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Child Protection Systems: An international comparison of good practice examples of five countries (Australia, Germany, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom) with recommendations for Switzerland

August 2012
Child Protection Systems:
An international comparison of “good practice examples of five
countries (Australia, Germany, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom)
with recommendations for Switzerland.
Fonds Suisse pour des projets de protection de l’enfance
Jachen C. Nett (Bern University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland)
Trevor Spratt (Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland)
Authors of
Chapter 1: Jachen C. Nett und Trevor Spratt
Chapter 2: Jachen C. Nett
Chapter 3: Trevor Spratt
Authors of
the country
Trevor Spratt (Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland)
Leah Bromfield (University of South Australia, Australia)
Johanna Hietamäki (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)
Heinz Kindler (German Youth Institute DJI, Germany)
Lina Ponnert (Lund University, Sweden)
Fonds Suisse pour des projets de protection de l’enfance
The study can be downloaded from (in German, French, Italian and
A limited number of printed copies can be ordered via:
The Swiss Project Fund for Child Protection identifies and supports evidence-based prevention and training
projects with measurable results. The association funds research projects targeted at closing knowledge gaps in
the field of prevention. By actively disemminating research results and findings, the association intends to
establish a knowledge network which adds value to all stakeholders in the field of child protection.
The Swiss Project Fund for Child Protection
set itself the aim of offering financial support to basic
research and projects which could pave the way for improvements to the child protection system in
Switzerland. The present study looked at the systems in place in other countries, not only to learn from
their experiences but also to identify areas for improvement and development as regards current
Swiss child protection mechanisms. In addition, experts from the United Kingdom, Australia, Finland,
Sweden and Germany offered a brief outline of their respective systems before jointly analysing each
one and working out what conclusions could be drawn for the Swiss system.
Although each national child protection system included in this study differs in terms of its historical
roots and subsequent development trajectories, they are all founded on the same two principles. The
first is to offer support to families so that parents are able to carry out their role effectively and thereby
safeguard children from abuse and neglect. To this end, the necessary infrastructure comprising a
range of supportive measures must be in place. The second concerns the implementation of a
package of individual yet coordinated child protection intervention measures that enable an
appropriate and adequate response to actual cases of abuse or neglect, and to those cases where
there is a high likelihood of these problems occurring.
Drawing on the experiences of other countries, the researchers devised a series of recommendations,
which they discussed with Swiss experts and amended, where necessary. The main recommendation
concerns structural issues, including the creation of designated child protection agencies at various
levels, defining course content and training requirements for future child protection professionals, and
the need for interdisciplinary, interagency cooperation in child protection cases.
Many child protection professionals currently working in Switzerland have already called for efforts to
shore up the current structure. The present study provides valuable pointers on how and where this
could (and should) be done. The Swiss Project Fund for Child Protection therefore hopes that these
findings will lead to advances in Switzerland’s child protection system.
August 2012
Muriel Langenberger
Formerly known as the PPP-Programme National pour la Protection de l’Enfant association
The research presented in this report was only possible thanks to a grant provided by the Association
PPP-Programme National pour la Protection de l’Enfant, a public-private-partnership between the
OAK Foundation, the UBS Optimus Foundation and the Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO).
Our special thanks go to these funding institutions but also to the members of the expert panel Stefan
Blülle (Head of the Division Child and Youth Protection of the Guardianship Authority, Canton Basel-
City), Andrea Hauri (Social Worker & Sociologist, Bern University of Applied Sciences), Christian
Nanchen (Head of Youth Services, Canton Valais), Stefan Schnurr (Educationist, University of Applied
Sciences Northwestern Switzerland), Peter Voll (Sociologist, University of Applied Sciences Western
Switzerland), Judith Wyttenbach (Lawyer, University of Bern - Institute for public law) and Marco
Zingaro (Lawyer, Bern University of Applied Sciences). Stefan Schnurr not only provided his expertise
during the expert workshop but also made an important contribution at a meeting of the project team in
June 2011. We are also indebted to Jonas Weber (Department of Criminal Law and Criminology at the
University of Bern) who contributed to this project by giving helpful advice as regards Swiss penal law.
Our last words of gratitude we would like to direct to Manuela Krasniqi of the Federal Social Insurance
Office (FSIO) for managing the communication between the funding institutions and the project
management, and to Chiara Rondi and Corinne Trescher of the Bern University of Applied Sciences
for the different services they provided to support the project management.
Basel, March 16, 2012
For the project team
Jachen C. Nett
Foreword 3
Preface 4
Content 5
Illustration Index 7
1 Introduction 8
1.1 Aims and Objectives 8
1.2 Research design and Restrictions 8
1.3 The Contributors: core team and expert panel 9
1.4 Synopsis of key findings 9
2 Child protection in Switzerland: Description of the cultural, political and legal context 13
2.1 Introduction 13
2.2 What has to be known about Switzerland 13
2.2.1 The political system 14
2.2.2 Demography 15
2.3 Life conditions of children and adolescents in Switzerland 16
2.3.1 Economic conditions 17
2.3.2 Educational situation 19
2.3.3 Mortality of children and health risks 21
2.3.4 Concerns with regard to parental control and the rising influence of the electronic
media 24
2.3.5 Indicators of child abuse and neglect 26
2.4 Constitutional and legal bases of child protection 31
2.4.1 International and federal constitutional law 31
2.4.2 Swiss Civil Code 33
2.4.3 Penal law and the Federal Victims of Crime Act 37
2.4.4 Federal Juvenile Criminal Justice Act 42
2.5 Institutional perspectives on child protection 44
2.5.1 The role of Cantons and municipalities 44
2.5.2 The role of federal institutions 46
2.5.3 The role of the third and the private sector 49
2.5.4 Professional education of social workers in the field of child protection 52
2.6 Recent developments in child protection policy 54
2.6.1 Most recent legal amendments and initiatives at national level 54
2.6.2 Child protection in public perception 58
Legal sources 61
Bibliographical References 62
3 Cross National Analyses of Good Practice and derived Recommendations 67
3.1 Introduction 67
3.2 Identifying the key stimuli for the development of child protection systems 68
3.2.1 Prevalence and effects of child maltreatment - The scientific imperative 68
3.2.2 Investment in children - The economic imperative 69
3.2.3 Children’s rights - The legal imperative 69
3.2.4 Inter-country comparisons - The moral imperative 69
3.3 The purposes of modern child protection systems 70
3.4 Features of the Development of Child Protection Systems 72
3.4.1 Early developments Societal responses to children’s needs 72
3.4.2 Later developments Governmental responses to children’s needs 73
3.4.3 Recent developments Child protection systems 74
3.5 Governance Features of Contemporary Child Protection Systems Comparisons
and Recommendations 78
3.5.1 What ‘child protection’ means 78
3.5.2 The role of central/federal/state governments Legislation and policy 78
3.5.3 Recommendation 1 National Standing Committee 81
3.5.4 The respective roles and responsibilities of local governments and non-
governmental and private providers 81
3.5.5 Recommendation 2 Child Welfare Boards 82
3.6 Interrelated Features of Contemporary Child Protection Systems Comparisons
and Recommendations 82
3.6.1 Relationships between central/federal government and state governments 83
3.6.2 Relationships between federal and state governments and voluntary and private
providers 83
3.6.3 Recommendation 3 Social Work Teams 84
3.6.4 Relationships between professionals 85
3.6.5 Recommendation 4 Case Planning Meetings 85
3.6.6 Mandatory reporting 86
3.6.7 Recommendation 5 Professional Education in Child Protection 86
3.6.8 The social work profession 87
3.6.9 Recommendation 6 Promotion of Social Work 87
3.6.10 Relationships between professionals and families 88
3.6.11 Relationships between professionals and children 89
3.6.12 Recommendation 7 Family Participation 89
3.7 Service Delivery Features of Contemporary Child Protection Systems
Comparisons and Recommendations 90
3.7.1 A continuum of service delivery 90
3.7.2 Recommendation 8 Audit of Services 91
3.7.3 The development of guidance 92
3.7.4 Recommendation 9 Child Protection Guidance 92
3.7.5 The development of methods of assessment 92
3.7.6 Recommendation 10 Common and Specialist Assessment 94
3.7.7 The development of methods of intervention 94
3.7.8 Recommendation 11 Audit of Methods 95
3.7.9 Children in State care 95
3.7.10 Recommendation 12 Review of State Care 97
3.7.11 Recommendation 13 Vetting and Barring System 97
3.7.12 System Output and Outcome measures 97
3.7.13 Recommendation 14 Output and Outcome Measures 99
3.8 Conclusion 99
3.8.1 Foundation Level Governance Features of Contemporary Child Protection
Systems 101
3.8.2 Intermediate Level Interrelated Features of Contemporary Child Protection
Systems 101
3.8.3 Advanced Level Service Delivery Features of Contemporary Child Protection
Systems 101
Bibliographical References 104
Appendix: Country Studies 105
1 Child protection in the United Kingdom by Trevor Spratt 111
2 Child protection in Australia by Leah Bromfield 150
3 Child protection in Finland by Johanna Hietamäki 182
4 Child protection in Sweden by Lina Ponnert 226
5 Child protection in Germany by Heinz Kindler 258
Illustration Index
Figure 1: Age and sex of the resident population, 2010 ........................................................................ 15
Figure 2: Age and nationality of the resident population, 2010 ............................................................. 16
Figure 3: Share of individuals below the poverty line according to type of household in 2009 ............. 17
Figure 4: Unemployment rate according to ILO-Standard for different age groups .............................. 18
Figure 5: Share (%) of foreign students at different demand levels of secondary education in
2009/2010 .............................................................................................................................................. 20
Figure 6: Female share (%) in attainment of certificates at the highest levels of secondary and tertiary
education ............................................................................................................................................... 20
Figure 7: Deaths of boys and girls aged 0 to 14 (1995-2008) ............................................................... 21
Figure 8: Causes for death of infants (1995-2008)................................................................................ 22
Figure 9: Pedestrian victims of car accidents at the age of 0 to 9 (1992-2010) .................................... 22
Figure 10: Young victims of domestic violence according to their age and type of crime as reported by
the police in 2010 .................................................................................................................................. 27
Figure 11: Cases of detected or suspected child maltreatment in 15 (out of 26) Swiss paediatric clinics
according to category ............................................................................................................................ 28
Figure 12: Perpetrator’s relationship to the victim in the sample of 15 Swiss paediatric clinics ........... 29
Figure 13: Perpetrator’s age and sex in the sample of 15 Swiss paediatric clinics .............................. 30
Figure 14: Current and newly disposed “appropriate measures” according to art. 307 SCC ............... 33
Figure 15: Appointment of a “child welfare advocate” as a measure according to art. 308 SCC ......... 34
Figure 16: Removal of children from parental care as a measure according to art. 310 or 310/308 SCC
............................................................................................................................................................... 35
Figure 17: Withdrawal of parental custody as a measure according to art. 311 and 312 SCC ............ 36
Figure 18: Criminal offences against children according to the articles 187 and 197 SPC .................. 39
Figure 19: Criminal offences against children according to the articles 188, 136 and 219 SPC .......... 40
Figure 20: Minors as victims and initiation of child protection measures (counselling cases of victim
aid) ......................................................................................................................................................... 41
Figure 21: Minor victims according to offence (counselling cases of victim aid) ................................... 41
Figure 22: Number of ambulant protective measures appointed by JCJA-convictions ......................... 43
Figure 23: Number of out-of-home placements appointed by JCJA-convictions .................................. 43
Figure 24: From Universal to Specialist Services: Requirement for State intervention (Bromfield, 2011)
............................................................................................................................................................... 90
1 Introduction
Jachen C. Nett and Trevor Spratt
In March 2011, the Association PPP-Programme National pour la Protection de l’Enfant contracted the
Project Team, led by Prof Jachen C. Nett and Dr Trevor Spratt, to undertake the study titled ‘Child
protection systems: An international comparison of good practice’. A supplementary study by Jachen
Nett, ‘Child Protection in Switzerland: Description of the cultural, political and legal context’ was
commissioned by the PPP in September 2011.
