Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Family Support Centre

Childcare in Berlin

The state of Berlin offers a variety of childcare and educational services for children aged 0 to 6. When your child turns one, he or she becomes legally entitled to a spot at a full-day childcare centre (Kindertagesstätte, aka Kita) or at an in-home childcare centre (Kindertagespflegeeinrichtung). Childcare is free; the only thing parents must pay for is lunch. In order for your child to be admitted to a childcare centre, you must submit a childcare voucher (Kita-Gutschein), which you have to apply for in advance at your district’s youth welfare office (Jugendamt). All centres operate in accordance with the Berlin Educational Programme.  

Types of childcare

Kindertagesstätte (Kita), or full-day childcare centre

Kindertagesstätten, known popularly as Kitas, are childcare centres that take care of children from eight weeks to primary school age, although usually the individual centres set their minimum age of admission. Childcare centres are full-day facilities where children are cared for from morning until late afternoon in either a mixed-age group or in a group of children of the same age.

Kinderladen, or parent-run childcare centre

The term Kinderladen (literally “children’s shop”) is generally used to describe smaller childcare centres where around 15 to 20 children are cared for in one mixed-age group and the parents are actively involved, performing their share of tasks such as cooking, cleaning or caregiving. In some cases, the parents pay additional fees for extras such as organic lunches or additional educational services.

Kindertagespflege, or in-home childcare

In-home childcare is a type of childcare designed primarily for children under three years of age, where up to five children are cared for at a time in a family-like environment by a professionally qualified childminder (Tagesmutter or Tagesvater).

The Berlin Senate Administration’s family website also provides an overview of all the most common types of childcare (Kita, Tagespflege) among other things.

Childcare voucher

Whether you want to send your child to a childminder or a childcare centre, you must first obtain a childcare voucher (Kita-Gutschein) from the state of Berlin. The voucher covers the full cost of childcare; parents only need to pay a fee for their child’s lunch. Some centres charge extra fees for special services such as foreign language lessons, sports classes or a special type of lunch.

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Parents can apply for the voucher at their district’s youth welfare office at some point between nine and two months before their child is due to begin going to childcare.

The amount of care your child is entitled to depends on how many hours you spend working or studying. From their first birthday onwards, children are legally entitled to up to seven hours of care per day without any proof of necessity. If you need more childcare or if your child is less than one year old, you must furnish proof of necessity. The state of Berlin accepts the enrolment certificate demonstrating full-time study (Semesterbescheinigung) as proof that you need full-time childcare (seven to nine hours per day). There are different rules in the state of Brandenburg. Working parents must prove their need for childcare with a certificate from their employer indicating their working hours; commuting time can also be counted towards these hours. If parents need extended childcare (i.e. more than nine hours per day), they have to furnish proof of necessity.

You can find detailed information about the childcare voucher on the Berlin Senate Administration website and apply for it online.

The voucher is valid at all childcare providers financed by the state of Berlin as long as the centre or childminder in question has the capacity.

Important note for visiting academics: Your child must be officially registered as a resident of Berlin in order for you to apply for a childcare voucher. The Family Support Centre would be happy to advise you on this process.

Finding spots at childcare centres

There is no centralised system for assigning childcare spots. That means that you must contact the childcare providers you are interested in and make an effort to obtain a spot for your child there.

The Senate Administration website has a childcare directory (Kita-Verzeichnis) that lists all the childcare centres in Berlin and allows you to perform a targeted search of childcare centres by district. The Berlin Senate Administration also operates a website that regularly updates a list of available childcare centre spots.

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In addition, the DaKS (Dachverband Berliner Kinder- und Schülerläden e. V.) website regularly publishes vacant spots at Kinderläden, or parent-run childcare centres. You can search for childminders via the in-home childcare department of your local youth welfare office. In some cases, lists of in-home childcare centres are available on the individual district websites, while other districts allocate available childcare spots directly via the employees of the youth welfare office. The Senate website provides a list of childminder contacts at each of the youth welfare offices. 

Important note: If despite your own demonstrable efforts you cannot find a spot for your child at a childcare centre, contact your district’s youth welfare office. If they cannot find you a spot, it may be possible for you to obtain funding for childcare that you arrange yourself (“Aufwendungsersatz für eine selbstbeschaffte Kindertagesbetreuung”).

Childcare centre settling-in period

During your child’s first days and weeks in childcare, he or she will undergo a settling-in period. This means that you can accompany your child at the centre until he or she feels secure enough to be left alone there. It is a gradual separation process. The duration of the orientation phase depends on the age and personality of your child, among other things. You should plan for a settling-in period of up to four weeks, especially for younger children.