Friday, May 29

How to successfuly get a place in Kita in Berlin? // Jak dostać miejsce w Kita w Berlinie?

Some say (including ladies from Jugendamt) that if you hadn't register your kid in a kindergarten before you even think about getting pregnant, there is no chance you will get a spot. That is a half true - meaning that it is surely not easy, but not impossible, you just have to know HOW. There are several things that might ease it up. I will try to explain you how to get a spot in Berlin's Kita based on my personal experience. The rest depends on luck so... may the odds be ever in your favor!

First, a word about the childcare system in Berlin. Kita (an abbreviation from Kindertagesstätte - literally "children's day site") is an education system usually divided into three stages -

  • Krippe (nursery, crèche) for toddlers (age up to 3 years), 
  • Kindergarten (commonly named Kita) for children who are older than three years and before school and 
  • Hort / Schulhort for kids attending school.

Public or private Kita?

Kita's in Berlin divide into:

  • public ones, managed by the city (Kindergaerten City)
  • managed by churches and associations (like Evangelic and Catholic churches, Diakoniewerk Simeon)
  • managed by charity organisations (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz, Caritas)
  • managed independent organisations (like Arbeitwohlfart - AWO)
  • managed by professional companies, having GmbH (Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung) after their name
  • and privately owned by group of parents (Eltern-Initiativ-Kindertagesstätten - EKT)

How to find Kitas around me?

Beside talking a walk around your home and looking for places that looks like Kita,
you can use several online directories that lists Kitas in Berlin. 

Here are city-owned Kitas:

Here are all the Kitas together, both of the directories allows you to search through the district, post code etc. 
Kitas in Berlin:

You can also contact your advisor Jugendamt (usually the one who visited you right after the birth).

Some Familienzentrums all over Berlin also has their own Kita's, like "tam - Interkulturelles Familienzentrum" in Kreuzberg.

Beginning of the year

Kitas usually start their year in August, sometimes in September. That doesn't mean that you cannot start Kita at any other period - if Kita's still have free places in group you can basically start at any given date.

Sign up period usually starts at the beginning of the year in January.

Be prepared for the accommodation period (Eingewöhnungszeit) that lasts from 4 up to 6 weeks  for Krippe and from 3 days up to 3 weeks for Kita and requires one of the parent to come with kid everyday so plan accordingly.


Krippe (0-3 yo) is partially subsidised by the city of Berlin, thus you will have to pay a bit depending on your income, but it is usually somewhere around 50-200€. Additionally you will have to pay 23€ for food. Kindergarten (3-6 yo) is supposed to be fully financed by the state, so here only 23€ costs will occur. If you don't want to send your kid to city-owned public Kita you can choose from bilingual, private Kita, Eltern-Initiative-Kita (parents initiative) or different religious Kitas - the costs there are up to the owners and they might ask for additional money (Bio-Food, swimming classes, music, etc).

How does the process of placing a child in Kita look like?

You can approach Kita spot searching in many ways, but basically in the first place you need to find a Kita you like, you get their initial willingness to take your kid, then you obtain the Kita-Gutschein from your Jugendamt and after that you are ready to sign a contract with the chosen Kita.
Although from my experience though it is not the recipe for a successful Kita spot search. I explain that at the end of the article. But first - the basics.

Waiting lists (Warteliste)

Each Kindergarten that will want to quickly get rid of you will offer a place on the waiting list (Warteliste). It sounds nice, some kids might find a place in other Kitas and you will be granted a spot, you think. Ekhym, wrong. The whole idea is great, but in reality it does not really work properly. People sign up to dozens of Kitas and trust me that no one keeps track of it - neither parents nor the Kitas. I have around 60 different Kitas around my place and I think I put the name of Nila on each one of them as early as in December 2014. Twice after a month, just to be sure.  Till now I haven't heard from a n y of them. What to do then?

Follow up!

