Training Programmes for Caregivers in Germany

Report on the Model Project
"Qualification in Family Day Care"
at the International Family Day Care Conference
'Choices, Challenges and Collaboration'
in Wellington, New Zealand,
19-23 February 2003

I am glad for the opportunity to exchange experiences and project findings with you in this international setting and to present our model project here in Wellington.

Let me briefly introduce myself: I work as a researcher at the German Youth Institute (DJI) in Munich. The Institute operates independently from universities as a research institute for social sciences. It studies the situation and living conditions of children, youth, women, and families. The Institute has a long-standing tradition in analysing child care and furthering child development in family day care settings.

From June 1998 to December 2001, our project team at the German Youth Institute studied training concepts for caregivers. This work was carried out within the framework of a federal model project "Qualification in Family Day Care". It is about this project and its results that I will speak today.

In my presentation, I shall address the following issues:

1. Mandate, Structure and Implementation of the Model Project
2. Results of the Model Project
2.1 Quality Criteria for Training Caregivers
2.2 Self-evaluation Guide for Course Tutors
2.3 Training Curriculum: A Basic Qualification for Caregivers
2.3.1 Duration
2.3.2 Topics Covered by the Curriculum
2.3.3 Training Materials
3. Implementation Perspectives

1. Mandate, Structure and Implementation of the Model Project
The new Child and Youth Services Act (Kinder- und Jugendhilfegesetz, or KJHG) has come into force in the Federal Republic of Germany since 1991. It has considerably improved the legal basis of family day care as a supportive offer for children of all ages. Caregivers and parents of the children receiving family day care are granted the right to counselling on all care-related issues. Caregivers who join forces, e.g. in group initiatives and associations, are entitled to advice and assistance. What is most important is that, for the very first time, the Act puts family day care on an equal footing with institutional child care. Parents have the right to choose the type of care they wish to have for their child. However, up till now, the aptitude and qualification of caregivers was only checked when family day care was financed by public funds. Only day care providers caring for four or more children in their home have to get a public permission.

Implementing the standards of the Child and Youth Care Act in child and youth services has raised the quality level required in family day care settings. Important factors in assuring quality in this type of care are referral and counselling services for caregivers, professional public relations and preparatory and in-service training. The following report will exclusively focus on assuring quality through training.

For some time now, both public and private institutions have had qualification programmes for family day care providers in many locations of Germany. The concepts underlying these programmes vary greatly with respect to such aspects as time structure, aims, content, methods and staffing. Only very few of them were ever scientifically evaluated. Moreover, in many places, caregivers have no chance at all to attend qualification programmes.

In view of this situation, the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth launched a model project in co-operation with the German Laender of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Rhineland-Palatine and Bremen. The project's aim was to improve training measures, which in turn would contribute to raising the quality of family day care in the best interests of children, parents and providers. The data collected in the course of the project were expected to help identify measures that lend themselves to making qualified caregivers more sensitive to what family day care really requires, and prove suitable for imparting relevant knowledge to them and raising their ability to cope with situations typically arising in their day-to-day work. Ultimately, this insight will support course tutors training family day care providers, who up to now have hardly been able to go back in their work to scientifically sound, documented and written presentations and concepts.

The Federal Ministry has given the scientific evaluation of the model project to the German Youth Institute and has assigned the German Youth Institute the task to investigate the state of art of existing training measures at selected locations. Based on these findings, the Institute was to develop a new qualification curriculum. The research and development project was scheduled for a period of three and a half years (June 1998 to December 2001).

A total of nine model locations were selected, all of them with ample experience in qualification programmes for family day care providers and offering rather comprehensive training ranging from 120 to 195 lessons . The regional characteristics of these model locations vary greatly (be they in urban or rural regions, with different institutions running the programmes, the type of target groups the training was designed to reach, etc.). The locations are spread over six different Laender, including one formerly East German Land. The training programmes in the six locations were based on different concepts - among them, the workshop curriculum of the Federal Association of Family Day Care Providers (tagesmuetter Bundesverband) - yielding a wealth of material to be studied and compared.

