Friday, February 3, 2012

A Fog of Kita Frustration

In December 2010, I wrote briefly about the hunt for a Kindergarten/Kita for Simon. I had learned that they were very tough to get into, there were long waits, and you had to think ahead.

Well, the fact that I did not understand the system or the language lead me to really drag my feet on this one. But in the end that was ok, because Düsseldorf changed their Kita application process to an online system that should make it easy for everyone. So in November I went into the iPunkt office and had one of the employees help me with the application. I kept it simple and applied to all Kitas near me with options for 25 hours/week. I was put on the waiting list at each school, and will find out in March if we received a spot.

But it's not that simple. Here's what you need to know:

  • Children age 3 and over are guaranteed a spot in a public Kita (for free!!)
  • There is only enough space for less than 10% of children under age 3 (not free, but greatly subsidized)
So, you do the math, and it's pretty much impossible to get public childcare. Add to that there's a priority system with single mothers and working parents being at the top. (Not me).

But how do they choose? Well, that's an interesting question and everyone seems to have a different answer. There are literally hundreds of applicants for just a handful of spots...Some parents recommend visiting the Kita so that they know you and that you are really interested. You might even send a thank you card. You might call the Kitas weekly or regularly to ask them how their selection process is going. Recently, a friend of mine was touring a Kita and when she asked when they would make their selections, the Kita employee responded that if she wants a spot she can just say so and she will get her in. Nevermind all those other people waiting patiently in some online queue. It's infuriating to say the least!

Of course, there are private options. But they are very expensive. And there are Tagesmutters, which is essentially in-home childcare which very common for children under age 3. This can also be quite expensive. I spoke to someone at the iPunkt office today and I believe she said that there are Tagesmutters that are also subsidized by the government, but I couldn't figure out if both parents have to be working or not.

So wish me luck on my Kita search! I am not optimistic, but I know that we will find something for Simon if this whole charade doesn't work out. I'll keep you posted.

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