What follows is a synopsis of the aims and objectives of the project, the design of the research and
acknowledgment of the contributions of our collaborators; those who provide country case studies, and
are our expert panel, who advised us on the applicability of our recommendations in a Swiss context.
We conclude with a brief iteration of our main findings. The proceeding main body of this report begins
with ‘Child Protection in Switzerland: Description of the cultural, political and legal context and then an
overview report ‘Cross national analyses of good practice and derived recommendations’ is presented,
with the five country ‘Case Studies’ included as appendices.
1.1 Aims and Objectives
The aims of this study are twofold: first to examine current evidence for the effective delivery of child
protection services from countries whose level of economic and social development is comparable to
that of Switzerland; and second, to identify international examples of good practice to be evaluated
with respect to the validity of their application in Switzerland. Specifically, our objectives are to: (a)
Examine the child protection system in five comparator countries and produce a Case Study for each.
(b) Analyse the Case Studies to identify good practices. (c) Present recommendations to an expert
panel (Sounding Board) to ascertain applicability in the Swiss context as informed by demographic
profile of the national historical, policy and practice contexts. (d) Make final recommendations to the
Association PPP-Programme National pour la Protection de l’Enfant.
1.2 Research design and Restrictions
Our plan of investigation did not fundamentally require new primary research. The data to address the
questions within our study is available within the public domain in the forms of both quantitative and
qualitative data available in public documents (e.g. legislation and policies, official statistics, news
reports and academic critiques). A country report template was produced to enable comparability of
data across key areas. Once country reports were completed they were first collated and then
subjected such data to secondary analysis by the research team, as informed by the aims of the study.
The provisional recommendations were then subjected to a further level of analysis with regard to their
applicability in Switzerland by an expert panel.
1.3 The Contributors: core team and expert panel
The research was led by Jachen Nett (Bern University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland) and Trevor
Spratt (Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland) with partners; Leah Bromfield (University of
South Australia - Australian Centre for Child Protection), Johanna Hietamäki (University of Jyväskylä,
Finland), Lina Ponnert (University of Lund, Sweden) and Heinz Kindler (German Youth Institute). Each
member of the team produced a country report and took part in the secondary analysis of the resulting
data. Trevor Spratt wrote the overview report. The expert panel comprised Stefan Blülle (Head of the
Division Child and Youth Protection of the Guardianship Authority, Canton Basel-City), Andrea Hauri
(Social Worker & Sociologist, Bern University of Applied Sciences), Christian Nanchen (Head of Youth
Services, Canton Valais), Stefan Schnurr (Educationist, University of Applied Sciences Northwestern
Switzerland), Peter Voll (Sociologist, University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland), Judith
Wyttenbach (Lawyer, University of Bern - Institute for public law) and Marco Zingaro (Lawyer, Bern
University of Applied Sciences).
1.4 Synopsis of key findings
There is a convergence of learning in respect to historical developments between nations with a social
welfare ethos. The nations have sought to convert that ethos into laws and procedures that balance
the rights of parents to privacy with the rights of children to protection. These laws and procedures
continue to be informed by a science of child development within an ecological understanding.
However, the nations all share a fundamental dilemma with respect to determining at what point the
state intervenes to protect the child, with evidence that both over and under intervention in family life
may bring unintended and unwanted consequences. It has been possible to examine shifts over time
in the provision of child protection services, reflecting different responses to this central dilemma.
The five countries do, however, share an ideology predicated on the central idea that early
interventions before problems become too acute are to be promoted; but that there is also a need for
an effective system to protect children from serious maltreatment in situations in which their parents
are unable or unwilling to provide such protection. Reflecting this ideology, all five nations describe an
optimal child protection system as one which comprises both support for families designed to prevent
poor outcomes for children at risk, as well as compulsory interventions for those with an immediate
need for protection. There is no uniform model with regard to the care for youth with anti-social and
criminal behaviours in some countries they are included within the child protection system, in others
they are cared for by a separate system of services.
In all five countries, the systemic response has involved state authorities taking the primary role in
responding to child protection referrals. At the level of service provision, the mix between those
delivered by state authorities, the third sector and the private sector differs greatly. With the increasing
role of the state, its relationship with the third sector has been revised and renegotiated.
Regardless of the proportions of who does what, systems require interventions to be agreed and
coordinated at three levels: between central and local governments and between local governments
and the third / private sectors (reflecting child protection governance requirements); between
professionals and families at area level (to reflect the interrelated features of child protection systems)
and continual analysis and reform at practice level to ensure ‘best practice’.
To quote from the conclusion to the ‘Overview Report’, ‘Child protection systems are necessary
because we are now aware of the range of harms caused to children if they are subject to a number of
adversities, including the experience of child maltreatment. In developing and renewing its child
protection system Switzerland is uniquely placed to benefit from an analysis of contemporary child
protection systems across five countries. The major finding of our work is that the lessons to be learnt
from these countries, both positive and negative, are remarkably consistent and coherent. We
considered at the start of this project that there would be great difficulty in deducing clear lessons
because of problems in creating points of comparability. Whilst this has been true with regard to some
specific dimensions, for example output data, generally speaking a remarkable degree of consensus
has emerged with regard to what constitutes ‘best practice’ in contemporary child protection systems.
The 14 recommendations we have made represent what any of the research team would wish for their
own countries, yet none of our countries bear all these features.’
Foundation Level Governance Features of Contemporary Child Protection Systems
Recommendation 1 A national standing committee at Federal level to produce a National
Framework for Child Protection to inform development of Canton law and service planning.
Recommendation 2 Cantons retain legal responsibility for child protection services but these are
planned and delivered with voluntary and private providers in Child Welfare Boards.
Intermediate Level Interrelated Features of Contemporary Child Protection Systems
Recommendation 3 Teams of social workers employed in each Canton to discharge legal
responsibilities associated with a child protection service at specialist level.
Recommendation 4 Interdisciplinary Case Planning Meeting set up in each Canton to ensure
effective planning to meet needs and ensure protection at case level.
Recommendation 5 Universities establish undergraduate and postgraduate training in child
protection for professionals.
Recommendation 6 Universities to review standards for admission to social work degree
Recommendation 7 Promotion of partnership; parents to attend Case Planning Meetings and
children’s rights to representation and appeal in decisions involving them become standardised.
Advanced Level Service Delivery Features of Contemporary Child Protection Systems
Recommendation 8 Development of a continuum of children’s services based on the Public
Health Model to inform the development of the National Framework for Child Protection.
Recommendation 9 Development of practice guidance for social workers incorporating legislation
and research informed ‘best practice’.
Recommendation 10 Introduction of a two tier assessment framework at specialist level for social
workers and common level for other professionals.
Recommendation 11 Audit of current intervention methods employed by social workers to inform
the work of the Child Welfare Boards in developing training and implementation strategies.
Recommendation 12 Audit of state care to inform development of National Framework for Child
Protection and work of Child Welfare Boards.
Recommendation 13 Establish a national vetting and barring scheme for those working with
Recommendation 14 Set up national data system to track both system outputs and child
outcomes as part of National Framework for Child Protection and to inform the work of Child
Welfare Boards.
2 Child protection in Switzerland: Description of the
cultural, political and legal context
Jachen C. Nett
2.1 Introduction
In this chapter the core elements and the particular features of the child protection system in
Switzerland are outlined. There are some aspects of the political system of Switzerland that may seem
peculiar to those from other countries because they do not correspond to political arrangements in
other developed democracies. Such peculiarities have implications for the process of decision-making
at national level but also affect the development of law and its implementation at the different levels of
the federal system. Accordingly, the 2.2nd section of this chapter intends to provide a, nota bene only,
cursory overview of the Swiss political system. This is followed by a short profile of the demographic
situation in Switzerland which provides some evidence of current and future challenges to the system
of social policy.
The 2.3rd section of the chapter highlights the current life conditions of children and adolescents in
Switzerland, including economic, educational and health situations. It also provides some particular
information concerning more recent developments challenging the relationship between parents and
children. At the end of this section available evidence on child abuse and neglect in Switzerland is
discussed. In the following sections the constitutional and legal bases of the child protection system
are outlined, and the adoption of core articles of penal and civil law is analysed (section 2.4). The
focus is then drawn to the institutional implementation of child and youth policy at the different levels of
the federal system; thereby the role of private organisations is also examined (section 2.5). The
chapter finishes with an account of recent developments in Swiss child protection policy. Attention is
drawn to some legal amendments just introduced (or about to be introduced) and some recent national
initiatives and programmes are explicated. Finally, the public perception of the child protection issue is
discussed by an elaboration of topics given attention by the media.
2.2 What has to be known about Switzerland
Switzerland is a relatively small country (41,000 sq km) with borders to Austria, France, Germany, Italy
and Liechtenstein. Wide areas of Switzerland are covered with uninhabitable high mountain ranges
and, as a consequence, it is densely populated (184 inhabitants per sq km). Its political system can be
characterised as a federal parliamentary democratic republic with very strong elements of a direct
democracy. The government is elected by the parliament for a four-year term of office. It is composed
of the seven members of the so-called Federal Council and the Federal chancellor.
2.2.1 The political system
Federalism and direct democracy are two eminent traits of Swiss politics and are deeply anchored at
various levels of the political, legal and constitutional setting. The Federal Assembly of Switzerland
(the parliament) consists of two chambers, the National Council and the Council of States, the latter
represents the 26 Cantons of which six are, for historical reasons, only so-called “Half-Cantons”, which
means that may send only one instead of two representatives to said chamber.
