Quality in caregiving.

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Why we don’t need Lollipop tests

When less testing means more stability for children  

The health committee of the city of Cologne aims to make corona testing compulsory in Cologne ‘s day-care centres in the future. Last month, the council alliance of the Greens, CDU and Volt issued a related audit engagement to the city administration. The city council is now expected to determine whether and how regular corona tests that are independent from any specific occasion can be made mandatory for all children in all day-care centres in the future. As an independent day-care provider, we reject such a general obligation to test for both pedagogical and organizational reasons. Instead, antigen tests in specific individual cases – in accordance with the legal state regulations already in force today – represent a good compromise for all parties involved.


Thank you very much, but this lollipop doesn’t taste well (image: istockphoto) 

Rainbowtrekkers Kita GmbH is one of the few day-care providers in Cologne that have not participated in the previous “Lolli” testing regime for pedagogical reasons and have not publicly defended this position from the beginning.

In the context of the current political discussion between the Health Committee and the Youth Welfare Office of the City of Cologne, we would like to explain our reasons once again here.

  1. „Lollipop" tests contradict human dignity

In the German Basic Law, Article 1, it is written that “Human dignity is inviolable.” In our view, it is contrary to human dignity to place children under the unfounded general suspicion that they are dangerous to others. Children are not pandemic drivers. We already know this since the first months of Corona. Since Omicron, children have been affected significantly more.

But they still do not play a predominant role in passing on the virus. Allowing healthy children to participate in education and social life only on the premise that they are “vaccinated, recovered or tested” represents a presumption introduced by regulatory measures and a violation of human dignity.

  1. "Lollipop" tests contradict our image of the child.

It also contradicts our image of the autonomous child if the child’s physical self-perception is weakened and external third parties decide whether the child is “negative” or “positive”. We consider such a strategy rather harmful for the development, health and self-image of children. It is not for nothing that we have been participating in programs for years (e.g. “Mut tut gut”/ „courage makes you feel good “), which are intended to strengthen children’s autonomy and protect them against invasive behaviour of third parties.

Forced testing of children, in which their participation rights are completely ignored, is inevitably based on a clear power imbalance between adult and child, where the boundaries to physical assault can be fluid. According to our assessment and experience of the past years, the obligation for institutions and facilities to report according to § 47 SGB VIII (child welfare endangerment in facilities) is basically rightly applied today in a very low-threshold manner.

In times of Corona, however, if adults insert chopsticks into children’s orifices (or supervise this), under normal circumstances such a case should be reported to the Youth Welfare Office for endangering the welfare of children. Do these standards not apply anymore now because of Corona?

In addition to the physical aspect, there is also the psychological aspect: the child’s fear of being different, of being sorted out, of not belonging to the group, of being held responsible for the health and lives of others. Such situations do not have to, but may be perceived by children as being invasive. In this context, psychological/mental assaults are just as reportable as physical assaults according to §47 SGB VIII.

According to the Cologne “KiKo” commission, which is in charge of the “Lolli” tests, the testing procedure is to be integrated “playfully” into everyday day-care. However, how this is to be done in view of the pedagogical problems described remains the secret of the KiKo.

  1. The fairy tale of the "lollipop" counteracts the pedagogical relationship to the child

Normally, lollipops are a reward for children. They are associated with beautiful moments. Evolutionarily, we humans feel a craving for sweet, sugary foods. This involves the release of certain hormones that are secreted while eating sweets. Corona tests are the exact opposite of this. Children and adults associate with them the fear of being sick or infecting others. Or with shame, peer pressure and the fear of no longer belonging to the group if one does not participate.

Calling corona tests in day-care centres “lollipops” means, in our view, to negate the children’s feelings and fears and to “re-polarize” them into something apparently positive. We gain the trust of the children, but deny their perception. We know of numerous cases from day-care centres where children were disappointed that – contrary to what was suggested to them – there were no lollipops in the test. Healthy, adult pedagogy looks different.

4 "Lollipop" testings are not part of the educator's job. 

Our refusal to participate in the mass testing of children without any reason was and is also based on our appreciation of the educator ‘s role. Medical testing had never been part of the educator ‘s profile. Performing such tests is simply not our task, and neither is it our job to perform psychological developmental diagnostics or language development diagnostics. There are experts for that.

The educator’s task is to accompany children pedagogically in everyday life and to enable them to have far-reaching learning experiences. Doctors are the ones being responsible for health diagnostics. If politicians or administrators think that PCR mass screenings make epidemiological sense, then the state should take on this task itself via the health authorities and not pass it on to the day-care centres.

  1. The development of the KiKo procedure was not participatory

The KiKo commission that developed the guidelines for the Cologne “Lolli” tests includes virologists, paediatricians, and public health officials, but no representatives of the day-care centres that are supposed to implement the project. That’s a pity. Within the framework of a participatory process, pedagogical issues such as those we are describing here could perhaps have been resolved in advance.