Follow up like a pro sales person. Send an email (you can find a template in last section of this article) or register to online Warteliste, then call after some time (a week or two for example) to ask if they received it. If someone did answer the phone, ask if they have a spot or not. You can also ask about their Sprechzeiten (a time during which Kita allows 'guests' on premises and deals mostly with parents looking for perfect Kita) if not listed online. If they don't have a spot and tells you to call next year - don't be devastated. Call/email them next month to ask if "just by accident" they don't have a free spot. It worked for me - I was denied 3 times a place in one Kita that magically found a spot for me at the end. Do you wonder what was this miraculous potion? It's called Ganztagsplatz Kita-Gutschein.

All about Kita-Gutschein and how to apply for it you can find in separate post here:

How does the successful process of placing a child in Kita look like?

I am sure you can get a spot in a traditional way of doing things, but I tried this way and I failed 3 times during 2 months of a search. ("Trying" means sending out emails, calling and visiting Kitas in search of a free spot - all I got in return was an empty laugh and an offer to put my baby on the waiting list - and only if I was lucky. Don't go this road I would say, it's a waste of time for you and for them.) 
This is what granted me 5 free spots in Kitas around me in 3 days, including a spot in a cute little Kita that said 3 times "nein" to my previous emails. Maybe I was just having the most lucky day in my life, or maybe the formula worked - you can check on your own and share your experience in comments section below!

1. Choose the time you want to send your kid to Kita / or have to get back to work / or start finally learning German, etc.

2. Apply for a Kita-Gutschein as soon as it is possible. (if you chose to start Kita on 1 August 2015, then you can apply for Kita-Gutschein in December 2014, latest May/June 2015). Here is how to do it.

3. Apply for Ganztagsplatz Gutschein, even if you don't plan to leave your little one for 9 hours a day in Kita. Kitas are businesses like any other, and the longer your child is allowed to spend in Kita the more money they earn. The longer the hours of childcare granted, the higher chances that your child will be "the chosen one". How to apply for longer hours read above in "Kita-Gutschein" section.

4. Prepare emails and send them to the Kita's you like. This is where whole trick is in my opinion. You have to prepare it carefully, asking just "Do you have free spots in your Kita" won't work, promise. Been there, done that.

Make sure you write in German saying not only that you are looking for a spot in their Kita and that you have a Ganztagsplatz Gutschein already granted but also write a bit about your kid, make it personal and nice and... attach a cute picture. (Yes, I know it looks like a job interview and it's ridiculous, but hey, you wanna have that spot or not?)

Here is the template of my email if you want to use it. Just for God's sake, treat it as an inspiration or at least please modify it a bit before sending it out. (Email provided by one and only Mama w podróży)

"Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, 

Zurzeit suche ich einen Kitaplatz für (name, surname, date of birth) ab (exact date or month and a year) an. 

Ich bin im Besitz eines gültigen Kita-Gutschein (Ganztags Platz) ab (date from which the Gutschein allows your kid to start Kita)

(Name of your kid) ist sehr freundlich und lächelnd Kind. (Add more personal information about your kid, what does she or he likes, is he social or shy, etc)

Wir sprechen kein Deutsch zu Hause und Sprachintegration ist sehr wichtig für uns. (If you are an expat family not speaking German at home please state it in the email! It gives additional "points" sometimes!) 

Bitte informieren Sie mich darüber, wenn Sie einen Platz zur Verfügung haben.
Wenn Sie kein Platz für uns haben, kann ich mich in der Warteliste anmelden? 

Ich wäre Ihnen äußerst Dankbar. 

Herzliche Grüße,
(Your name and surname)
+49 put your telephone number !
and address where you live
10000 Berlin" 

(if there is no email address you have to call and say all that in German, or ask about their email address.)

You should receive a phone-call next day in the morning with an invitation for a meeting (or at least an email answer).

Take a look at Kita on that meeting, ask all the questions that comes to your mind and most important - take a look at kids. Are they happily playing with each other? Do you feel any tension?

After making a decision you can sign an official contract with Kita and shake hands with the principal.

A "welcome pack" from city Kita we received after signing a contract

If you think that something is missing or you have a question - feel free to ask in comments section! Good luck!

[below text in Polish]

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