Germans as a whole have a firm commitment to the family and children are prized. Childcare is made available to parents by local governments, although there are private options as well. There are many options for child care in Berlin with some areas with many children having a long waiting list.
It is important to find a facility that works for you and your child. Some factors to consider:
Budget: It is important to know what you are able to spend to help determine where you should look. Think about the number of hours and time to day you will need a sitter to determine your total costs.
Language: Your child may need a dual language facility if they do not speak German. Many schools are dual English/German both for international children and to encourage German children to learn English.
Age of Children: Some schools will only care for children over 2-years-old, but many take infants as well. Some schools require that children be potty-trained.
Service Provided: Some facilities offer "drop-in" care which you can use on a sporadic basis. Other places require a contract and a regular schedule.
When choosing a care center, also check staff turnover. Consistency in caregivers is a major benefit for your child. Proximity is often the deciding factor when choosing a child care facility, so consider that when picking a neighborhood to live in. This is an important element in creating a happy situation, and a happy life.
A day care center voucher (Kita-Gutschein) is available to help defray the costs of childcare for qualified parents.
The extent of your entitlement to daycare is determined on the basis of your family's income and number of hours you request. In most cases, payment does not go directly to the Kitas, but through the Jugendamt.
The Jugendamt decides how many hours you can send your kid to the Kita based on your situation. Generally, children up to three years old, care is offered for 6, 8, 10 or 12 hours. children over 3 years old are offered that, as well as daily Kindergarten for up to four hours. Children over 6 years old are offered 2, 3, 5 or 7 hours of care as a supplement to schooling.
The department of children's day care (Abteilung Kindertagesbetreuung) at the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) is where you apply for this benefit. They can advise parents on children's day care and other family issues.
Parents must apply to the Jugendamt in the district where they are a resident between six and two months before they want daycare to begin. Later applications are only possible in exceptional circumstances.
The more paperwork you have and the more prepared you are, the more likely the meeting will go well. It also helps to speak German as contracts and employees will operate in German. If you are not proficient bring a friend to help.
You should check out facilities in your area and arrange visits in advance of the permissible application period (the Gutschein is only valid for 6 weeks after issue). You may also ask for a place to be reserved for your child. After receiving a Kita-Gutschein, you may sign a contract with the Kita of your choice. The voucher displays the date from which your child can start attending daycare. You must sign a contract for daycare by this date at the latest.
Usually called Kitas, there are many childcare facilities, but some schools and areas are more competitive. Prenzlauer Berg is a very difficult neighborhood to find an opening and you may expect a 6 to 12 month waiting list for the most desirable locations. This has less to do with quality and a lot to do with location. The East is generally easier to find an opening.
Kitas cost between 500-650 euros a month for full (5 days a week) care. Part-time care (3 days) is about 300-400 euro.
If both parents are non-Germans, you MUST send your kid at least one year to a Kita or the child needs to pass a German language test.
Babysitting is useful if you are not looking for full time care, but need someone to occasionally watch the children. Often, this is a family member such as the grandmother, and may or may not be paid as it would be treated more like a favor. Other people may be looking for these roles as a paid position. Be sure you have recommendations and are comfortable with the person you leave you children with. Background checks are one of the benefits of going through an agency.
A tagesmutter takes care of children in their own home. Usually this includes children from several different families. Some care givers are covered under the Jugendamt (you will need to apply for it in your Familienkasse and get a "Gutschein", then find a Tagesmutter with a free place) or are private. Complete information for children and care in Germany can be found here (German).
For consistent babysitting, you may look at an au pair. Consult the section on "Au Pair" under "Find a Job".