Private and public actors in out-of-home child care processes

Since the 19th century, (semi-)private actors have played an important role in the out-of-home placement of minors. Since the 1990s, this has gained significance once again, especially in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. A strikingly large number of such placements have been registered in Berne and the Grisons.

  • Project description (ongoing research project)

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    The project investigates the situations in Berne and the Grisons from a historical and a sociological perspective, looking into the complex interaction between private and public bodies with regard to the out-of-home placement of children. It analyses how the transferring of state tasks to private – and in part commercially-oriented – institutions was, is, (and will be) legitimized as well as studying the impact of this mixed form of welfare economics on the children and their families. It raises the question as to the discourse and the conditions under which institutions and foster families taking on this task, “out of love”, become involved in the provision of these services. Within this context, e.g., the significance of gender-specific thought patterns as well as gender-oriented civil law and a gainful employment system discriminating women have coined the placement practices historically and still do so today.

  • Background

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    Similar questions arise, time and again, historically and today. Experts ascertain that current placement processes in which private organizations are involved must address different issues and questions, for instance, the regulation of financing or supervisory and responsibility structures.

  • Aim

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    In order to understand current issues and areas of tension developing, the project will pursue both a historical and a sociological approach. Focus will be placed on the period after the Second World War (1945–2017) and, based on the examples of the cantons of Bern and the Grisons, exemplarily investigate the 1990s, in particular, when numerous new private placement organizations developed.

  • Relevance

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    On the one hand, archive material not processed to date will be analyzed; on the other, current problem areas will be addressed and background knowledge compiled and made available to specialists. To this effect, a group of experts will work together with child welfare specialists.

  • Original title

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    In the best interests of children? Private actors and public authorities in out-of-home child care processes in the cantons of Bern and Graubünden (1945 to the present)