We have already expressed our criticism several times to the Health Department and Cologne ‘s Youth Welfare Office. There was zero reaction until now.
If the KiKo wants, we would be gladly be appointed by it as commission members. It is always better to include critics than to leave them out.

  1. The KiKo test regime makes the pedagogical everyday life unplannable

From the day-care centres participating in the “Lolli” test procedure, we have received descriptions from critical educators. They report that regular pedagogical work has hardly been possible since the tests began last spring and that pedagogical activities could hardly be planned with certainty. On the one hand, this was due to the fact that the evaluations of the pool tests are often only sent to the kindergarten administration in the evening after work. Then it has to be communicated via telephone chains or circular e-mails whether a group or the entire day-care centre is allowed to open on the following day or not. Only the Omicron wave, which pushed the testing regime to its limits, has eased the situation.
On the other hand, it is still the case today that after a (real or false) positive test result, all children have to stay at home until the laboratory reports an individual negative test result.

This makes everyday life in the day-care centre very disruptive. Even after two years of the pandemic, these facilities are working in crisis mode every day, and one wonders whether there is a better way for children, educators and families to balance health protection with a predictable daily routine.
We believe that such a stringent approach is legitimate and tailored to a specific, particularly cautious target group of parents. However, it should not be made generally binding. There should also be room for other test concepts in a city.
For the children and families in our facilities, we would like to have more stability and a more predictable daily routine than the one described here – and that is why we test less.

  1. The "lollipop" tests do not make life safer, but more difficult

Even though we test less than other day-care centres, we have not been able to detect more severe courses of disease among the children in our facilities than in facilities participating in the “Lolli” testing procedure. This is because the comparatively higher sensitivity of the PCR tests used there primarily detects additional, non-symptomatic cases. Symptomatic children, on the other hand, do not fall through the cracks, because they usually have vigilant and responsible parents. However, the KiKo itself does not achieve its goal of interrupting undetected chains of infection at an early stage: both in day-care centres participating in the “Lolli” testing procedure and in our facilities, there have been rare cases of outbreaks involving several children and/or staff members.

What we have not seen in recent months, however, are: over-obligatory cluster quarantines that close entire groups; day-care centres that are denied educational planning; and children who are denied stability and access to education and participation.
The disastrous cognitive and social effects of the pandemic on child development are well known. We prevent and counteract these dangers through a balanced, occasion-based testing approach: If a person has been tested positive in our facility, then it makes sense to test. If not, then we let the children just be children and in peace. And that was mostly the case for 2021.

  1. There is no legal basis for mandatory "lollipop" tests.

Unlike in the school sector, there is no legal basis for preventive, supervised Corona mass tests in day-care centres. For good reason, the NRW Corona Care Regulation has been silent about preventive screenings for more than a year. Due to the young age of the children, liability issues and accident risks presumably seem too big to make such testing mandatory through regulation. Indeed, unlike at the elementary school level, children are expected to have a lower cognitive faculty and a higher risk of getting injured. Day-care children require much more physical support to perform the tests than elementary school children. Therefore, in the day-care sector (unlike in the elementary school sector), the liability issue for the supervisory staff cannot be circumvented by forcing the children to perform these tests on themselves.
But where there is no legal basis, there is also no obligation to participate. Due to the fact that the Corona measures are socially controversial, we as a sponsor have committed ourselves to the line that we implement mandatory measures as a matter of course (incurring the criticism of “measure opponents” for doing so). Due to the existing legal coercion, we even do this for measures such as “3G”, which contradict our own values and which we consider discriminatory and absolutely evidence-free. In the same way, however, we will precisely not implement measures that are non-compulsory (incurring the criticism of “measure proponents” for doing so). This includes the “lollipop” tests. We will remain faithful to this line in the future.
It is striking that at the municipal level, the Cologne city administration has enforced stringent regulations without a municipal administrative act, even when these contradict legal state regulations in individual cases. Whether this is due to the mayor’s “no covid” ideology remains to be clarified.
Auffallend ist, dass auf kommunaler Ebene die Stadtverwaltung Köln stringente Regelungen auch dann ohne kommunalrechtlichen Verwaltungsakt durchgesetzt hat, wenn diese im Einzelfall den landesrechtlichen Regelungen widersprechen. Ob dies der „No Covid“-Ideologie der Oberbürgermeisterin geschuldet ist, sei dahingestellt.

