programme was scheduled to run from January 2019 until December 2021. It was then extended for another year to make up above all for coronavirus-related delays. Across Germany, a total of 47 locations received funding. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth provided funding amounting to a total of 28 million euros. Each location was awarded funding of up to 150,000 euros per year.
With the federal programme “Skilled Labour Initiative: Attracting young talent, retaining professionals in early education” (Bundesprogramm “Fachkräfteoffensive Erzieherinnen und Erzieher: Nachwuchs gewinnen, Profis binden”), from 2019 until 2022 the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth supported the Federal Länder to attract teaching professionals and retain professionals that had already been trained and develop their skills further. This contributed toward a remunerated, practice-integrated training model spreading across Germany, enabling additional skilled staff to be recruited. At the same time, professional training supervision as well as the assumption of specific specialist responsibilities was encouraged so as to open up development prospects for experienced professionals.
Further information on child daycare in German and English is available at the International Centre Early Childhood Education and Care (ICEC).
Comprehensive descriptions of the systems of early education and child daycare as well as training courses and fields of work for early education professionals in EU member states and a selection of other European states can be found on the Seepro (Systems of Early Education and Professionalisation in Europe) website.