Any amendment to the Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation (FCSC), as it is labeled
formally correct, but also certain other parliamentary decisions of major concern, have to be approved
by votes of the majority of the people but also by the majority of the Cantons. Because Cantons differ
considerably with respect to size of territory and population (both the Canton of Zurich having a
population of over 1 million and Uri, which has a population of around 35,000, elect two
representatives), the effects of the federal system on political decisions at national level can hardly be
overestimated. Although an increase in federal regulation in different realms of society can be
identified as a general tendency, partly induced by demands deriving from international law, Cantons
still hold much sovereignty in core spheres of fiscal, economic and social policy. The principle of
federalism also works at lower level than the Canton, being expressed at municipality level. These
smallest political units, in number altogether 2,551, have considerable political autonomy. The bottom-
up structure of the political system in Switzerland was affirmed not long ago by an important
constitutional amendment. Since 2008 the Federal Constitution has an article according to which “the
principle of subsidiarity must be observed in the allocation and performance of state tasks” (art. 5a
FCSC). This article was adopted after the acceptance of a “referendum” by the vote on 28 Nov 2004.
Therewith “direct democracy” as the other core element of the Swiss political system is addressed.
Procedures of direct democracy are found on the one hand in the electoral system in view of the fact
that the members of both chambers of the Swiss parliament are elected directly by the people.
Whereas the electoral proceeding of the National Council follows standard federal rules, the Council of
states is elected according to cantonal regulations. Important instruments of direct democracy are on
the other hand popular votes. Such can be based on so-called “popular initiatives” or “referendums”. In
the latter case a ballot is held if 50,000 citizens request with their signature that an act of federal
legislation, a decision of the parliament, or in certain cases international treaties, should be
reconsidered. Thus, the referendum is similar to a veto and has the effect of delaying and safe-
guarding the political process by blocking amendments adopted by parliament or the government or
delaying their effect” (Federal Chancellery, 2011, p. 19). As regards popular initiatives, these reflect
the right of the citizens to bring about a change in the Constitution (at federal level), or to request a
new law or an amendment of existing law (only at Canton level). For the submission of a national
popular initiative valid signatures of 100 000 voters have to be collected within a time limit of 18
2.2.2 Demography
In the autochthonous population of Switzerland four languages are spoken. According to the 2000
census the great majority of the population (63.7%) uses German as the main language, 20.4%
French, 6.4% Italian, and a small minority of 0.5% speaks Romansh. The remaining nine per cent of
the population speaks various allochthonous languages which partly reflect the comparatively high,
and in the last decade again increasing, number of immigrants. The migration balance more than
tripled between 2000 and 2009 from 2.8 to 9.6 per 1,000 inhabitants (FSO, 2009). For the year 2010
the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO) displays a share of the foreign resident population of 22.4%.
According to the last report on the foreign population in Switzerland published by the FSO (FSO,
2008), about one third of all marriages celebrated in 2007 were between spouses of Swiss and foreign
nationalities (37.5%). Nearly half of the births (47.5%) to married women in 2007 had Swiss/other
nationality parentage, and about quarter of all children born in this current year possess foreign
Figure 1: Age and sex of the resident population, 2010
The age structure of Switzerland and its development are comparable with most other European
countries in that demographic ageing is proceeding as a consequence of a low fertility rate (2009:
1.50) and a growing life expectancy. For women the life expectancy at birth grew between 1950 and
2009 from 70.9 to 84.4 years, and for men from 66.4 to 79.8 years (FSO, 2011b). As can be seen in
For a short overview of the Swiss political system see Federal Chancellery (2011).
Source, retrieved: 2011/11/19.
Figure 1 the disparity between the sexes results in an uneven age structure of the population: in the
age classes over 64 years women are considerably over represented with a proportion of 19.0%
against 14.7% for men. The resulting tendency of a rising ageing quotient
was slowed down by the
immigration of younger people; however it still increased from 23.5% in 1990 to 27.1% in 2010, and
during the same period the corresponding youth quotient decreased from 37.7 to 33.5 (ibid.). As is
shown by Figure 2 the present impact of the immigration on the age structure is strongest in the class
of those aged 20 to 39 years.
Demographic ageing is a cause for concern in nearly all developed countries, especially because
population scenarios suggest that “this trend will continue over the next few decades and is likely to
cause serious problems, e.g. as for social security” (ibid., p. 531).
Figure 2: Age and nationality of the resident population, 2010
2.3 Life conditions of children and adolescents in Switzerland
In 2000 the Federal Council mandated the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF to implement the
52nd National Research Programme (NRP) that was entitled “Childhood, Youth and Intergenerational
Relationships in a Changing Society”. Within the six modules of the NRP 52 this broad theme was
researched by 29 projects that covered diverse aspects (cf. SNSF, no year).
A summary of the most
important results was published in 2008 (Schultheis, Perrig-Chiello, & Egger, 2008). Some of the most
relevant results will be referred to in the following sections.
The ageing quotient shows the proportion of those people older than 64 to the age group 20 to 64.
Source:, retrieved: 2011/11/19.
2.3.1 Economic conditions
Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world; however, whilst 14.6% (2009) of the
population are below poverty line (FSO, 2011b), this is not very meaningful if taken as an indicator for
the living standard of the people concerned. For the poverty line is measured according to EU
standard guidelines as the percentage of those who earn less than 60% of the national median
income, and accordingly are at risk of being socially excluded.
A comparison with the other countries
studied in this report, however, is important as it serves as an indicator of the income inequality in said
countries. Such a comparison shows a quite similar proportion of individuals living under the poverty
line for Germany (2009: 15%), Finland (2009: 13.1%) and Sweden (2010: 13.4%) but higher
proportions for the United Kingdom (2008/2009: 17%) and Australia (2006: 19.4%).
Figure 3: Share of individuals below the poverty line according to type of household in 2009
* The term “child” is defined here as a person younger than 18 and one aged 18-24 who is not working but living
together with father and/or mother.
The age groups most concerned by the risk of poverty in Switzerland are, according to the EU
definition, elderly people (65+) with 26.3% and the youngest individuals (0-15) with 18.3%. A look at
the type of households (FSO 2011)
reveals that individuals living in households together with children
are more at risk of falling below the poverty line (15.8%) than those living without children (13.5%). As
is shown by Figure 3 this depends on the type of households, though: higher-than-average is a risk for
The six modules encompassed the following sub-themes: (1) New data on t he living conditions of children, young people and their families in Switzerland, (2) Legal and economic aspects, (3) Intergenerational issues in
social and migration policy, (4) Families as the focal point in intergenerational relation ships, (5) Psychosocial health, (6) Aspects of everyday life: school and leisure (cf.
Source, retrieved: 2011/11/22.
Sources: Australia (ACOSS, 2010), Finland (, retrieved 2011/ 11/28) , Germany (, retrieved 2011/11/28), Sweden (, UK (, retrieved 2011/11/28).
Source:, date of download: 2011/11/22 (Excel file: „Erhebung über d ie Einkommen und die Lebensbedingungen, SILC-2009 Version 25.08.11“).
the increased number of single-parent families
(32.1%) and those living in households composed of
two adult persons and three or more children (27.2%).
With respect to unemployment Switzerland has up to now been in a privileged position compared to
other countries. In the last decade the unemployment rates according to the standard set by the
International Labour Organisation (ILO) shifted from 2.7% in 2000 to 4.5% in 2005 back to 3.4% in
2008, and climbed up again to 4.5% in 2010 (FSO 2011
). All countries referred to in this report show
higher unemployment rates in 2010 (Australia: 5.1
; Germany 7.1%; Finland: 8.4%; Sweden: 8.4%;
United Kingdom: 7.8%
). Yet, as in most other countries, unemployment among young people is an
issue of special concern for Switzerland as well. As depicted in
Figure 4 unemployment among the age group 15-24 has risen, especially in the last decade.
Figure 4: Unemployment rate according to ILO-Standard for different age groups
Whereas the differences between male and female unemployment are relatively small, there are
considerable differences between different regions in Switzerland. Relatively high unemployment rates
are reported by the FSO (ibid.) for the Swiss region around Lake Geneva (2010: 6.7%) and also for
the Italian speaking Canton Ticino (2010: 6.1%); lower rates on the other hand are accounted for the
central and eastern regions (2010: 3.0% respectively 3.5%).
The number of single-parent households increased between 1970 and 2008 from 106,258 to 181, i.e. by 70.6% (FSO, 2009).
Source:, state of the database: 2011/09/29.
Source: ACOSS (2010).
Source for Germany; Finland, Sweden and United Kingdom: ht tp://, retrieved 2012/01/03.
Source: (own adaptation). The data refer to the 2nd quarter of the corresponding year.
2.3.2 Educational situation
According to the latest available results of the Programme for International Student Assessment
(PISA) which refer to the survey undertaken in 2009 (Nidegger et al., 2010)
the achievements of
Swiss students rank higher in all tested domains (i.e. reading, mathematics and natural sciences) than
the average of all OECD countries. With respect to the comparator countries Swiss students rank
statistically significant lower than Finland and Australia in respect of reading and natural sciences. On
the other hand they show better achievements (statistically significant) in the domain of mathematics
than students in Australia, Germany, Sweden and UK (ibid.)
Under current conditions
a Swiss child at the age of four may expect a formal education that last on
average 17.1 years. Thereof one and a half years are spent in pre-school and nine and a half years in
the compulsory school system. Although there are prescriptions authoritative for all Cantons with
respect to duration (9 years) and age (6) at the start of compulsory school education, the Cantons stay
responsible for the system of school education. Accordingly there is a considerable variety with
respect to the particular organisation of the compulsory education, e.g. there are several types of
lower secondary schools, teaching hours for the nine compulsory years of schooling vary between
7100 and 8900 per child per year, and some Cantons have started to integrate pre-school
(Kindergarten) into the compulsory school system. As a consequence of endeavours to harmonise the
system it is to be expected that compulsory school attendance soon will be extended to eleven years
all over Switzerland.
In 2008 a share of 86.8% reached an upper secondary educational level and 33.7% attained a
certificate at tertiary level (FSO, 2011a). The Swiss professional education system has a peculiarity in
that it is still based essentially on a dual vocational training approach which means that, after finishing
compulsory school education, a majority of the youth start an apprenticeship at a training company
whilst attending at the same time a vocational school. In 2010 a share of 65% of those finishing their
secondary level education did this by achievement in a particular professional apprentice examination.
A major concern for the Swiss educational policy is the fact that the children from immigrant families
show high shares in schools with a low demanding level of achievement and correspondingly low
shares in those that demand a high level of achievement (FSO & EDK, 2002). In Figure 5 some of the
possible paths to professional education are depicted. Although foreign students account for 22.6% of
all students they only make up 10.3 % of the students in schools that qualify for vocational universities,
and 13.8% in schools that prepare for ordinary universities. In contrast they are over-represented in
low demanding vocational training (pre- and basic apprenticeship) that does not count much in the
employment market if no further professional qualification follows.
PISA is a repeatedly executed international survey among students that measures skills and knowledge as they approach the end of their compulsory education (cf.
