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Review article (peer-reviewed)

Journal European Journal of Social Work
Volume (Issue) 23(6)
Page(s) 1069 - 1080
Title of proceedings European Journal of Social Work
DOI 10.1080/13691457.2020.1751592

Open Access


ABSTRACT Since the 1990s, historical child abuse and violence in institutional care have been widely researched across western countries. This article contributes to this research by exploring the conception of residential childcare in Switzerland. Based on the results of a major national study (an interdisciplinary research network funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation 2014–2018), the author examines the inconsistency between the educational ideals circulating in academic and professional milieus and the long prevailing and often violent pedagogy of obedience in Swiss welfare administration and childcare institutions. How far can this practice be explained by the ambivalent conceptions of a ‘right’, ‘just’ or ‘ideal’ education, which were presented simultaneously and often inconsistently in different places? What role did the heterogeneity of the welfare system play? This article thus contributes to helping social work understand its past. It illuminates the success stories of a still young profession as well as the fateful interventions, omissions, professional closures and conflicts shaping the history of the profession. It argues that the current professional discussion on the basic values that were violated in the past not only urgent but also needs to gain historical depth and critical reflexivity.