The public discourse on the child and adult protection services (KESB)
The public discourse on the child and adult protection services (KESB): How did an institutional reform turn into a moral controversy and how does it affect policy practice?
Project description (ongoing research project)
In Switzerland, the KESB authorities decide about welfare service delivery as well as about the taking of coercive measures. The authorities were created in 2013, following a change to the Swiss Civil Code (ZGB) adopted by the Swiss Parliament. Whereas most of the French-speaking cantons were able to continue working within the existing system, the changes to the Civil Code led to organizational changes in the German-speaking cantons and the Ticino.
Our analysis will begin in the 1990s, when the first meetings on the reform of the guardianship system, as child and adult protection services were referred to back then, took place. We will then track the reform on the national level as well as its implementation on the cantonal level at the turn of the millennium. This will be followed by an analysis of the debate in the media and its implications for today.
Shortly after its formation, as early as 2015, the KESB were attacked because of a case of infanticide in Flaach (Zurich). Citizens’ initiatives were formed against the KESB and for a certain period of time, KESB employees even had to be placed under police protection. This moral-political controversy has persisted until today, despite contrary evidence on the work of the KESB and positive reports of external experts.
We are interested in the contrast between the opinion of the public and of experts, in the origins of this contrast, and in its consequences.
Our project will raise the following questions:
- How did the KESB reform come about?
- How did the moral-political controversy surrounding the KESB arise? Are there any differences between the German- and the French-speaking parts of Switzerland?
- What are the consequences of this controversy for the KESB’s daily work?
The answers are primarily of interest to the KESB itself but will also be interesting to other authorities as well as to policy-makers, scientists, and to the larger public.
In times of increased media attention, the authorities need to know how to deal with negative media coverage. Moreover, Swiss politicians and the Swiss public will gain greater insight into a topic that received much media coverage and is still occasionally enters the focus of public attention today. Political sciences will gain a long-term perspective on a political process in Switzerland as well as insight into the dynamics of public debates and their impact.
The public discourse on the child and adult protection services (KESB): how did an institutional reform turn into a moral controversy and how does it affect policy practice?