Beside this Swiss students also rank statistically significant higher than Swedish st udents in the domain of natural sciences.
The following reported data refer to 2008.
Figure 5: Share (%) of foreign students at different demand levels of secondary education in 2009/2010
Besides this disparity there are also remarkable differences regarding the proportions of male and
female students attaining certificates at the highest levels of secondary and tertiary education as can
be seen in Figure 6. Girls have a rising share in the group of those attaining a certificate at secondary
educational level that gives access to universities (2010: 57.6%) and are even more successful in the
attainment of a degree at one of the two university types (2010: 62.1% and 55.3% respectively)
. At
doctorate level by contrast, female students are still in the minority (2010: 43.4%).
Figure 6: Female share (%) in attainment of certificates at the highest levels of secondary and tertiary education
Source: retrieved: 2011/11/22.
The rise of female students attaining a degree at a vocational university (so -called universities of applied sciences) has to be interpreted in front of the changing educational landscape in Switzerland. With the new
establishment of universities of applied sciences at the beginning of the century, the education of many professions dominated by women were upgraded to university degree ( as e.g. social work, and starting from 2007 on
also nursery, physiotherapy, midwifery, etc.).
These gender differences raise concerns over the adequateness of the secondary school system.
There appears to be some discrimination against the encouragement of typically male abilities and
interests and more account of the differential psycho-social development of boys and girls during
childhood and adolescence may need to be taken.
2.3.3 Mortality of children and health risks
There are some trends with respect to the health situation of children and adolescents in Switzerland
that clearly show that certain things have changed for the better in last couple of years. As can be
seen in Figure 7 the mortality of boys and girls under the age of 14 both decreased between 1995 and
2008 from 383 (boys) and 258 (girls) to 238 and 180 respectively.
Figure 7: Deaths of boys and girls aged 0 to 14 (1995-2008)
A look at the causes of death in infants reveals the positive consequences of the advancement in
medical diagnostics and treatment. For all causes of death there has been a decline (see Figure 8). Of
special notes is the decrease of cases of sudden infant deaths (SID) because this sometimes is
associated fatal child abuse (Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, 2001; Reece, 1993).
During the last decades car traffic has increased enormously in Switzerland. The more remarkable is
the fact that the number children up to the age of nine injured or killed as pedestrians in car accidents
is decreasing (see Figure 9); this group has to be considered as particularly vulnerable, as children at
this age cannot be fully responsible for their behaviour and therefore deserve special protection. This
Source:, “Statistics of educational attainment” (State of the database: June, 2010).
Source: “Statistics of causes of death” (State of t he database: 2010/11/23).
positive development has to be contrasted, however, with fact that the increase in traffic further has
curtailed children’s freedom to play outdoors.
Figure 8: Causes for death of infants (1995-2008)
Figure 9: Pedestrian victims of car accidents at the age of 0 to 9 (1992-2010)
As children become adolescents another issue of public health gains in significance; according to the
Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH, 2005) the percentage of years lost as a consequence of
Source: “Statistics of causes of death” (State of the database: 2010/11/23).
Source: Own calculations based FSO data (
suicide before reaching the age of 70 is two times higher than for years lost because of death caused
by road traffic accidents. With 19.1 deaths caused by suicide per 100,000 residents, suicide rates in
Switzerland belong to the highest in the world.
Suicide is the main cause of death for men aged
between 15 and 44. The suicide rates climb steeply with the beginning of adolescence to reach a first
apex in the mid-twenty years. Boys are over-represented when compared with girls in suicide rates.
According to interview data based on large samples collected in 1992, 2002 (Narring et al., 2003) and
1997 (Rey Gex, Narring, Ferron, & Michaud, 1998) between 3.4% and 3.9% of girls and between 1.6%
and 2.6% of boys aged 15-20 reported an attempted suicide within the preceding twelve months. Data
on prevalence of attempted suicide presented by Delgrande & Messerli (2003) show that 4% of girls
and 2.6 % of boys aged 15-16 have tried to kill themselves at least once.
Other issues of public health in Switzerland that are of major concern with respect to adolescents are
obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and the consumption of illegal drugs, mainly cannabis.
According to the results of the research project “BMI-Monitoring”
initiated by Health Promotion
Switzerland, a foundation constituted and supported by all Swiss Cantons, overweight and obesity are
a widespread phenomenon amongst children and adolescents. Because of the physiological
transformation in childhood and adolescence there is no simple and generally accepted definition of
the criteria that allow for a reliable diagnosis concerning overweight and obesity, though (Stamm,
Wiegand, & Lamprecht, 2010). In comparison to earlier years the BMI seems to have stabilised among
Children and adolescents in Switzerland (Aeberli, Amman, Knabenhans, Molinari, & Zimmermann,
2009). However, prevalence data suggest it is too early to give the all-clear; depending on city and
Canton surveyed the share of concerned children varies between 10% and 26% (ibid.): on average
every fifth to every seventh child in Switzerland is overweight and 4% suffer obesity. There is a well-
documented association between low socio-economic status and overweight and obesity (e.g. ispa,
2009; Robertson, Lobstein, & Knai, 2007; Stamm et al., 2011; WHO/Europe, 2006, 2012). Because
poor families are supposed to live more often in neighbourhoods which are exposed to heavy car
traffic, there is reason to believe that such living conditions reduce outdoor activities with adverse
effects on children’s motor activity (cf. Sauter & Hüttenmoser, 2006).
Data on alcohol and cannabis consumption among adolescents in Switzerland are made available by
a study executed on behalf of the FOPH (Schmid, Delgrande Jordan, Kuntsche, Kuendig, &
Annaheim, 2008). Accordingly, 7% of boys and nearly 3% of girls at the age of fifteen report daily
alcohol consumption, and 40% of all have already experienced a state of drunkenness; 1% even had
to be treated in the hospital because of such an event. As the age when alcohol was first consumed
an average of 13.3 years was identified (ibid.). Regarding cannabis, which is used much more
frequently than any other illegal drug, 34.2% of boys and 26.8% of girls interviewed report having
consumed this substance at least once.
With respect to the countries studied in this report only Finland shows a higher suicide rate (FOPH, 2005).
BMI refers to the “Body.Mass-Index”, which is used to measure overweight and obes ity.
2.3.4 Concerns with regard to parental control and the rising influence of the electronic
Swiss society is, as is the case in most other highly developed countries, challenged with some
phenomena which have become the subject of widespread public debate and consequently impacted
upon child and youth policy. Consumption patterns and leisure activities of youth have changed
considerably in the last couple of years. Especially in the densely populated agglomerations society
has changed into what sometimes is called a “24-hours-society”, which means that the time young
people spend with leisure activities has extended, particularly at weekends, until the morning hours.
Correspondingly, the time available for alcohol abuse, indecent behaviour, vandalism, and committing
all kind of other crimes has increased. This trend obviously accounts for some of the developments
generally deplored, e.g. the impairment of public areas by littering and malicious mischief and the
factual, or at least perceived
growth, of youth violence. There is good reason, however, to assume
that these phenomena are also associated with a decline in parental control. Two surveys undertaken
in the secondary schools of the Canton St. Gallen (Walser & Killias, 2009) and in three municipalities
in the agglomeration of Bern city (Urwyler, Nett, & Rondi, 2011) reveal an association between levels
of parental control and problem behaviour (alcohol consumption, gambling, use of violence,
membership in deviant groups, etc.). Parental control was measured by the parent’s knowledge as
regards what their children are doing when they go out at night and also by the parent’s willingness to
establish and enforce rules on such occasions. The findings of both studies show that families with
immigration background are less willing or able to control their children; additionally, the second study
(ibid.) also points out that in single-parent and patchwork families less control is exerted on the young
people. Thus the rising number of single-parent households, the decomposition of traditional families,
respectively their re-composition to patchwork households, but also the lower social control exerted in
the growing population of immigrants could very well be associated with an increase in juvenile
The problem of diminishing parental control is also reflected in the dwindling influence parents have on
their children as regards the use of electronic media. Actually, the second study mentioned above also
identified associations between low control of the use of electronic media on the one hand and
delinquent and risk behaviour on the other. Of particular concern for preventive measures might be the
finding that low control of the use of electronic media correlates with immigration background and
incomplete families (ibid.).
According to the statements of about one third (36%) of those interviewed,
the parents of children and adolescents aged 12 to 18 (the average age was 13.9) do not decide on
rules that restrict TV consumption. A higher share of parents tried to regulate computer use (47%).
Control over the use of electronic media is becoming more difficult because many children have
In fact there is still a scientific controversy about the question whether youth violence has really increased in r ecent years or not (Federal Council, 2009; FSIO, 2010; Nett, 2010).
Within the frame of NRP 52 a research project directed by Heinz Moser and Heinz Bonfadelli surveyed leisure activities and Media consumption of children and adolescents aged 9-16 in the region of Zurich. The
findings of this study also revealed considerable difference s between youth with and without immigration background regarding the use of electronic media (cf. Bonfadelli & Bucher, 2006; Bonfadelli & Moser, 2007; Moser,
access to mobile electronic devices, and TVs or computers are available in the children’s room. Yet
66% of the interviewed report to have a personal access to the internet (ibid). This finding corresponds
approximately with the results of a representative study for Switzerland (the so-called “JAMES
), also conducted 2010 in schools among 1,000 students aged 12-19 (Willemse, Waller, &
Süss, 2010). According to this study three quarters of the sample possess a personal computer with
internet access. Internet is used in this age class very frequently: during the week on average about
two hours daily, and at the weekend one hour longer. However there is an extreme range between a
few minutes and many more hours.
Many leisure activities still rely on membership of formal associations. This is particularly true for
sports: 65% of boys and 53% of girls interviewed in three Bernese municipalities reported being a
member of a sport club; 28% declared membership of another kind of association, and 21% reported
membership of several other associations. Mostly these have something to do with music, or are youth
groups such as the Boy Scouts (Urwyler & Nett, 2011). Yet considering the development of leisure
activities it hardly can be denied that during the last decade a fundamental change has taken place
(cf. Ribeaud & Eisner, 2009). While a great majority of the youth still regularly enjoy meeting friends
and love to follow sportive activities, 82% and 70% respectively report doing such activities at least
several times a week, the two leisure activities that top the ranking list are the use of the cell phone
and the internet. Though third place on the ranking is occupied by a non-medial activity, the list of the
top ten is dominated by medial activities. Social networks (e.g. Facebook) as part of the so-called Web
have gained enormously in significance for young people: according to the JAMES study 84% of
those interviewed are registered in at least one of the online social networks. Obviously still, real
friendships usually develop in school (as reported by 94%) or in the neighbourhood (56%), and
frequently as well by membership of formal associations (38%) or by family connections (30%). All the
same it is remarkable that 16% also name the internet as a source of a friendship.
