Berlin families with kids might need to stay on the ball when looking for a kindergarten spot (Kitaplatz) in Berlin. While some European cities have fabulous online systems for registration and streamlined administration processes, Berlin does not fall into this category. There is no centralized system. In some parts of Berlin, there is a severe shortage of Kita spots available, and the waiting lists are up to 2 years long. In other areas, or just by coincidence, you might find a place within weeks.
Should I make enquiries in Berlin before my child is born?
Apparently, yes, especially if you live in an area with a high density of young families. You can visit kitas and put your name down as interested if you like what you see. Not all kitas like unannounced visitors though. You might encounter the following situations:
- A kita will have so many people on the waiting list, they simply won’t accept any more names.
- A kita will have a set time for inspections and enquiries, for example, every third Tuesday from 12-1pm.
- A kita will only accept online applications within a certain time period, and won’t deal with phone enquiries or drop-ins.
- Some kitas won’t accept applications until after your child is born.
- Others will accept your interest, as long as you call and update them with details such as the name, gender, and date of birth once your child arrives.
- A kita might take your application more seriously if you call them every 8 weeks or so to let them know you’re still interested. Many parents put their names down on many different lists, and there’s no-one to keep track of who got what. Some kitas will assume that if you are not in regular contact, you’ve already found a suitable arrangement somewhere else.
Last-Minute Kita Places Available in Berlin
Sometimes, parents apply 14 months in advance for certain Kitas and are placed on a reserve waiting list. Other times, a Kita will have a place available at short notice. This website lists vacant places in Berlin Kitas, some of them are available immediately.
What is a Kita Gutschein?
This is a voucher that you usually need to show the Kita in order to sign a contract. You obtain it from the local Jugendamt (youth welfare office) and it authorizes you to accept a certain number of hours of childcare per day, anywhere from 4 – 9+ hours.
The state contributes to the costs of childcare, but to get the voucher, you need to outline your reasons for requiring childcare. The Gutschein and the amount of hours you can receive is determined on a case-by-case basis at the Jugendamt.
Some Kitas may ask for an extra contribution from parents for extra classes, services, or organic food.
Once you have the Gutschein, you can sign a contract with a Kita if they offer you a place and you’re all set, but the voucher is only valid for a limited amount of time. If you haven’t signed a contract before the voucher runs out, you have to start all over again.
If you need to plea your case to the Jugendamt directly, it’s a good idea to have a German speaker in tow.