These “super strict” Cologne regulations included, for example, the insistence on “cluster quarantines” at a time when these had long since been abolished in the NRW Corona Care Regulation, or the 14-day compulsory quarantine when children attending day-care centres which apply the “lollipop” testing are tested “positive”, but the children do not participate in the tests themselves.
The rainbowtrekkers Kita GmbH had pointed out the contradiction between the legal state requirements and the local municipality’s approach to the responsible city offices several times, for example in a telephone conversation with the health department on 09.11.2021. Asked about the contradictions and the legal vacuum, employee Dr. med. G. Q. answered us: “I’m not interested in that at all” and “those are the standards here at the health department in Cologne” and insulted us as “test refusers”.
The last thing he said is objectively wrong. Because if a positive PCR case occurs in our facilities, then antigen testing in accordance with §4 para. 5 NRW Corona Care Regulation is of course a prerequisite for access to our care services.
In the telephone conversation with Dr. Q., we had also expressly referred to the voluntary nature of participation in the “Lolli” testing regime. Instead of arguing factually, Dr. Q. threatened us: “If I were you, I’d find a lawyer tonight.”
We will not get distracted by such intimidation attempts. After our telephone conversation, it was more likely that the city of Cologne would have to seek legal advice. We did not receive an apology for being treated this roughly. In the course of the system overload caused by the Omicron wave, however, the obviously illegal municipal regulations that we had been criticizing were quietly withdrawn.

  1. Compulsory testing promotes social division

The threatening behaviour of the health department towards us is no exception. From the beginning, we as day-care providers were exposed to great pressure from the city administration to participate in the Cologne pilot project (prestige project?). Already on 30.04.21 – at the very beginning of the test regime – we had a telephone conversation with the Office for Children, Youth and Family. The head of the office at that time, Mr. G., had inquired about our reasons for not participating. After having explained these to him, he threatened that in case of a further refusal “we would have to check our operating license”. We perceived this as a clear intimidation attempt saying: If I don’t have any legal basis, then I’ll try it with pressure.
Just to be clear: A medical-diagnostic test procedure that is not convincing in terms of pedagogical content, lacks a legal basis and is instead supposed to be implemented with threats and pressure is not an attractive option for us in the future.
We will not go along with it.
Among our parents and employees, there are very different attitudes towards Corona. Just like everywhere else in society. We therefore consider the provisions of Section 4 (5) of the Corona Care Regulation of North Rhine-Westphalia to be a good compromise:

If somebody is tested positive in the facility, then all other children must be temporarily tested by their parents before they are allowed into the day-care centre. This is a reasonable balance between the safety needs of one Corona group and the freedom needs of the others.
Testing obligations that go beyond this are neither necessary nor legally enforceable. In the event that they are nevertheless to be introduced in Cologne, rainbowtrekkers Kita GmbH has already announced to the city that it will take legal action against this. Other sponsors from our network have already signalled their support for such a lawsuit.
It is a pity that the council factions in the Cologne health committee do not want to apply the balance of the legal state regulations to Cologne. Instead of relying on parental responsibility and self-testing, new pressure is apparently being built up, ignoring the fact that pressure and coercion have already been unsuccessful in bringing 100% of all parents and day-care providers “in line”.
From our point of view, it belongs to a plural carrier landscape that parents can also choose between differently strict Corona test concepts. However, the statements made so far by the members of the Cologne Health Committee (“test refusers endanger other parents”) unfortunately do not point the way to more diversity, but on the contrary are more likely to increase the social divide in parenthood in our day-care centres.

  1. The money for the "Lolli" tests would be better spent elsewhere

For years, day-care centres in the city have lacked a solid financial basis. This was most recently demonstrated by a request from the SPD parliamentary group in the Youth Welfare Committee. Unlike other municipalities, however, the city of Cologne has persistently refused for years to take over the funding shares of the day-care centres and thus close the financial gap that insufficient state funding is tearing into the budgets of the facilities. In its answer to the question from the SPD parliamentary group, the city states that the annual funding deficit for day-care centres in Cologne is around 27.9 million euros. As a result, day-care centres in Cologne are struggling financially more than elsewhere, and many facilities are therefore dependent on support associations and additional voluntary contributions from parents, with the knowledge of the city administration.
In times of Corona, however, the money for the Kitas is suddenly there, at least for the financing of a test regime. The city remains silent about the exact costs of the KiKo procedure. However, it can be assumed that these are significantly higher than the 27.9 million euros mentioned and that only part of the costs will be refinanced by the state.

We had a few critical questions in this context:
– What are the actual costs for the “Lolli” tests in calendar year 2021 and 2022?
– How much is the part that is refinanced by the state and the one of own municipal funds?
– Is the financing of the “Lolli” testing regime a voluntary municipal or a mandatory task?
– Under which item can the expenses be found in the municipal budget?
– According to which pricing scheme the costs are calculated: Per sample? Per pool? Per day?
– Which laboratory or laboratories are the contractors?
– Was or is the contract awarded through a tendering procedure or directly?
Until now we have not received any response to our inquiries of 03.12.21 and 06.12.21, neither by the press and public relations office nor the city finance department.


Some are making themselves rich with the “Lolli” test regime. The real problems of the day-care centres (lack of staff and funding) are quickly being pushed into the background because of the “pandemic management”.

We sincerely hope that the Office for Children, Youth and Family Affairs will not comply with the request of the Health Committee to introduce compulsory testing in day-care centres, but will instead work together with the City of Cologne’s finance department in order to find ways of providing the city’s day-care centres with better financial resources in general, and not just when it comes to financing corona tests.

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Förderverein Frühe Bildung in der Kita
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