The growing use of the web 2.0 has consequences for the individual management of the private
sphere in that it provides new possibilities for misuse of personal data published online. This issue is
of special concern for adolescents. In the age puberty one of main developmental tasks consists of
socialising in peer groups and gaining a social identity apart from the family of origin (cf. Harris, 1995;
Hurrelmann, 2005). Thus adolescents are comparatively more vulnerable as regards the violation of
the private sphere by taking advantage of personal information which was put online without a care.
The JAMES study mentioned above presents some interesting findings in this respect: 29% of those
interviewed report that photos or videos were uploaded on the internet without their given consent,
18% have been involved in an online communication that used vulgar and insulting expressions (so-
called “flaming”) and finally, 8% state that they already have been the target of defamation and insults
that were spread online (Willemse et al., 2010). The results concerning the individual readiness to
“JAMES” refers to „Jugend – Aktivitäten Medien Erhebung Schweiz“ (Youth – Activities Media Data collection Switzerland).
Web 2.0 is a term used to refer to interactive and collaborative aspects of a growing number of internet services.
disclose personal data show that there is a difference between boys and girls; basically girls are more
reluctant to disclose personal Information, however with one important exception: they more readily
upload photos and videos of themselves. Whereas this particular difference might be explained by
differential mating strategies between the sexes, it less easy to understand why, as pointed out by the
JAMES Study repeatedly, youths in the German, French and Italian speaking parts of Switzerland
reveal considerable variation in respect of their online behaviour.
2.3.5 Indicators of child abuse and neglect
As a result of a parliamentary initiative
in 1988 the Federal Department of Home Affairs mandated a
working group of experts to prepare a report providing information on the character and prevalence,
but also on causes, of child maltreatment in Switzerland. Additionally, the working group was urged to
make proposals as to how serious deficits could be compensated for and what preventive measures
might be introduced. For this report a broad and heterogeneous database was created (i.e. a
prospective collection of data in 5,000 health and 800 social services, a survey among parents
representative for Switzerland, interviews with inmates in seven prisons, expert interviews, etc.). In
1992 the working group published its results (Arbeitsgruppe Kindesmisshandlung, 1992). It was the
first, and up today, last trial to provide a nationwide overview of the multifarious and complex subject
of child maltreatment. Many of the proposals made in the report were subsequently implemented in
legal amendments and in practice.
Since publication of this national report there has been only few and selective information made
available that updates our knowledge of prevalence of child maltreatment in Switzerland. However, it
is to be expected that on-going research supported by the UBS-Optimus Foundation will present
results in 2012 which will give a more up to date and accurate profile of the present situation.
According to the online description of the Optimus Study
it shall “provide a comprehensive picture of
the magnitude of violence, abuse and neglect among young people, quantifying the harm that this has
on those affected and the extent to which outreach projects such as victim support programs are able
to help these young people.”
Hopefully the data collected by the Optimus Study will at least partially
elucidate the dark field of child abuse and neglect in Switzerland. Hence, before these results are
available the dimension of the problem may only be judged by consulting various statistics that shed
light on particular aspects of it.
The Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO) has started to analyse and publish data on domestic
These partly also comprise information on child maltreatment. A selection of such data,
It was a so-called “postulate” submitted to the Federal Council by Judith Stamm ( National Council) on June 18, 1987.
The following members of the research team designed the Optimus Study in Switzerland: Ulrich Schnyder, Meichun Mohler-Kuo, Markus Lando lt and Thomas Maier (Director of Studies, University of Zurich). The main
data base consists of a survey among about more than 6,700 grade students.
Source:, retrieved 2011/11/01.
Source: retrieved: 2011/11/22.
based on the Swiss Criminal Statistics of the Police (CSP), and which includes all crimes occurring in
relationships between the victim and his/her parents, foster parents or relatives, is shown in Figure 10.
The domestic crimes presented there are classified according to the different titles of the Swiss Penal
(SPC). Thus the majority of domestic offences against minors consist of those against life and
limb, which mainly refers to acts of aggression (art. 126 SPC) and common or serious assault (art. 123
respectively 122 SPC). It is notable that domestic offences with a sexual connotation more frequently
concern younger children and to a lesser degree old adolescents.
Figure 10: Young victims of domestic violence according to their age and type of crime as reported by the police in
In an official translation the title is Swiss Criminal Code (Schweizerisches Strafgesetzbuch StGB). The resulting abbre viation SCC, however, is identical with the Swiss Civil Code. Therefore the code shall be termed here
Swiss Penal Code (SPC).
Source: Swiss Criminal Statistics of the Police” (state of t he database: 2011/11/02).
Figure 11: Cases of detected or suspected child maltreatment in 15 (out of 26) Swiss paediatric clinics according to
Another meaningful source of information is the statistics provided by the section “Child Protection” of
Swiss Society of Paediatrics (SSP). Since 2009 it has published data collected by paediatric clinics in
Switzerland. A closer look at data relating to 2010 reveals some instructive facts (Swiss Society of
Paediatrics, 2011). As regards the 923 cases of detected or suspected child maltreatment depicted in
Figure 11 it has to be stated first of all that only the half of them are based on a fully trusted diagnosis,
19 % are judged as probable cases, and the remaining 31% remain unconfirmed. Accordingly, nearly
one third of the cases registered in 2010 concern more or less confirmed instances of child neglect,
followed by physical and sexual abuse with shares of 29% and 25% respectively. It is noticeable that
female children are in all categories overrepresented: totally they have a share of 60.5% of the
presumed victims, with the highest proportion shown in the category “sexual abuse” (75.9%). The
victims are frequently small children whereas infants are most at risk: nearly one quarter are still
infants, i.e. aged less than one year (ibid.).
Source: data retrieved from Swiss Society of Paediatrics (2011). The Muenchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP/MSP) possibly needs some explanation. MSbP is the term f or a pattern of behaviour of parents (mostly
mothers) which is characterised by fabricating an illness or inducing such an illness in their child (cf. Stirling & Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, 2007).
Figure 12: Perpetrator’s relationship to the victim in the sample of 15 Swiss paediatric clinics
According to the sample of the paediatric clinics, in 75% of the cases the perpetrator belong to the
family (see Figure 12), which confirms the significance of the statistics of domestic violence as an
indicator of child maltreatment; however the considerable share of 17% that consists of people
acquainted to the child also points at the fact that preventive efforts have to encompass the children’s
whole education setting. Perpetrators are in the great majority adult persons (82.2%), mostly of male
sex (48.1%). Yet, if one takes into account that in 14.5% of the case both sexes appear as
perpetrators, women are involved in nearly half of the sample (see Figure 13).
Following the diagnoses the child protection group of the paediatric clinics initiated guardianship
measures by making a notice to the authority in charge in 22.2% of the cases, or recommended such
measures (7.5%); for 20.7% of the patients such a measure was already initiated by a third party. In
addition, in 8.4% of the instances criminal prosecution was initiated or recommended by the child
protection group, in the other 14.5% of the cases criminal prosecution was already initiated by third
party (ibid.).
Source: data retrieved from Swiss Society of Paediatrics (2011).
Figure 13: Perpetrator’s age and sex in the sample of 15 Swiss paediatric clinics
Cases of child maltreatment detected by paediatric clinics of course only represent the tip of the
iceberg. This also holds true for cases that appear in the various official statistics recording the
activities of penal, civil courts or other agencies operating with a legal mandate, which will be referred
to in chapter 2.4 below. As already mentioned information on children’s personal experience of
violence and abuse is not systematically collected in Switzerland. One of the surveys mentioned
above (Urwyler et al., 2011) provides some information, however, that may serve as an indication for
the prevalence of parental violence against children. According to the corresponding findings 80.0% of
the interviewed boys and girls aged between 12 and 18 report never having been beaten by their
Those who suffered heavy blows or bashing that resulted in bruises or even medical
treatment only sum up to 2.9%. An analysis according to professional status and the immigration
related background revealed, however, that there is a disparity that concerns in particular the
immigration status of the children or their parents: 31% of those having an immigration background
reported acts of parental violence in comparison to 13% in the other group of non-immigrants. This
tendency is more prevalent in the 1st generation of immigrant families than in the 2nd and points to the
positive effects of social integration into Swiss society (ibid.).
Source: data retrieved from Swiss Society of Paediatrics (2011) .
These values are considerably lower than those found in the representative survey about twenty years ago. However, the relatively higher percentage of victims found there (35%) assumingly has methodological
2.4 Constitutional and legal bases of child protection
The term “child protection”
is commonly used in Switzerland in a comparatively narrow sense mostly
referring to legal action of state authorities. Nevertheless it has to be considered as an integral part
within the wider frame of the national child and youth policy which is solidly anchored in constitutional
but also international law. According to a common differentiation suggested by Christoph Häfeli (2005)
the child protection system in Switzerland can be divided into a voluntary sector, a specialised sector,
and two legally based sectors whereby one is regulated by civil law and the other by penal law. The
voluntary sector refers to those services provided for parents, children and adolescents which can be
made use of voluntarily as for instance family counselling, parent education, or paediatric and juvenile
psychiatry. The specialised sector of child protection, in contrast, is characterised by the confinement
of services to a narrowly defined task as e.g. the counselling victims of crime, or the child protection
committee of a paediatric clinic. Child protection regulated by civil law covers the parental obligations
and rights and constitutes the legal framework for state interference into family life. With respect to the
system of penal law its protective function for children is twofold: on the one hand the criminal
prosecution of adults as well as juvenile offenders to prevent children from victimisation; on the other
particular criminal procedures and system of sanctions established to prosecute juvenile offenders,
taking into account the protection requirements and specific needs of children. In the following section
the various legal foundations of Swiss child protection policy are outlined in more detail.
2.4.1 International and federal constitutional law
Although international law is binding and has primacy in respect of national law it does not override
national law as in principle full ratification only follows after constitutional and legal amendments have
entered into force. If national law does not allow for full ratification, caveats usually are submitted.
Because such caveats usually are intended to have provisory character the development of
international law consequently has an important impact on Swiss legal system. As regards the legal
system of child protection there are four international agreements of significance, however it was the
ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) in 1997 that has to be considered
as the one with the greatest impact. The remaining three international agreements are of less concern
in this regard as they deal with aspects of child abduction that are subject to private law,
jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition, enforcement and co-operation in respect of parental
In Switzerland the most common, but also in legal context used Germ an term for it is “Kindesschutz“, in French it is “protection de l’enfant”, and in Italian “protezione dell’infanzia”.
As for example, both t he UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) an d the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) demand the separation of children and a dults in penitentiaries respectiv ely
detention facilities: although these agreements were ratified by Switzerland ( 1997 and 1992) caveats correspondingly were applied. In the latter case the caveat was abolished meanwhile ( cf.
Cf. Hague Convention of October 25, 1980 on the Civil Aspects of Internat ional Child Abduction.
responsibility and measures for the protection of children
and finally, with the legal regulation of
adoption between different countries.
