Having and Raising a Child in Germany
This post is a little different than some others in our blog. It touches lightly and broadly on a complex system that cannot constrain itself in one blog post. I will point you in the direction of articles written by experts, giving you more info at a glance.
There’s a Danish saying that new parents hope they raise a “German baby” – one that doesn’t cry, is good-tempered, and obeys its parents. Maybe your baby isn’t German by birth – but if you consider having and raising your child in Germany, this guide will start you on the way to understanding the education, childcare, and parental leave systems.
School System – Explained.
The German school system is free and attendance is obligatory for all children residing in the country. Most schools are public, with a small percentage of religious schools, international schools, and schools for children with disabilities.
Please read this comprehensive article from German-way.com about the history and setup of the current German school system. There is also information about the international school system in Berlin.
While it is never too early to learn, sometimes it is too early to go to school properly! Children must go to school from the September after their 6th birthday. Before then, there are multiple programs to care for and educate the children before they attend school.
Each child is entitled to 4 years of free child care before the start of school. Here is the official Berlin page about Kitas in Berlin.
Unfortunately, there is a shortage of places in child-care organizations (called “Kitas”) and it is difficult to get a place if you are an expat family just entering the system. Most advise to apply for a Kita-space when the baby is born.
This article by TheLocal.de explains the issue and how it is addressed. It is only a problem if one of the parents does not plan to stay home with baby until school, which many parents do choose. However, most children enjoy Kita and find it easier to learn German and socialize with their peers when going to Kita.
Kindergeld (child-money) is a monetary allowance of 200-235 EUR monthly which parents of children residing in Germany are entitled to receive. The allowance is to offset the costs of raising a child. Parents receive an amount for very child in Germany from the month they are born or register in the country. A full article from How-To-Germany goes into more detail.
Maternity, Paternity, and Parental Leave
Germany has one of the most generous leave allowances for new parents in the world. There are a few kinds of leave that will interest you:
Maternity leave: This is the leave that a mother must take centered around the birth of the child. She must take 6 weeks before and 8 weeks after the birth of the child. If the doctor recommends it, medical leave may even start earlier. This leave is paid at 100% by the wife’s company. She must inform the company at least 7 weeks before the planned birth date.
During pregnancy and during maternity and parental leave, the mother’s employer may not terminate her from her job except if the company is going bankrupt.
Paternity leave: The father is entitled to at least one month of paid leave which he usually takes right at the birth of the child.
Parental leave: there is up to 14 months of leave available for the parents to share – if the father doesn’t take any, then it drops to 12. They can take it up to 3 years after the birth of the child. In many cases, the mother will take 12 months of leave and the father will take 2. This leave is paid by the social security system at about 66% of the normal payment that the parent would receive. This article explains it in more detail.
Since 2014, the parents may take 28 months of leave shared between them – however, in this case they receive only half of the allowance per month they would normally receive.
After returning from leave, the parents have the right to return to the same job with the same conditions and hours. In practice, some mothers return to work part-time.
I hope that this article and the ones I’ve linked help you to better understand the German school and childcare system. Having and raising a child is a lot of work wherever you go!
Most children who speak a second language in the home benefit from being around German-speaking children before they go to school, especially if they will attend a public German school. It is almost guaranteed that after a year, the children will speak much better German than their parents! All the same, a tutor can also be useful to help the shy ones or a child who does not attend Kita.
If you have questions further, you can comment on the article or email us, [email protected]