The first step was to take stock of the qualification measures being carried out at the nine model locations. We systematically analysed the respective curricula, randomly selected training units and educational settings. Our empirical studies focused on the following:
· Sitting in on local training sessions (150 lessons, 40 of which are documented on videotape).
· Interviews with 25 course tutors who had run the training sessions.
· Group interviews with the family day care providers who had attended the respective programmes.
· A questionnaire handed out to the participants of the training sessions attended by the Institute's team. The questionnaire was given to 382 participants, and 235 questionnaires were anonymously returned to the German Youth Institute (return rate: 61.5%).

In the second step, the course tutors from the model locations and the team of the German Youth Institute together attended intensive theme-centred workshops to reflect on the study results. This provided the groundwork for designing improved and/or supplemented curriculum modules. Based on these experiences and an analysis of the related literature, we also developed quality criteria for training family day care providers.

In the third step, we revised and developed curriculum elements for 160 lessons of teaching. In addition, we drafted a Self-evaluation Guide for course tutors based on the quality criteria mentioned above.
Results of the Model Project

2.1 Quality Criteria for Training Caregivers
Based on these analyses and considerations, and having studied the literature on family day care and adult and women's education, the Institute's team developed a catalogue of quality criteria for training caregivers.

We formulated twelve quality criteria:

1. Same Participants, Same Course TutorFamily day care involves all aspects of the caregiver's personality. A solid basis of trust among the participants is a prerequisite for lasting learning. This trust between participants and course tutor is most likely to develop gradually in a stable group.

2. Qualification Based on Principles of Women's EducationMost participants in qualification programmes for family day care providers are women; qualification programmes should take this fact into consideration. One important factor is to choose appropriate language. Other key elements are strengthening self-confidence, referring to existing skills and linking subject-related with person-related learning.

3. Practical Relevance for Family Day Care WorkThe training should focus on typical key situations arising in daily care work. These situations emerge from the special way in which two families co-operate, and make challenging demands on all the parties involved in family day care. Here are some examples: How does caring for one or more children affect the caregiver's own children? What challenges does this pose for the caregiver? How can the caregiver further the children's development? What is important in the initial phase? What conflicts may arise among the adults? How can they be solved constructively? In order to be able to grasp and translate the new information and knowledge gained in the qualification session into the caregiver's day-to-day work, it has to bear a relation to the typical everyday situations taken from daily experiences with children. More especially, the situations should come from the real world of family day care.

4. Interdisciplinary ApproachOur analysis showed that major parts of the training programmes - particularly the key areas of developmental psychology and educational sciences - were based on traditional educational curricula and divided into separate subjects, like at school. This often makes it difficult for the participants to see how these separate bits of information might be relevant for their daily work and how they should link them when managing specific situations. In order to make the discussed themes relevant for family day care practice, an interdisciplinary approach should be given preference.

5. Theme-centred Exchange of ExperiencesThe chance to exchange one's experiences with other participating "colleagues" - also in order to overcome the isolation of the home - is an important element for qualification. Whenever planning a session, course tutors should take this into account and also encourage and support such exchange with appropriate methods.

6. Providing Essential KnowledgeNo one will deny that factual knowledge is an asset in managing everyday life. However, our studies showed that detailed theoretical knowledge tends to be overemphasised, consequently diverting attention from what is essential and obstructing caregivers' view of what they need in real life. Any theoretical knowledge taught in qualification programmes must be carefully selected and integrated in terms of relevance. The theories and scientific insight offered should help caregivers solve problems at the practical level. Theory should not become an end in itself and should not dominate the programme.

7. A Wide Range of Participative MethodsThe skills that family day care providers need for their work must be taught with activating methods that encourage them to contribute to the training session and to reflect on their own experiences. Theme-centred, illustrative exercises and role-playing, elements livening up the session and creative approaches will help course tutors reach different types of learners.

