Commitment enormously expanded

Germany still lacks 220.000 places for young children to reach the target, for 780.000 of the under-threes to be provided with a childcare option. But there is also a shortage of preschool teachers. Frank Jansen on the commitment of the Association of Catholic Day Care Facilities for Children.

CBA: Mr. Jansen, the Catholic Church and Caritas are important providers of day care facilities for children. How do you see the situation in childcare?

Jansen: As a Caritas association, the KTK has been in favor of the federal government's expansion program from the very beginning. And not without reason: in our daycare facilities, children acquire social, emotional and cognitive competencies that positively influence their educational biography and thus also educational equity. Seen in this light, it does children good to have the opportunity to attend a daycare center at an early age. In addition, an adequate supply contributes to a better compatibility of family and career.
CBA: What share does the Catholic Church hold in kindergartens?

Jansen: In recent years, the dioceses and parishes have enormously expanded their commitment in the area of under-three-year-olds. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church nationwide provides over 54.000 places available for them. This corresponds to around 14 percent of all childcare places for this age group.
CBA: Will they continue to participate in the expansion?

Jansen: Catholic sponsors want to stay involved. Because experience shows that where there is already a legal right to a childcare place for under-threes, around 50 percent of the children also claim such a place. The German government has already increased its demand quota from 35 to 38 percent.
KNA: Childcare places alone are not enough, after all. One also needs personnel…

Jansen: This is one of the greatest challenges. We ame that by August 2013, more than 18.000 skilled workers are lacking. We are currently developing measures that will succeed in the short and medium term in attracting new forces and retaining existing professionals. For example, we have launched the advertising campaign "Professionals for Daycare Centers" in schools and in daycare centers together with the Federal Association of Voluntary Welfare Workers and the Federal Ministry for Families.
CBA: Where do you want to start?

Jansen: So far, about 40 percent of the educators in our facilities work as part-time employees. So there is potential. The same applies to many educators who have left the profession. This is the group we will particularly promote and develop so-called re-entry programs. We also expect success from lateral entry models, i.e., advertising in other professions, and new attractive training models, such as practice-oriented training with a coexistence of school and practice.
CBA: There has also been discussion about employing the unemployed in connection with the Schlecker bankruptcy.

Jansen: We pay special attention to unemployed people whom we want to attract to the profession. The prerequisite, of course, is that they meet pre-defined suitability criteria and receive appropriate qualification. In addition, higher qualification courses for child care workers and social assistants should be offered. However, in order to retain existing skilled workers, we also need health-promoting and age-appropriate workplaces.
CBA: But advertising alone is probably not enough. Doesn't something also have to change in terms of pay?

Jansen: First of all, I have to say that we as church sponsors often pay better than public kindergarten sponsors. Nevertheless, the educator profession needs a financial upgrade. This is clear from the increased importance attached to early childhood education. However, this ie does not only have to do with the payment of the educator profession. Overall, the goal is to make the job description more attractive. And there is a lot to be done. The fact is that society's expectations do not always match the existing framework conditions.
CBA: What do you mean concretely?

Jansen: We must create the conditions to ensure that temporary employment contracts are made permanent, that sufficient time is available for the preparation and follow-up of pedagogical work, that time quotas are made available for leadership tasks, that the number of children in the groups is reduced and that the educator-child ratios are improved.
CBA: Could an academization of the profession help in this context??

Jansen: This is not the solution to the problem. We continue to rely on a solid technical college education. Nevertheless, we are in favor of having academically trained specialists working in our daycare centers. But for that we need the appropriate job profiles and corresponding higher rates.
CBA: The use of federal volunteers in kindergartens is also being discussed…

Jansen: We need qualified pedagogical staff. We therefore reject the idea of employing volunteers as substitutes for kindergarten teachers. As additional helpers, this would be fine, even if of course the supervision of the volunteers costs time and energy. In general, I would like to warn against lowering quality standards. As an association, we do not believe in increasing group sizes or softening construction standards. Quality is essential, especially in the care of children under three years of age.
CBA: The business community in particular is also calling for more flexible opening hours that are based on parents' working hours. Do you see any scope for this??

Jansen: One of the tasks of a Catholic day care center is to declare solidarity with the life situations of families and to provide enriching offers. From this point of view, it is natural to offer opening hours that correspond to the working hours of parents. One urgent need I see, for example, is that we offer more services for families, including on Saturdays, since a large proportion of parents work in the service industry. But such offers must be financially viable and also require a financial commitment from the business community.

The interview was conducted by Christoph Arens.

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