Thousands of educators are missing in Hesse’s daycare centers

According to a study, Hesse will need 25,000 additional teachers by 2030. There is already a great need for more day care places. Despite the legal right, not all parents get a place.

By Petra Boberg and Christine Rütten

Climbing, sliding, hiding: While their mother works, Mika and Felix frolic in the daycare’s garden. But at the end of October, it’s over. After their third birthday, the twins actually had to go to daycare in Mörfelden-Walldorf (Groß-Gerau). Mother Bianca, who does not want her surname to be read in the media, had expected two daycare places. But in April came the cancellation.

For Bianca, this means that she has to give up her 30-hour job as an industrial clerk for at least a year. Because the daycare is also fully booked until August 2024, the contract can no longer be extended. Financially, it’s a disaster, says Bianca. “My husband and I both don’t have big salaries.” The family can live on both incomes together, but on one alone? You are going to have a hard time.

The waiting lists for day care places are long

In addition to the twins Mika and Felix, another 154 children are currently waiting for a daycare place in the city of 35,000. Numerous other families in Hesse are also on waiting lists for daycare places. Although there are 54,550 places in Frankfurt, more than 3,000 children have yet to get one. 5.5 percent more places were to be created. In Wiesbaden too, there would be at least 5.6 percent more demand.

According to data from the state statistical office, 32.5 percent of all children under the age of three in Hesse are cared for in a day care center or in a day care center. For children under the age of six, the figure is almost two-thirds.

Legal right from one year

There are large regional differences in childcare for under-threes: in Bad Homburg (Hochtaunus) and Marburg the childcare rate is above average at around 49 and 45 percent respectively, in Hanau (21 percent) and Rüsselsheim (15 percent) there are particularly few young children in Kitas or day care.

One of the twins is standing in a wooden house, the other is looking inside through the window.

All parents have been right since 2013: The municipalities must provide a daycare center for every child over one year of age. In practice, however, as in many other sectors, one thing in particular is missing: qualified personnel.

25,000 pedagogues are wanted in 2030

In Mörfelden-Walldorf, the district has not been able to provide enough childcare places for years. Desperate parents have now come together on an initiative to put pressure on the politicians. City councilor Karsten Groß (CDU), who has been responsible for all 1,655 daycare places in Mörfelden-Walldorf for a year, says he can fully understand the concerns and needs.

A new forest daycare center is scheduled to open in the city in October, and he would like to invest even more, says Groß. But he doesn’t know where to get the staff from. The market is empty.

The problem will probably get worse in the future: According to an estimate from the Bertelsmann Foundation, there could be a shortage of around 25,000 educators in 2030. In Germany there are therefore 230,000.

Educators complain of high stress

That the profession is not attractive to many is no longer due to the money, says city council member Groß. “Many employees tell us that working conditions are the problem.”

Vera Mengler would probably sign off on that. She has worked as an educator for ten years, and since the beginning of the year she has also spoken for the daycare special association. The groups are often too large, there is too much bureaucracy, the opening hours are getting longer and more children need individual support, she says. “You always feel like you’re between all the worlds and you can’t even concentrate on a child.” One of the children had to be swaddled all the time and another comforted. Most of the time a teacher is alone with 20 other children.

Mengler fears that the persistently high stress levels among her colleagues will lead to more mental disorders. A study by the German Institute for Economic Research shows that 69 percent of educators are already under time pressure. 81 percent suffer from low wages, 32 percent would like to reduce their working hours, but are currently unable to do so for various reasons.

The Corona pandemic has created an additional burden: compared to the previous year, sickness absence increased by 13 percentage points, according to the health insurance company DAK. No other professional group has recorded such a high increase in sick days.

Where young children learn German particularly well

In addition to the corona pandemic, language barriers are always a challenge for educators. In the “Kleiner Bär” daycare center in the northern part of Kassel, for example, the proportion of immigrants is particularly high, says manager Katrin Linsing. “We also look after many children from refugee families.” Many would not have spoken a word of German before. “We usually start from scratch.”

A teacher sits at a table with two children.

The educators receive support from Kathrin Roppel. For 20 hours a week, the language specialist works specifically with the children who do not yet speak German very well. Their work is funded by a federal program. There are 544 such language daycare centers in Hesse, which is approximately one in eight daycare centers.

Funding for language day care institutions ends

However, daycare manager Linsing does not know how the language support will continue in the future. Because the federal funding program ends in 2023, the state government has not yet been prepared to step in. 15.5 million euros for day care centers fell away.

Portrait of Bianca

After all, the federal government just got a new one Kita quality law passed, which promises more support measures, more educators and more day care places.

But that doesn’t help Bianca and her twins Mika and Felix anymore. The situation is driving her crazy, she is disappointed, she says. Of course, she likes being a mother, “but I didn’t have three years of training and did two years of continuing education, so now I can watch and sing Maya all day long”. It is part of her world, but not her whole world. After all: For September 2023, she has now been promised two day care places.

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