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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
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Germany

4. Early childhood education and care

4.1Access

Last update: 27 November 2023

Place guarantee to ECEC

Since 1 August 2013 there has been a legal entitlement to a place in a day-care centre or in a child-minding service for children who have reached the age of one. This complements the legal entitlement introduced back in 1996 to care in a day-care centre for children from the age of three up to starting school. Verbatim, the corresponding regulations in Book Eight of the Social Code (Achtes Buch Sozialgesetzbuch – Kinder- und Jugendhilfe – SGB VIII, § 24 paragraphs 2 and 3) read:

"A child who has reached the age of one is entitled to early childhood support in a day-care centre or in a child-minding service until he or she reaches the age of three."

"A child who has reached the age of three is entitled to support in a day-care facility until he or she starts school. The public youth welfare organizations shall work to ensure that a demand-oriented range of all-day places is available for this age group. In case of special need or as a supplement, the child may also be fostered in home-based child care."

Correspondingly, the local maintaining bodies of public youth welfare (local authorities – Kommunen) are obliged to provide places in day-care centres or child-minding services to all children from the age of one until they start school. In this regard, they cooperate with the non-public youth welfare services.

If the legal entitlement to care in a day-care centre or in a child-minding service cannot be honoured by the city or municipality, parents can sue to have the legal entitlement honoured.

Affordability

Early childhood education and care is not a part of the state school system, and attendance of day-care centres is not, as a general rule, free of charge. To cover some of the costs, parental contributions are levied, the level of which may vary widely from Land to Land. In some Länder, for example, many parents have no or very low childcare costs, while in other Länder they have to pay an average of well over Euro 300 for a full-day place for children under three. With the Act on the Further Development of the Quality and Participation in Child Care (Gesetz zur Weiterentwicklung der Qualität und zur Teilhabe in der Kindertagesbetreuung), the so-called Good Child Day Care Act (Gute-KiTa-Gesetz), a nationwide obligation for social staggering of parental contributions was introduced on August 1, 2019. The criteria that can be used are in particular the parents' income, the number of children entitled to child benefit, and the daily child care hours. Since 1 August 2019, families throughout Germany no longer have to pay parental contributions under certain conditions. The local public youth welfare organisation is obliged to provide advice on exemption from contributions.

In recent years, more and more regulations have been introduced at the level of the Länder to relieve parents of their costs. This was done partly with federal funds. In some Länder, for example, attendance at a day-care centre is already completely or partially free of charge, depending on the child's age and the scope of care. In some Länder no parent contributions are charged for the final year or the final years in a day-care centre for children. With the Day-Care Centre Quality Act (KiTa-Qualitätsgesetz), no new Land-specific measures to reduce contributions with federal funds are possible any more. However, measures already implemented before 2023 can be continued, provided that the federal funds are mainly used for measures to improve quality. This does not affect the possibility of financing Land-specific measures to reduce contributions with state funds.