8. A Balance of Theoretical, Practical, and (Self-)Reflective PhasesThere must be a balance between training phases dedicated to imparting factual knowledge and those dedicated to practical and (self-)reflective skills.

9. Appropriate Time AllocationThe duration of qualification programmes is limited, and a multitude of themes need to be addressed. Therefore, sessions often tend to be overloaded and leave no room for creative, hands-on exercises and reflection. Less is more! Course tutors should keep this in mind when planning a session!

10. Intelligible, Attractive MaterialsMany participants want to have a written summary of what they learned in the course or session, so they can look things up or review them later on.

11. Open-minded, Facilitating Course TutorsTo create an atmosphere of trust and positive interaction within the group, course tutors must be open-minded and genuine, in touch not only with their own feelings but also those of others. Another key element is the language of acceptance. Course tutors should always retain a positive and supportive attitude towards participants, especially when dealing with criticism and views different from their own, for example on educational issues. In this way, course tutors allow participants to feel accepted and respected as people in spite of professional disagreements. This may serve as a model for the way in which participants ought to deal not only with the children entrusted into their care, but also with the children's parents and - last but not least - their own children.

12. Pleasant Learning EnvironmentResearch on how to teach women emphasises that a pleasant learning environment has a positive effect on them. The results of our interviews with family day caregivers confirm this finding. Making other people feel comfortable is a daily routine for caregivers. They are all the more grateful if they themselves are 'pampered' and need not take care of everything. The course tutor should make a deliberate effort to make the room and atmosphere more friendly (for instance, by having flowers on the desk, hanging up theme-related posters or taking care that drinks are available).

2.2 Self-evaluation Guide for Course Tutors
Our studies showed that many course tutors are just as isolated as the caregivers they teach. They are often freelancers working for different institutions and covering various themes. The fees they are paid often do not adequately cover the time spent on preparatory and retrospective work and on exchanging experiences with their peers. In some places, just one person runs the programme, and she or he consequently lacks partners for any work-related reflection. There is an urgent need to improve such working conditions.

We want to see that course tutors get the support they need for their work by providing a tool that will give them an overview of the guiding principles for qualification in family day care without having to invest a lot of time. These guidelines were developed in the course of our project and will help course tutors position themselves within this framework. The Self-evaluation Guide developed by our team is a tool for self-reflection. It can help course tutors assess their targets, methods and the relevance of the content they teach, and show them their 'blind spots'. Self-evaluation based on our Guide may also confirm skills they have and encourage them to expand their knowledge if necessary.

Based on the above-mentioned quality criteria, the Self-evaluation Guide features 41 items explaining what a course tutor should focus on in areas crucial for any training session: session topic and structure, content, methods, course tutor, learning climate/group atmosphere and environment. In this connection, we want to emphasise that each session is a live process that can only be partially planned. Its success is contingent upon the collaboration of all the parties concerned. The Guide may also be helpful in reflecting on "difficult" group processes. The questionnaire survey showed that most course tutors teaching in the model locations considered the Guide useful in their work.

2.3 Training Curriculum: A Basic Qualification for Caregivers
2.3.1 Duration
In Germany, family day care providers are allowed to work without having attended a qualification course. In view of the fact that family day care should serve the well-being of children and further their development in the same way as do institutional types of child care, our project team is convinced that caregivers should be required to attend a basic qualification programme. In the long run, it will definitely improve the status of family day care and its providers.

A qualification course in family day care usually does not start at point zero. It is based on existing skills acquired by doing family work and raising children. Some caregivers obtain and develop these skills during their vocational training (e.g. nurses specialising in children), but most of them learn them informally in their daily family life: by raising children, running a household, providing health care, etc. Besides imparting knowledge and making participants aware of key situations, the main goal of the training is to initiate reflection by the participants on their skills and limitations, ultimately enabling them to precisely formulate their individual family day care offer.

