Participation of Children and Parents in the Swiss Child Protection System in the Past and Present: An Interdisciplinary Perspective
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As in other European countries, the Swiss child protection system has gone through substantial changes in the course of the 20th century up to today. Increasingly, the needs as well as the participation of children and parents affected by child protection interventions have
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As in other European countries, the Swiss child protection system has gone through substantial changes in the course of the 20th century up to today. Increasingly, the needs as well as the participation of children and parents affected by child protection interventions have become a central concern. In Switzerland, critical debates around care-related detention of children and adults until 1981 have led to the launch of the National Research Program ‘Welfare and Coercion—Past, Present and Future’ (NRP 76), with the aim of understanding past and current welfare practices. This paper is based on our research project, which is part of this national program. We first discuss three overarching concepts—integrity, autonomy and participation—at the heart of a theoretical framework in order to understand the position of parents and children in child protection proceedings. Secondly, we critically analyze the historical and legal development of the child protection system in Switzerland and its effects on children and parents from 1912 until today. Thirdly, we give an insight into the current Swiss child protection system, with an investigation of hearings of parents and children conducted by the Child and Adult Protection Authorities (CAPA) based on participant observations. In particular, we show the importance of information exchanges and of signs of mutual recognition. Finally, in light of our findings, we discuss the interplay between socio-historical and legal developments in child protection and their consequences for the integrity, autonomy and participation of the people involved.