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The daycare disaster

Many daycare centers suffer from an acute shortage of staff. When staff are absent, care times have to be reduced or entire groups closed. The ones who suffer most are working parents.

“No childcare available today” – a message from the daycare that Alex Liefermann and his partner have been receiving regularly in the mornings recently via email. Their son Liam's daycare center is increasingly short of educators. The situation has now become so serious that the four-year-old often has to stay at home two days a week.

The mother works in retail – working from home is impossible. And she can't just bring Liam to work with her either. So looking after him often falls to her partner. Liefermann, who works freelance in the media industry, says he now cancels many jobs in advance. “You're always afraid of calling work and saying you can't come in today,” he says.

The uncertainty not only puts a strain on everyday life, but is now also having a financial impact on family life. “We have between 300 and 500 euros less per month. We simply can't afford everything anymore. We don't eat ice cream as often or just go to the cinema. That's stressful because the children in particular have to take a back seat so often,” explains the father.

Educators at Load limit

Danny Eggert and his partner Christin Dieckhöfer are also familiar with the lack of daycare. The first thing they do in the morning is check their cell phones. “You look to see if there's a message, an email or a missed call. There are ten emergency daycare places in our daycare. Everyone wants them. And if you look at your cell phone too late, you're the eleventh. Then we really have a huge problem,” says the father. The two work full-time and are therefore dependent on their daughter Hannah's daycare. The parents are worried that the daycare hours could be permanently reduced in the future.

The current situation is not easy for the educators either. They often feel the frustration of the parents and at the same time are unable to meet their own educational standards. “It is very frustrating most days: you set out to do something and then there are staff shortages. You want to do more, but you can't do it if you also have to fulfill your supervisory duties,” says educator Ann-Christin Schlosza. In her opinion, fewer and fewer people want to work in the daycare center because the conditions are so bad: “Nobody wants to deal with deficiencies and the very stressful daily work,” says Schlosza.

Legal Framework conditions as a problem

Many daycare centers are desperately looking for educators. The 48 facilities of the Diakonie Düsseldorf are currently lacking around 80 qualified full-time employees. The facilities are often unable to ensure that the children are looked after. “There are not enough trained staff at the moment. The training takes three years,” says Michael Schmidt, Chairman of the Board of the Diakonie Düsseldorf. “That means we cannot fill this gap overnight. It feels like we are in an emergency situation every day.”

On the other hand, care must be taken to ensure that the burden on existing employees does not increase further. His suggestion: temporarily lower the staffing standards due to the shortage of skilled workers. “We have very experienced child care workers and assistants who would be perfectly capable of looking after a group. We have a lot of confidence in them. But at the moment, that is not legally possible,” explains Schmidt.

Less qualified child care workers should relieve the burden on educators

The state of Lower Saxony is already planning such changes. A draft law provides that in the future experienced teaching staff without three years of training will be able to look after groups under certain conditions. The law in North Rhine-Westphalia currently requires three years of training to look after groups. Child care workers with two years of training are not allowed to do this alone. A change in the law could create more flexibility and reliability, says Schmidt.

The federal and state governments are called upon

The crisis in daycare centers is also affecting Berlin: Federal Minister for Family Affairs Lisa Paus recently presented a strategy paper together with the states to recruit more skilled workers. According to this, there is currently a shortage of up to 90,000 educators nationwide. The Federal Minister for Family Affairs is aware that the shortage of staff in daycare centers repeatedly forces parents to find short-term solutions. This is not an acceptable situation.

Paus' solution: The federal government is financing a three-year retraining course for people who want to become educators. And foreign specialists are also to fill the staffing gaps in the future. “In the current situation, we urgently need measures that offer immediate relief for families,” demands Liefermann, a family father. He is particularly worried about what Liam is missing out on at daycare.

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