Fatal care: Violent deaths of children in out-of-home care
The study will build up the first ever knowledge base on homicides and suicides of children in out-of-home care in four Swiss cantons between 1913 and 2012. In addition to case characteristics, the impact of relevant attitudes on supervision practices in and the authorities’ processing of these cases will be analysed.
Project description (ongoing research project)
The project will investigate the violent deaths of children placed in out-of-home care in four cantons in German-speaking and Western Switzerland (1913–2012) as well as the role of the authorities within these cases. Assuming that negative attitudes towards placed children and, for instance, a positive attitude towards corporal punishment as an educational method increase the risk of placed children dying a violent death, the attitudes underlying supervision practices in and processing of these cases will be analysed in addition to case characteristics. To this effect, we will not only take the institutional perspective into account through document analyses (e.g., tutelary authority case files, legal provisions) but also the perspective of former placed children who witnessed the violent deaths of their relative(s) or friend(s).
In the 20th century, many children placed in out-of-home care experienced serious and sometimes even fatal abuse. Repeatedly, placed adolescents and former foster care children have attempted or committed suicide. Yet, supervision of foster homes and foster parents has long been neglected. Cases of non-fatal and fatal abuse have been legitimized or covered up completely. Consequently, the perpetrators were hardly ever prosecuted. Until today, there has been no systematic review of these cases or of the authorities’ roles within them.
The study’s objectives are twofold: First, describing and analyzing the violent deaths of children and adolescents placed in out-of-home care in four Swiss cantons (1913–2012). Secondly, by analysing the attitudes underlying supervision practice in and the processing of such cases by institutions and authorities, it will identify avoidable aspects of their practices that potentially increase the risk of violent death for placed children.
For the first time, we will analyse the violent deaths of children placed in out-of-home care as part of Swiss contemporary history on compulsory social measures and placements. Thereby, we will cast light on and acknowledge the fate of the victims. The results will help to make practitioners in the field of child protection more aware not only of these cases but also of the impact of attitudes on supervision practice and case processing. The project results can be used to critically review institutional practices and supervision regulations in future cases. In this way, the project will contribute to the prevention of violent deaths of placed children.
"Fatal care": Violent deaths of children in out-of-home care in four Swiss cantons between 1913 and 2012