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9 - Errors and Mistakes in Child Protection in Switzerland: A Missed Opportunity of Reflection?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2021

Judith Masson
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
Nigel Parton
Affiliation:
University of Huddersfield
Tarja Pösö
Affiliation:
University of Tampere, Finland
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Summary

Introduction

For Switzerland, two lines of discourse can be roughly reconstructed in the field of errors and mistakes: a historically oriented discourse on abusive practices of child removals and placements and a contemporary oriented discourse on fatal cases in child protection in the context of a new organisation of authorities. What both lines have in common is that they have not (yet) led to an explicit debate on errors and mistakes in Switzerland.

The chapter begins with a short introduction to the Swiss child protection system and then summarises how coercive child removals practised until the mid-20th century have led to harm, injustice and suffering for many children and their families. It describes how the historical appraisal of this past practice fuelled a debate on abusive practices under the cover of child protection, which prompted a federal Act entitling survivors to reparation payments. The chapter further depicts which discourses and developments preceded the revision of the child and adult protection law in the Swiss Civil Code in 2013. The amended legislation aimed at professionalising child protection proceedings and included a pivotal shift from lay to professional decision-making bodies. The current state of this process that has led to criticism from politicians, the public and the media, particularly with regard to negative or even fatal outcomes of child protection cases, is analysed and discussed. Strategies for avoiding and dealing with errors and mistakes are described. Using this background, the need for an explicit discourse on errors and mistakes in child protection in Switzerland is outlined.

The child protection system in Switzerland today: a brief overview

Switzerland is a federal state consisting of 26 cantons, divided into 2,249 municipalities (Schnurr, 2017: 117). The cantons have their own parliaments, governments, courts and constitutions, and regulate the division of responsibilities between them and the municipalities (Bundeskanzlei, 2018: 13). Official languages are (Swiss-)German (63 per cent), French (23 per cent), Italian (8 per cent) and Romansh (0.5 per cent) (Bundeskanzlei, 2018: 8). Switzerland has 8.5 million inhabitants, 25 per cent of whom are foreign nationals (2.12 million) and 14.5 per cent (1.70 million) are children aged from zero to 19 (Bundesamt für Statistik, 2018: 7).

Type
Chapter
Information
Errors and Mistakes in Child Protection
International Discourses, Approaches and Strategies
, pp. 153 - 172
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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