Research project on the genesis and impact of psychiatric expertise on child placement completed

Until the 1970s, psychiatric assessments resulted in the compulsory out-of-home placement of many children and young people.

Until the 1970s, psychiatric assessments of children played a significant role in out-of-home placement. Over half the children admitted to observation wards at the time were subsequently sent to live with foster families or, more often, in children's homes. Social norms regarding marriage and family were of great significance in such cases: married parents were more likely to get their children back after the assessment, whereas the chances were significantly lower in the case of divorced parents or children born outside marriage.

Most admissions were instigated by guardianship authorities, welfare authorities, youth welfare departments, youth offices, schools or school authorities. Children admitted to observation wards by the authorities were significantly less likely to return to the parental home. Child protection measures had often been implemented at the behest of the authorities even before the assessment took place. The medical assessments thus legitimised out-of-home placements that had already been planned.

When looking back on their stay on the observation ward, those affected often describe it as a formative and traumatic turning point. Out-of-home placements led, for example, to having to change schools or to fractured personal relationships. Life-long feelings of exclusion and self-doubt could then arise in those affected.