In Greece, as was said in the introductory section the Early Childhood Education and Care is provided in the following ECEC settings:
- Infant care (vrefikoi stathmoi), infant/child care (vrefonipiakoi stathmoi) and child care centres (paidikoi stathmoi), within the competence of Municipalities.
- Private pre-school education and care settings (profit-or non-profit-making), as well as in part-time childcare settings for infants or/and children and in integrated care infant/child care centres within the competence of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Ministerial Decision 11828/293/ 2017).
The operation of the above municipal settings is governed by the “Standard Regulation of Operation for Municipal Infant/Child Care and Child Care Centres” (Joint Ministerial Decision 41087/29-11-2017).
Child care centre also operates in the Ministry of Education, whose operating regulation follows the basic direction of the structures ECEC (Ministry of Interior /Local Government Organizations).
Also child or/and infant care centres operate under the supervision of the Ministry of Health which are housed in public hospitals and serve exclusively the needs of hospital staff. As example referred the infant or child care centres of KAT hospital, Papanikolaou hospital/Thessaloniki, Sotiria hospital/Athens, as well as University Hospital of Heraklion in Crete (PAGNI). Law 2082/1992: “Reorganisation of social welfare institutions and establishment of new social protection institutions” specifies the daily creative program for infants and children:
- Describes the operation of all day child/infant care centres
- Financing programs, terms and conditions; payment methods;
- participation of parents or insurance organisations, as well as any other relevant detail.
Social welfare centres
These centres are located in every region of the country after the merger of social welfare care units in 2013. They lie within the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Their purpose is the protection of the family and child. Specialised and individualized services are provided to children living in specific psychosocial conditions. More specifically, according to the Presidential Decree 134/17 , the Directorate for Child and Family Protection of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, under whose supervision are the Social Welfare Centres, has as main goal the design, organization and implementation of policies for the protection of the family, as well as to monitor and evaluate them. It consists of the following units:
- Department of family cohesion empowerment.
- Department for the support of children with disabilities.
- Department of surrogating and adoption.
- Department of Unaccompanied Minors Family Cohesion Assistance Department.
Multiple the responsibilities of the Child and Family Protection Directorate as well as the policies which are implemented through the Social Welfare Centres. The following distinguished and related to early childhood education and care responsibilities are:
- Monitoring and controlling the implementation of Family and Child Protection Programmes and measures, as well as other related actions implemented by the Social Welfare Centres, family and child protection institutions, other private charitable initiative bodies, such as associations and organisations), as well as private enterprises, such as children's and infants’ centres, and other bodies.
- The supervision, coordination, monitoring and evaluation of the actions of the Social Welfare Centres of the country regions. The introduction and submission of proposals for programs for the protection of the family and the child, the proposal of the bodies on the construction and improvement of infrastructure, as well as the approval for the inclusion of the above in the public investment program or in other programs co-financed by the European Union.
- The design of early intervention and care policies and programs, as well as cooperation with other services for the actions’ design and legislative interventions that strengthen the social and psychological support of the family.
In the framework of the above planning, the conditions for the establishment and operation of Child Protection and Care Units were defined and resulted from the cooperation of two Ministries: Labor and Social Affairs and Environment and Energy, according to Joint Ministerial Decision 40494/11-05-2022. Child Protection and Care Units are structures that provide protection to children who are proven to be temporarily or permanently deprived of a family environment or who cannot remain in it in their own interest. They operate in geographical units in which the needs cannot be met by existing structures after a proposal by the interested body to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, specifically to the Directorate of Child and Family Protection.
The number of hosted children cannot be less than four and no more than twenty per Unit.
Each Child Protection and Care Unit accommodates children of the following age groups:
- Infants 3 to 5 years old.
Siblings are placed together in the same Unit without discrimination of age or sex, unless after a reasoned decision it appears that this is contrary to their best interests.
The purpose of the Child Protection and Care Units is to:
- The rehabilitation of children in a family environment or their reunification with the biological family or through institutions of foster care or adoption through the preparation of children for independent living.
- Providing the child with full accommodation, psychosocial support, medical care, access to education, skills development and encouragement to participate in activity for smooth integration into the community and labor market.
In particular, the infant age group is supported by:
- 2 Kindergarten Teachers/Nursery Caregivers per 10 children, with an alternating daily eight-hour shift.
- 1 Kindergarten Teacher/ Nursery Caregivers per 10 toddlers on a night shift.
There is also support from a Social Worker in the Unit for all social groups.