In the Federal Constitution (FCSF)
there are only a few yet important articles directly related to the
fundamental issues of child protection. These are articles 11 (protection of children and young people),
13 (right to privacy), 14 (right to marry and to have a family), and the recently added article 67
(encouragement of children and young people).
The core article 11 states in the first paragraph that
“[c]hildren and young people have the right to the special protection of their integrity and to the
encouragement of their development.” The 2nd paragraph limits the exercise of the rights by the
children themselves “to the extent that their power of judgment allows.” Art. 13 is of relevance in
respect to child protection as it limits the power of authorities to interfere with family life on the one
hand (1st paragraph); the 2nd paragraph, on the other hand, protects all persons, accordingly also
children, against misuse of personal data. Finally, the 1st paragraph of art. 67 FCSF states that in
fulfilling their duties the “Confederation and Cantons shall take account of the special need of children
and young people to receive encouragement and protection.” The 2nd paragraph then legitimates the
involvement of the Confederation in respect of this task as it “may supplement cantonal measures by
supporting extracurricular work with children and young people” (ibid.).
Legally less binding are the social objectives mapped out in art. 41 FCSC. These include access to
social security and health care, the protection and encouragement of “families as communities of
adults and children”, fair work conditions, access to suitable accommodation on reasonable terms”,
education as well as basic and advanced training in accordance with individual abilities,
encouragement and support of children and young people to achieve successful socialization, and
finally, protection against economic consequences of old-age, maternity or unpredictable adversities
e.g. invalidity. In art. 41 it says that the “Confederation and the Cantons shall as a complement to
personal responsibility and private initiative [i.e. only subsidiary] endeavour to ensure that the specified
objectives are achieved”. In the 3rd and 4th paragraph this endeavour is additionally relativised by
pointing out that the Confederation and the Cantons are obliged by the social objectives only as far as
their achievement lies within the scope of their constitutional powers and the resources available to
them,” and by the direction that “[n]o direct right to state benefits may be established on the basis of
these social objectives” (ibid.).
Cf. Hague Convention of October 19, 1996.
Cf. Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operat ion in respect of Intercountry Adoption.
Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation of 18 April 1999 (stat us as of 1 January 2011).
As adopted by the popular vote of May 21, 2006.
2.4.2 Swiss Civil Code
It can be said that the Swiss Civil Code (SCC) represents the core of legal child protection as it
focuses on the question as to how minors can be protected and supported to assure that their rights
are respected. As federal law the SCC claims nationwide validity, accordingly however it only defines
a frame of minimal legal standards within which the Cantons can develop their own child protection
policy. In the articles 307 to 314 SCC, which are of special concern in this respect, the legislation
essentially has defined the rights and duties of the parents as well as of the guardianship authorities,
but also in a general way the different types of governmental intervention that are applicable, and
under what condition these can be disposed. The following two articles, 315a and 315b, deal with the
scope and place of jurisdiction as regards the civil court and the guardianship authority. The last two
articles which are of special concern in this context regulate the supervision of persons taking foster
children (art. 316 SCC), and oblige the Cantons to collaborate “in the areas of child protection under
civil law, the criminal law relating to young offenders and other youth support activities” (art. 317 SCC).
In the following an overview of the development of measures as defined by the SCC shall be given.
The corresponding data on which the figures are based were drawn from the tables annually
published by the “Conference of the Cantons for the Guardianship of Children and Adults” (KOKES
It is important to note here that these data only provide information on the “system inputs”, and that the
number of measures introduced do not tell us anything about “system outcomes” and thus about
effectiveness of the measures introduced (cf. recommendation 14).
Figure 14: Current and newly disposed “appropriate measures” according to art. 307 SCC
KOKES is the abbreviation of the German name of the association “Konferenz der Kantone für Kindes- und Erwachsenenschutz”.
Own calculations based on data published by KOKES (see footnote 49).
Figure 14 refers to the so-called “appropriate measures” based on art. 307 SCC that comprise less
invasive and more pre-emptive interventions taken by the guardianship authority, reminding parents,
foster parents or children of their duties but also “issue specific instructions regarding care, upbringing
or education and appoint a suitable person or agency with powers to investigate and monitor the
situation” (ibid.). As differentiated already by the published tables of KOKES
Figure 14 delineates
ongoing and newly disposed measures. Accordingly, between 1996 and 2010 the number of ongoing
measures increased within this period by 32.6%, with those newly disposed more than doubling
The next more invasive step of guardian authorities consists of appointing a “child welfare advocate
whose function is to help the parents look after the child by providing advice and practical support”
(art. 308 SCC). If it is judged as necessary the child welfare advocate can be entitled with certain
rights and powers that may interfere with parental custody.
According to Figure 15 the number of appointments of child welfare advocate also substantially
increased in period 1996 to 2010 whereas, in contrast to Figure 14, the number of ongoing measures
grew more than the newly disposed ones (by 147.5% and 108.1% respectively).
Figure 15: Appointment of a “child welfare advocate” as a measure according to art. 308 SCC
Art. 310 and 311 SCC if adopted both have the consequence that the child is taken away from home
and placed somewhere else. Art. 310, however, is less definite in character. It means that the
guardianship authority decides on removing the child from the parents or from where the child is
usually living and finds another suitable location. Such a removal of parental care is indicated if the
guardianship authority sees “no other way to avert a threat to the child’s well-being” (art. 310 para. 1
Source:, retrieved 2011/10/23.
Own calculations based on data published by KOKES (see footnote 49).
SCC), or if such a removal is requested by the parents or the child and the guardianship authority
arrives at the conclusion that the “relations between them have deteriorated to the extent that it is no
longer conscionable for the child to remain in the family home and provided no other practical remedy
is available in the circumstances” (art. 310 para. 2 SCC). This article can also be adopted if the
parents want to take their child back to their household, even if they had lived prior to this for a long
time with foster parents, and if the parent’s intention is judged to be a risk for the child’s development
(art. 310 para. 3 SCC).
Art. 311 SCC in contrast has more serious consequences as “the withdrawal of parental custody is
effective in respect of all the children, including those born subsequently” (ibid.). This most invasive
measure therefore can only be adopted compulsorily (i.e. against the will of the parents) by an
adjudication of the guardianship supervisory authority.
For this measure one of two conditions have
to fulfilled: either “the parents are unable to exercise parental custody as required on account of
inexperience, illness, disability, absence or other similar reasons;” or “the parents have not cared for
the child to any meaningful degree or have flagrantly violated their duties towards the child” (ibid.).
Art. 312 SCC refers to a situation when it is the declared intention of the parents to abolish their
custody on the child, be it for good cause or with the intention to give the child up for adoption by
unnamed third parties. In this case the decision lies with the guardianship authority.
Finally, art. 313 SCC determines that the appointed measures have to take account of changing
circumstances and correspondingly be adapted. As regards the restoration of parental custody after it
has been withdrawal, there is a set time limit of one year.
Figure 16: Removal of children from parental care as a measure according to art. 310 or 310/308 SCC
This will change with the introduction of revised provisions in 2013. From then, the guardianship supervisory authority will not be entitled anymore to make a decision of first instance.
Own calculations based on data published by KOKES (see footnote 49).
The diagrams in Figure 16 and Figure 17 represent the developments of the adoption of art. 310,
partially in combination with 308 SCC (
Figure 16) on the one hand, and of decisions regarding withdrawal of parental custody (compulsory
and voluntarily) according to articles 311 and 312 SCC (Figure 17).
Figure 17: Withdrawal of parental custody as a measure according to art. 311 and 312 SCC
A comparison of these two diagrams shows a certain disparity in the developments between 1996 and
2010. Whereas removals of children from parental care still rose until the beginning of the last decade
and then started to stabilize at a higher level, the adoption of articles 311 and 312, i.e. the withdrawal
of parental custody, already was stabilized at the beginning of period in 1996 as the numbers of newly
disposed measures overall stayed about the same level. The fact that the number of ongoing
measures dropped from a higher level at the beginning of the last decade indicates that before 1996
withdrawals of parental custody were more common and that, possibly after a change in adjudication,
ongoing measures then started to expire. The different developments also suggest that a partial
substitution between the two kinds of measures might have been at work, i.e. it is assumed that in
recent cases guardianship authorities more frequently decided in favour of removals from care and
against the more drastic measure of withdrawal of custody.
An analysis of child protection dossiers (N=164) drawn from guardianship authorities in German and
French speaking regions of Switzerland (Voll, Jud, Mey, Häfeli, & Stettler, 2010) reveal as regards
appointments of a child welfare advocate (art. 308 SCC) and removals of children from parental care
(art. 310) that girls are clearly over-represented (56%). Confined to the removals girls even have a
share of 62% (ibid.). It is assumed that this disparity might be a consequence of the fact that boys in
Own calculations based on data published by KOKES (see footnote 49).
need of a measure more frequently get involved in delinquency and thus also more frequently receive
a protective measure not by virtue of the Civil Code but by being sentenced according to juvenile
criminal law (cf. Cottier, 2006). However it has to be pointed out that according to Voll et al. (2010) the
main reason for initiating said measures are because of parental conflicts which involve the child. In
about 70% of the analysed cases the measure aimed at keeping conflicts among adults away from the
Of special concern is art. 314 SCC as it corresponds to a demand of the UN Convention on the Rights
of Child that “the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and
administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an
appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law (art. 12 para. 2
UNCRC). Although in principle it is the competency of the Cantons to regulate procedures, art. 314
para. 1 SCC states in accordance with the UN Convention, that Cantons have to follow the provision
that the child must be heard before a child protection measure is ordered.
Yet in the following
paragraph this right is curtailed by the effect of an appeal against a child protection measure which
“may be withdrawn by the instance that ordered the measure or by the appellate court” (art. 314 para.
2 SCC). The procedural requirements of unmediated child hearings and the corresponding role of the
child’s representative are essentially undetermined in Switzerland. According to experts however, it is
obvious that in practice both ways of participation by the child still are not very common and, that there
is a deficient supply of professionals with an adequate education in the special field of child hearings
(Hanhart, Hauri, & Stiftung Kinderschutz Schweiz, 2009a).
The Swiss Civil Code is subject to a partial revision that essentially concerns the protection of
vulnerable adult persons. But this revision also has consequences for the system of child protection.
Although there will be no substantial changes as regards the articles discussed above, the legal
amendment implies profound changes as regards the organization of the guardianship authorities. As
decided by the Federal Council the new law will enter into force in 2013.
Until then the organisational
features of the guardianship authorities in the Cantons have to correspond to some minimal standards
determined by federal law. Though the Cantons still are free to choose whether the guardianship
authority shall be a court or an administrative board, its interdisciplinary composition and a certain
degree of professionalism has to be guaranteed (cf. Häfeli, 2010).