The Institute's team developed a basic qualification programme for family day caregivers that takes 160 lessons. The number of lessons was determined, on the one hand, by taking into account the professional requirements of family day care. On the other, we took into consideration what can reasonably be expected from the target group of caregivers, many of whom do this job for a limited time only - for example, while they have young children themselves. The Federal Association of Family Day Care Providers (tagesmuetter Bundesverband) also requires 160 lessons of training to grant a license for caregivers.

2.3.2 Topics Covered by Curriculum
In line with the quality criteria of "practical relevance for family day care work" and an "interdisciplinary approach", we divided the curriculum into three main sections:
· Supporting children in their development
· Communication and co-operation with parents
· Working conditions of the caregiver

These depict the "work levels" of the caregiver. The respective subcategories reflect situations, questions and problems typical of routine family day care work.

We divided the 160 lessons of the course into an introductory phase of 30 lessons and a reinforcement phase of 130 lessons. The introductory phase touches upon all themes that are taken up and reinforced in the second phase. Most curricula used at the model locations were structured in this way. This scheme proved effective insofar as participants first receive an overview of the most important elements characterising family day care, learn what they have to consider before starting work and become aware of the manifold challenges inherent in family day care. The second phase supports caregivers in dealing with current problems arising in connection with their work. On the whole, this phase reinforces the understanding of basic family day care issues and enlarges participants' repertoire for future action.

Once the course has been completed, the participants should receive a certificate of achievement. It is advisable to conclude the course by a 'colloquium' in which participants prove their ability to reflect on their work and present their views in a well-grounded way. Under certain conditions (for instance, intensive individual guidance), participants may be asked to submit a paper on a theme of their choice.

2.3.3 Training Materials
Until recently, there was a scarcity of printed materials on how to run training courses for family day caregivers. We therefore opted for a very detailed elaboration of the training sessions and prepared a collection of loose-leaf training manuals comprising more than 600 pages, in which we describe in detail how course tutors can present the themes covered by the curriculum and which methods to use. It goes without saying that our quality criteria served as a yardstick in this endeavour. The following material is available for each theme:
· Content schemes developed for the course tutor
· Worksheets with examples, etc., for caregivers
· Suggestions for exercises
· Role-playing, and other elements to liven up the sessions
· Handouts for caregivers to take home
· Reinforcement exercises
· Recommended literature lists for course tutors and caregivers

This comprehensive documentation also provides less experienced course tutors with an overview of the key topics in family day care and enables them to improve their qualifications by studying the recommended literature. Unfortunately these texts/materials are only available in German.

Naturally, this material is in no way a substitute for the course tutor's expertise in adult education, which is a basic prerequisite. To the contrary - the proposed educational concept is very demanding, as teaching tailored to a particular group does not allow the course tutor to proceed according to "scheme x". The material is to be used flexibly to match each group's needs. On the part of the course tutor, this requires experience and know-how in moderating the group. Course tutors must also have the opportunity to verify and expand their professional competence through interchange with their peers and by occasional supervision by and feedback from their colleagues.

Extensive feedback from the course tutors teaching at the model locations showed that the material elaborated by the German Youth Institute was considered to be very helpful and made it a lot easier for them to carry out their tasks.

3. Implementation Perspectives
Drafting the qualification curriculum for caregivers is seen as a major step towards developing uniform qualification standards for family day care in Germany. In the future, the Federal Association of Family Day Care Providers (tagesmuetter Bundesverband) will also be granting its sought-after license for qualified caregivers on the basis of the curriculum developed by the German Youth Institute. In addition, the results of the project will be incorporated into the current discussion on formally establishing family day care as a legitimate profession with a publicly recognised license and requiring professional qualifications.

This brings me to the end of my presentation. I am looking forward to our discussion and I am truly eager to learn which aspects are important for your work.


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