Early childhood education [ECE] can foster the social-emotional adjustment and development of young refugee children. Still, the large numbers of newly arriving refugee families challenge the ECE capacities of host countries. In Germany, state authorities have subsidized flexible ECE programs for refugee children in response to this situation. The goal of this study was to examine the implementation and quality of these programs. In the first study phase, we categorized the seemingly heterogeneous ECE programs and assembled measures to assess their ECE quality. In the second study phase, we evaluated the ECE quality of a randomly selected sample of these ECE programs (N = 42) using standardized observation procedures. The ECE programs were implemented differently in temporary setups (caravans, tents), improvised settings (parish rooms, refugee accommodations), or education settings (preschools, elementary schools). To evaluate ECE quality, we created an observation tool for structural quality and coded dimensions from the Classroom Assessment Scoring System Pre-K for process quality. Overall, structural quality was acceptable but differed between implementation settings. Process quality was consistently high, independent of the settings. Our findings suggest that adaptive ECE programs under a flexible childcare policy could support young refugee children after they arrive in host countries. Still, such ECE programs do not compensate for center-based ECE services because of their more vigorous emphasis on children’s social-emotional adjustment than pre-academic learning. Further research should consider adaptive assessment tools to assess ECE quality, taking into account heterogeneous program implementation strategies and the specific needs of refugee children.

DOI: 10.1186/s40723-023-00105-8
ISSN: 1976-5681