2.4.3 Penal law and the Federal Victims of Crime Act
In contrast to pre-modern times when punishment of the perpetrator and the claims of the victim
formed an inseparable unity (cf. Berman, 1983), penal law in our days focuses on the perpetrator
whereas claims of the victim are relegated to civil courts and accordingly have to be enforced by civil
The child must be heard “in person in some appropriate manner, unless its age or other good cause renders this impractical” (ibid. SCC).
As announced by the Federal Department of Justice and Police at January 12, 2011.
As regards the legal means of child protection the civil and penal law can be considered as two
sides of the same coin. Whereas civil law aims at guaranteeing children’s rights, penal law shall deter
people from ignoring, neglecting and violating these rights. Penal law focuses on potential and already
convicted perpetrators by relying on the positive effects of general deterrence, and respectively, of
particular deterrence based on sanctions that shall dissuade delinquent individuals from reoffending.
Yet, the system of penal law not only shall protect children from crime but also, in case they
nevertheless become victims, from stresses and strains caused by the criminal procedure itself. The
recently introduced Swiss Criminal Procedure Code (CPC)
was not only made to standardize these
procedures but also to ensure that some basic principles are respected in all Cantons.
It is of special
concern here that this new federal law includes an article making provisions as regards the
questioning of victims who are minors (art.154 CPC). Another recently revised law, the Federal Victims
of Crime Act (FVCA),
though not exclusively concerning children, also has enhanced the situation of
victimised children and even of children whose parents were victimised, especially as it entitles them
to enforce claims to the state in cases when there is no perpetrator identified, but also in cases
independent of the culpability, deliberateness, respectively negligence of the perpetrator’s action (art.
1 FVCA).
In principle, children can be victims of most kind of offences. Yet there are some types of offences
where victims are particularly often children or adolescents; with respect to some other offences the
victims are per definitionem minors. Offences that can only be committed against minors are taken as
a base for the diagrams shown below. However with one exception: the paragraphs belonging to the
criminal offence of pornography (art. 197 SPC) partly refers to articles or representations that not only
include the depiction of “sexual acts involving children” but also such acts that show “animals, human
excrement, or acts of violence” (ibid.). Nevertheless, it can be assumed that the great majority of
sentences according to this article comprise offences where minors were victimised.
The data presented below are drawn from the Swiss statistics of convictions (SUS) referring to adult
persons (age 18 and older) which is provided and regularly updated by the FSO.
The offences shown
in the two diagrams were collated according to the relative amount of sentences adopting the
corresponding articles. Therefore, the more numerous sentences according to the articles 187 and
Only recently however, the role of the victim in criminal procedures was considerably strengthened, as under certain conditio ns he or she c an enforce civil claims als o in criminal procedure, an d is likewise ent itled to
appeal in respect of the civil claims (cf. art. 37 and 38 FVCA and since 2011: ar t. 122-126 CPC).
Entered into force on January 1, 2011.
Before 2011 the organisation of criminal procedures was totally in the Canton ’s competence.
The Federal Victims of Crime Act law was first introduced 1993. After some years of evaluation it was decided for a total revision of the act. The new version entered into for ce January 1, 2009.
The SUS (Schweizerische Urteilsstatistik) has some properties that have to be considered when interpreting the data. Because it is based on the Swiss central registry of criminal records t here are implications as
regards what offences appear in the SUS and when the data are captured by the statistics: the SUS data presented only include misdemeanours and felonies; as not all contraventions (acts that are only punishable by a
fine, art. 103 SPC) are recorded, these are excluded in t he data published by the FSO. In respect of the time the dat a enter the statistics it h as to be pointed out that only valid convictions are captured. Appeals can last
several years; consequently the corresponding offences may appear in the statistics long aft er they were committed.
197 SPC were allotted to Figure 18, and the less numerous ones to Figure 19 (art. 188, 136 and 219
As can be seen in Figure 18, convictions according to art. 187 referring to sexual acts with children
remained fairly constant during the period observed (1984-2009). By contrast, sentences concerning
pornography have increased substantially since the second half of the 1990s. This development has
to be considered in relation to the quickly growing significance of the World Wide Web which not only
constituted a new crime site for this kind of delinquency but itself promoted the development of
legislation trying to catch up with internet related criminality. The obvious bumps in the curve point at
successful results of large scale investigations in the field of internet pornography that sporadically
leads to the conviction of a great number of offenders.
Figure 18: Criminal offences against children according to the articles 187 and 197 SPC
Because only valid convictions are counted the interpretation of data r eferring to recent years is problematic (cf. footnote 60 above).
Figure 19: Criminal offences against children according to the articles 188, 136 and 219 SPC
The trends of the particular sentences depicted in Figure 18 are partially related to different causes. As
with art. 187 (sexual acts with children) in the preceding diagram, the adoption of art. 188 SPC
remained constant during the same period, yet at a much lower level. The rise in convictions
concerning the administration of “substances capable of causing injury to children” starts slowly with
the introduction of the article 136 SPC in 1989; then the number of corresponding convictions jumps
quickly to higher values at the beginning of this century. Presumably the development in the last
couple of years has much to do with a growing societal concern of child protection as regards the
consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and cannabis, resulting in an intensified prosecution of related
Less obvious are the reasons for the increasing amount of records related to the neglect of duties of
care, supervision or education which arguably by the majority concern parents as offenders. On the
one hand this can be associated with social changes described earlier in this chapter: the increased
number of single-parent and patchwork households as well as, at least partly interrelated with this
social phenomena, the decline of parental control; on the other the development possibly only reflects
a broader trend in society: the legal pervasion of private social relations (cf. Nett, 1999), particularly in
the family, resulting in an increased readiness of state authorities to intervene.
Apart from crimes that exclusively can be committed against minors, statistics of convictions do not
provide any information about the victims of the corresponding crimes. Moreover, a national statistic of
civil court sentences which also could be used as a source for child victimisation is neither produced
nor planned. Yet the Swiss Criminal Statistics of the Police (CSP), of which data regarding domestic
crime have been presented above in section 2.3.5, actually provides such information; unfortunately
the CSP was not introduced before 2009 and accordingly, at least for the moment, does not allow for
an analysis over a longer period. But there is another source of data about victims: the FSO regularly
publishes data going back as far as 2000 which provides information on services rendered by
organisations engaged in victim aid. In the two diagrams below a selection of such data is presented.
Both refer to counselling cases that relate to victimised minors.
As regards Figure 20 which depicts the annual number of counselling cases and the annual number of
initiated child protection measures, it is eye-catching that for both there is an obvious rise only in the
first year for the period 2000 to 2009. There is no doubt that this early rise is either caused by
shortcomings with data acquisition or, by an extension of the counselling services supplied. Thus from
the data shown in Figuure 20 it can be concluded that either there was a quantitative restriction with
respect to the supply of counselling services resulting in annually constant case numbers, or the
demand for such services actually did not change much. Besides, it can be stated that the number of
those in need of child protection measures seemingly remained constant.
Cf. footnote 61 above.
Figure 20: Minors as victims and initiation of child protection measures (counselling cases of victim aid)
Figure 21: Minor victims according to offence (counselling cases of victim aid)
More interesting seem the developments traced in Figure 21 as they tell something about causes of
victimisation and how they changed over the period. Accordingly, the share of cases referring to the
offence “sexual act with children” (art. 187 SPC) dropped from 46.6% in 2000 to 33.0% in 2009.
Inversely, during this period, assault (art. 122 and 123 SPC), as a cause of victimisation, grew from a
share of 24.1% to 30.8%. Although in absolute terms the diagram somehow hides it, the share of
indecent assault and rape (art. 189 and 190 SPC) was quite the same at the beginning and the end of
the period (11.1% and 11.9% respectively).
2.4.4 Federal Juvenile Criminal Justice Act
Before 1st January 2007 the penal provisions referring to minors as offenders were an integral part of
the Swiss Penal Code. Since then however, these are recombined in a separate federal code, the so-
called Federal Juvenile Criminal Justice Act (JCJA).
The revision of the criminal law relating to
juvenile offenders followed the “guiding idea” of “social integration by education” (FOJ, 2010; Swiss
Federal Council, 1998). It explicitly also aimed at strengthening the rights of the offenders in criminal
procedure and during enforcement of sentences by establishing some minimum standards (ibid.).
Some of the corresponding provisions, however, were soon vitiated by the introduction of the Swiss
Juvenile Criminal Procedure Code (JCPC).
The main changes made in the new law on juvenile criminal justice can be summarised as follows:
The age of criminal responsibility was raised from seven to ten years (art. 4 JCJA).
The measures that can be ordered by sentence are more oriented at those made available by
civil law; accordingly these were renamed as “protective measures”.
The legally defined alternative between penalties and sentences ordering a measure was
abandoned; as a result young offenders who are legally responsible for their actions are
principally sentenced to a penalty even if they are in need of a protective measure (cf. art. 11
JCJA). Yet, if the custodial sentence as a penalty coincides with a residential measure the
latter has priority, and, the enforcement of the custodial sentence is abandoned if the measure
achieves it aims (cf. art. 32 JCJA). In fact in sentences it is always possible to desist from a
penalty if it is expected that such a sanction would endanger a current or planned protective
measure (art. 23 JCJA).
For offenders older than 15 years, the maximum length of a custodial sentence was prolonged
to four years (art. 25 JCJA).
The maximum age for an offender retained in a protective measure was lowered from 25 to 22
years (art. 19 JCJA).
The number of different type of penalties and in particular the possibilities to combine these,
increased considerably.
All these amendments are designed to improve correspondence with the aims of prevention in
particular as they allow for tailored sanctioning of juvenile offenders. This is a declared goal of the
Swiss juvenile justice system. In contrast to adult criminal law, criminal law for minors does not focus
on the offence, e.g. on its severity, but on the offender and the provisions that have to be made to
prevent him or her from reoffending. Thus it can be said that the juvenile criminal laws in Switzerland
are essentially rehabilitation-oriented.
The introduction of the JCJA was part of a complete revision of t he Swiss Penal Code.
Currently various effects of the new law and their correspondence with these objectives are evaluate d (Urwyler & Nett, forthcoming).
Nevertheless it should not be overlooked that the overwhelming number of convicted minors are
sentenced with a penalty, i.e. with a reprimand, a fine, a personal duty, or a custodial sentence.
According to the Swiss statistics of juvenile convictions (JUSUS), protective measures only make a
tiny share (7.8%) of all convictions: in 2010 ambulant measures were sentenced only in 6.1% of all
convictions, and residential ones make only a share of 1.5% (Urwyler & Nett, forthcoming). The
annually amounts of protective measures sentenced are depicted in Figure 22 which gives an
overview of the ambulant measures and in Figure 23 for those placed out-of-home.
Figure 22: Number of ambulant protective measures appointed by JCJA-convictions
Figure 23: Number of out-of-home placements appointed by JCJA-convictions
* Residential placement refers to institutions where a group of children are placed together.
Entered into force January 1, 2011 together with Swiss Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
Cf. footnote 60 above.
Cf. footnote 60 above.
