Placements of minors in border regions: Valais and Ticino

The project will reconstruct the placement system for minors in Valais and Ticino, from the 1940s – the beginning of Switzerland’s economic boom, the professionalization of its social sector and its demographic transformation – to the economic crisis of the mid-1970s.

  • Project description (ongoing research project)

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    The project aims to analyse the processes and dynamics that led two border cantons, Valais and Ticino, to manage compulsory social measures and placements of Swiss and foreign minors in either their cantonal territory or bordering provinces in Italy between the 1940s and the 1970s.
    The key research questions are:

    • How did social, political and institutional differences between the two cantons affect the placement of foreign minors? What were the differences in the German- and French-speaking regions of Valais?
    • How did economic factors influence the decisions of both cantons, which still had poor and rural areas?
    • What role did religious issues in these Catholic cantons play in institutions’ decisions?
    • What relationships did cantonal institutions maintain with Italian ones?
  • Background

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    Retracing the history of the placement system requires focusing on not only the victims of this system, but also the institutions and groups involved at multiple levels (cantonal and local, churches, families, children) and at different scales of analysis, as well as on the provided and perceived representation of the phenomenon. The story to be narrated is that of those who lived the phenomenon, of those who managed it; of places and borders, and of how communities and societies were affected and transformed.

  • Aim

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    This research will contribute to a broader awareness of past and present institutional failures to respect the rights of the child, including unaccompanied foreign minors.

    The research will shed light on current child placement practices and new measures in Switzerland intended to conform to international standards, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the same time, the project encourages reflection on care policies in Switzerland, highlighting vulnerable people’s needs.

  • Relevance

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    Focusing on how citizenship and migration marked the history of coercive social assistance measures, this project stimulates concrete political debates, involves a broad public and improves public awareness of this subject. The project will be relevant to the institutions responsible for vulnerable children and minors, and encourage them to respect the rights of children in alternative care. It will also be relevant to the Federal Office of Social Insurance, and to NGOs working in the field.

  • Original title

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    Placements of Swiss and foreign minors in border regions: The cases of the cantons of Valais and Ticino.