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Child and Youth Services in Germany

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Tasks and fields of work > Assistance and support

Statutory day-care for children

Day-care for children...


supports parents


benefits children


Day-care for children provides…


It teaches them skills and competences


It teaches them norms, values and social skills


It provides them with care and supervision


Articles 22 to 26 of the Child and Youth Services Act (Kinder- und Jugendhilfegesetz), which corresponds to Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII), set out the responsibility at federal level for offering children services in day-care facilities and nurseries. This general task has three fundamental objectives (cf. Article 22 [2]):

  1. To allow children to become independent, responsible and socially competent individuals,
  2. to support and complement child-raising and care provided in the family, and
  3. to assist parents in better reconciling work, child-rearing and family care.

These services are to be provided to children with and without a disability together, under consideration of the specific needs of children with a disability and those threatened by disability (Article 22a [4]).

Child day-care facilities are facilities in which children spend time for part of a day or all day and are cared for in groups (Article 22 [1]).

Kinder in einem Kindergarten, die Spaß haben / Children in a kindergarten having fun

Nursery care is provided by suitable caregivers in their own household, in the household of the legal guardian or in other suitable premises. The features that distinguish child day-care from nursery care are set out in federal state legislation (Article 22 [1]).

In regard to the care provided to children in day-care facilities and nurseries, all 16 federal states have adopted their own implementing legislation, a power devolved to them under Article 26 of Book 8 of the Social Code.

That being said, children’s rights to services, which are age-dependent, are identical in all federal states as stipulated in Book 8. These are as follows:

  • Children under the age of 1 only have a claim to care provided in a day-care facility or nursery if they or their parents meet certain requirements (Article 24 [1]).
  • Until they turn 3, children have a claim to care provided in a day-care facility or nursery that depends on their personal needs (Article 24 [2]).
  • Between their third birthday and enrolment in primary school, children have a claim to care provided in a day-care facility. Where required, this care may be provided in part or in full in a nursery (Article 24 [3]).
  • A range of services in a day-care facility must be offered to children of school age “as needed” (Article 24 [4]).

In 2020, around 3.9 million children received care in a day-care facility. It should be pointed out that the number of places on offer for all age groups falls far short of what parents would like to have.

Another contentious aspect is to what extent parents can claim all-day care for their children. Public-sector providers are called upon to provide all-day care “as needed”. However, there is no clear legal interpretation of what this “need” constitutes - the need as expressed by parents, or the need as defined by the providers? In 2017, around half of all childcare places in Germany were designated as full-day places, with considerable differences between federal states (see Developments in day-care for children).

The act on all-day care for children of primary school age (Ganztagsförderungsgesetz/GaFöG), adopted on 10 September 2021, phases in a legal claim to all-day care in primary schools starting from 2026.

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