Finally it has to be pointed out that, with respect to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the
new juvenile criminal justice law takes account of the Convention’s article 37 lit. c which prescribes the
separation of children and adults in penitentiaries;
demands that the Cantons provide corresponding
facilities (art. 27 JCJA). However, article 48 of the code allows for a transition period until January 1,
2017 as regards the implementation of this article in the Cantons.
2.5 Institutional perspectives on child protection
In the following sections a description is given of how the legal provisions with respect to child
protection are implemented in the Swiss institutional setting at the level of Confederation, Canton and
municipalities, and what regional differences can be identified. Moreover, an overview is provided of
the corresponding distribution of responsibilities, tasks and also of the major agencies, associations
and organisations active in the field of child protection. At the end of this section some consideration is
given to the significance assigned to the field of child protection in the curricula of those institutions
that provide for the professional education of social workers.
2.5.1 The role of Cantons and municipalities
It is important to begin the description with the role of the Cantons and municipalities. As derives from
the explanations provided above in section 2.4.1, and more basically by the principle of subsidiarity
(art. 5a FCSC) already mentioned in section 2.2.1, in Switzerland the Cantons and the municipalities
are the crucial agencies responsible for modelling child and youth policy, and consequently also for
implementing a child protection system that is consistent with federal legal provisions. This fact results
in a situation characterised by considerable disparities with respect to the significance assigned to
child and youth policy and consequently also, as regards the allocation of resources vested for
services in this field of action. A broad and detailed analysis of the different child and youth policies in
the Cantons was undertaken by the Institut de hautes études en administration publique in Lausanne
about ten years ago. This study (Frossard, 2003) arrived at a situational description which assumedly
for the most part is still relevant at the present time. Amongst other things the study points out that
there are only a few Cantons adopting appropriate procedures to co-ordinate measures in child and
youth policy; with comprehensiveness of child and youth policy depending largely on concentration of
administrative resources and central decision-making but also on the introduction of a cantonal act
that particularly addresses concerns of children and youth. Furthermore, it is pointed out that the
existence of cantonal youth committees, as e.g. institutionalised in the Cantons Bern, Lucerne and
See also footnote 42.
Amongst others this quite a long transition period was actually objected by the “Second NGO Rep ort” (2009) of Switzerland directed to theat UN-Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Schwyz, provide for a more pro-active child and youth policy. Finally, the study identifies huge
differences between Cantons as regards the encouragement of youth welfare apart from institutional
settings such as the school (cf. Wyttenbach, 2008).
Concerning the organisational features of child protection authorities, a regional difference is salient:
whereas said agencies consist of elected laypersons in most German speaking parts of Switzerland,
they are usually constituted as courts with professional lawyers in the French speaking region (cf.
VBK, 2008b). Disparities, however, do not stop at region and Canton level; they are also apparent at
the lower level of the municipalities. These enjoy relatively high independence in adapting their child
and youth policies according to their local needs. Such independence, however, is not confined to the
local provision of family and youth related supportive services but also has an effect on the
management of child protection cases and the implementation of corresponding measures. Based on
the dossier analyses of child protection cases already mentioned, Voll et al. (Voll et al., 2010) point
out, that the organisational setting has a crucial influence on the decision-making of guardianship
authorities. As, for example, small municipalities tend to more restrictive interventions resulting in
curtailing parental rights more severely (cf. Schultheis et al., 2008).
According to art. 44 of the Federal Constitution (FCSF), the Confederation and the Cantons “support
each other in the fulfilment of their duties and shall generally cooperate with each other” (1st
paragraph). Furthermore, “they shall provide each other with administrative assistance and mutual
judicial assistance” (2nd paragraph); and when conflicts arise, these shall wherever possible be
resolved by negotiation or mediation” (3rd paragraph). Accordingly, there are various concordats, inter-
cantonal conferences of governments, office directors or functionaries established that are also
concerned with child and youth issues. With respect to child protection policy there are in particular
two such institutions to be mentioned: on the one hand the Conference of the Cantons for the
Guardianship of Children and Adults (KOKES) and, on the other, the Conference of the Cantonal
Officers in Charge of Child Protection and Youth Welfare (KKJS);
the latter has changed status since
July 2011 as it is now a sectional conference of the Cantonal Conference of Ministers of Social Affairs
which, since then, also incorporates the Conference of the Cantonal Officers in Charge of
Child and Youth Promotion (KKJF)
as a sectional conference. By incorporating the KKJS and the
KKJF as well as by establishing a special field of action for child and youth issues (Fachbereich
Kinder- und Jugendfragen) the SODK has gained the status of a co-ordinating hub in this field of
action, and also achieved the potential to provide for an institutional base whereon a “National
Framework for Child Protection” could be developed (cf. recommendation 1 in chapter 3).
Besides KOKES, KKJS and KKJF, the Swiss Association of Child Welfare Advocates (SVBB
) should
also be mentioned as it represents an association of functionaries whose influence on the national
Own translation of „Schweizerische Konferenz der kantonalen Verantwortlichen für Kindesschutz und Jugendh ilfe“.
Own translation of „Konferenz der kantonalen Sozialdirektorinnen und Sozialdirektoren“.
Own translation of „Konferenz der kantonalen Beauftragten für Kinder- und Jugendförderung“.
The abbreviation refers to „Schweizerische Vereinigung der Berufsbeiständinnen und Berufsbeistände. “
practice in the realm of child protection should not be underestimated. As already indicated in section
2.4.2 above, a partial revision of the civil law was recently completed and has implications for the
institutional organisation of the child protection authorities as compliance to certain professional
standards have authoritative character. With respect to such standards the cantonal association
KOKES developed and published detailed recommendations. According to these such agencies will
have to comply amongst others with the following requirements (VBK, 2008a):
Professional background of its members: the disciplines of law, social work and pedagogy
shall be represented in the decision making body; other specified professional skills have to
be available if needed. Additionally, highly qualified administrative personnel have to give
support to the decision making body.
The decision making body consists (at least) of a three-person-board with constant
The office has to be open 24 hours a day, to provide decision-making.
In principle decisions have to be made collectively.
The catchment area of a single agency covers at least 50,000 100,000 inhabitants, which is
estimated to correspond to about 1,000 on-going measures.
Because small municipalities will not have enough resources to comply with these specifications they
will be urged to organise their guardianship authorities conjointly. Hence if the recommendations of
KOKES will, as expected, be followed, the process of professionalization in the field of child protection
will progress considerably and, as a consequence, arbitrariness in decision-making, which as a matter
of fact somehow characterises small-scale layperson boards, presumably will be diminished.
2.5.2 The role of federal institutions
As regards child and youth policy the Confederation, i.e. the Federal Council as the executive body,
the departments dedicated to each of its seven members, but also the federal offices related to the
corresponding departments, is legitimated by constitutional law only to take essentially auxiliary,
sustentative and coordinating functions. Additionally, however, the Confederation is accountable for
monitoring compliance with international agreements.
Last but not least the Federal Council is also
obligated to answer parliamentary motions and postulates; as a result the Confederation, respectively
the federal offices in charge, every now and then is urged to provide analyses of social problems and
issues of national concern and to evaluate these in particular with respect to the legal instruments
available to manage them.
As a result of such parliamentary initiatives
the Federal Council
As e.g. the Confederation is periodically urged to provide reports to international organisations to document compliance to ratified agreements. A very recent report (published December 9, 2011) of this kind refers to
the state of implementation of the UN Optional Protocol of 2 5th May 2000 on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography which was ratified by Switzerland in 2006.
As e.g. in 2005 the Federal Social Insurance Off ice (FSIO) answered a postulate of the Parliamentary Law Committee (Postulat Rechtskommission NR 96.3178) with an expert report titled “Violence Against Children:
Concept for a Comprehensive Prevention” (FSIO, 2005).
published in 2008 a report called “Strategy for a Swiss Child and Youth Policy (Federal Council,
2008). As is common in such procedures this strategy is based on several scientific reports
integrates expertise from various agencies, professional associations and interest groups. Therein,
with reference to international and constitutional law, the role of the Confederation is reflected. It is
pointed out that the responsibility for child and youth policy at Canton level is appropriate because this
allows for actions which are well-adjusted to local circumstances, needs and available resources and
informed by direct contact with local stakeholders. However, the report also identifies certain
deficiencies as regards the implementation of children’s rights in the Cantons which justify endeavours
in improving the heterogeneous and complicated system by better co-ordination of activities and
definition of tasks between federal agencies but also in collaboration with cantonal agencies (ibid., 19).
Based on the Federal Constitution
and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
the “strategy-
report” arrives at three “core elements” which are of constitutive significance for the Swiss child and
youth policy (ibid., 3 pp.). Those consist of a child and youth policy as policy for:
Encouragement of (individual) development and autonomy
Co-determination and participation
From these three principles two meanings of youth policy are deduced: on the one hand a narrow
definition that refers to a youth policy that makes well-directed contributions to protect children and
adolescents, to support their development and encourage their participation. This is exemplified by
endangerments caused by encroaching effects of certain media and problematic commercial products.
In the strategy it is suggested to prevent such harmful effects by encouraging a stronger commitment
of parents and adult reference persons to take responsibility, and by the empowerment of the
children’s resources.
On the other hand a broad understanding of child and youth policy is suggested. This takes as a
starting point the fact that the life conditions of children and adolescents are influenced by various
determinants. The corresponding challenges affect many different policy areas and also concern all
age groups. Hence responsibility for a children and youth policy in the broad sense cannot be
centralised but has to be considered as a cross-sectional issue that ranges over many fields of action
and legislation e.g. school education, vocational training, labour legislation and labour market policy
concerning children and adolescents, crime prevention in particular as regards juvenile delinquency.
More precisely it concerns the three so-called “postulates” of the parliamentarians Janiak (00.3469) of 27thSeptember 2000, Wyss (00.3400) of 23rdJune 2000 and of Wyss (01.3350) of 21stJune 2001.
E.g. FSIO (2008).
More concrete it is pointed at the children’s “right to the special protection of their integrity and to the encouragement of their development” in art. 11 but also at art. 41 (social objectives) with special re ference to the
provisions f and g which specify the educational objectives regarding children (Federal Council, 2008).
Cf. art. 2, 12 and 23 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The division of labour in the organisational setting of the Confederation reflects the two perspectives
on child and youth policy discussed above, though not completely. Responsibility for the policy in the
narrow sense can be located predominantly at the Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO) which
belongs to Federal Department of Home Affairs. In the FSIO the Division Family, Generations and
Society is concerned with questions in the realm of children’s rights, child protection, the promotion of
extracurricular youth welfare, but also with general issues of child and youth policy including some
types of public benefits
rendered by the national social insurance which are transferred in the
majority to families (so-called supplementary benefits).
Other issues, which strictly speaking also belong to the child and youth policy in the narrow sense, are
assigned to other federal offices which in some cases even belong to other national departments. Of
that ilk are amongst others:
The Federal Office for