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“Fatal care”: Violent deaths of children in out-of-home care in four Swiss cantons between 1913 and 2012

English title “Fatal care”: Violent deaths of children in out-of-home care in four Swiss cantons between 1913 and 2012
Applicant Krüger Paula
Number 177434
Funding scheme NRP 76 Welfare and coercion
Research institution Institut Sozialarbeit und Recht Hochschule Luzern - Soziale Arbeit
Institution of higher education Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts - HSLU
Main discipline Social work
Start/End 01.09.2018 - 31.08.2022
Approved amount 525'736.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Social work
Swiss history

Keywords (6)

child homicide; suicide of foster children; foster care supervision; case processing; attitudes towards foster children; infanticide

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Die Studie untersucht erstmals Tötungen und Suizide fremdplatzierter Kinder zwischen 1913 und 2012 in vier Kantonen. Neben der Beschreibung dieser Fälle wird der Einfluss relevanter Einstellungen der Beteiligten auf die Heim- und Pflegekinderaufsicht sowie auf die Fallbearbeitung der Behörden untersucht.
Lay summary
Im 20. Jahrhundert sind viele fremdplatzierte Kinder schwer oder sogar tödlich misshandelt worden. Immer wieder nahmen sich platzierte Jugendliche und ehemalige Heimkinder das Leben. Die Heim- und Pflegekinderaufsicht wurde lange Zeit vernachlässigt. Fälle gewaltsamen Todes platzierter Kinder wurden gerechtfertigt oder verheimlicht. Entsprechend gingen die Verantwortlichen häufig straffrei aus. Bislang gibt es keine systematische Untersuchung dieser Fälle und der Rolle der Behörden.
Im Projekt untersuchen wir gewaltsame Todesfälle fremdplatzierter Kinder in vier Kantonen der Deutsch- und Westschweiz (1913–2012) sowie die Rolle der Behörden. Die Annahme lautet, dass negative Einstellungen gegenüber platzierten Kindern und bspw. positive Einstellungen gegenüber körperlicher Züchtigung als Erziehungsmassnahme das Risiko für platzierte Kinder erhöhen, eines gewaltsamen Todes zu sterben. Neben der Fallbeschreibung werden daher die Einstellungen untersucht, die der Aufsichtspraxis und der institutionellen Fallbearbeitung zugrundeliegen. Hierbei berücksichtigen wir die Sicht der verschiedenen beteiligten Akteure: Wir analysieren relevantes Quellenmaterial (z.B. Dossiers der Vormundschaftsbehörden) sowie rechtliche Bestimmungen und führen Interviews mit Zeitzeug(inn)en.

Mit der Studie werden erstmals gewaltsame Todesfälle von platzierten Kindern als Teil der Schweizer Geschichte fürsorgerischer Zwangsmassnahmen und Fremdplatzierungen untersucht und auf das Schicksal der Betroffenen aufmerksam gemacht. Die Ergebnisse werden Einsichten in diese Fälle liefern und die systematische Reflexion relevanter Einstellungen und ihrer Auswirkungen auf die Praxis ermöglichen. Die Studie liefert eine Grundlage zur kritischen Prüfung künftiger Praxis und zur Verhinderung gewaltsamer Todesfälle.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 27.08.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Prof. Dr. phil. Beate Schwarz Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof. Dr. Jonas Weber Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Beatrice Kolvodouris Janett Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof. Diana Wider Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Christine Luchsinger Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof. Dr. rer. soc. Peter Voll Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Beat Reichlin Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Travailler sur les dossiers personnels - An Personenakten arbeiten Talk given at a conference Personendossiers von (gewaltsam) verstorbenen Kindern und Jugendlichen - Möglichkeiten und Grenzen eines lückenhaften Quellentyps 19.11.2020 Fribourg, Switzerland Krüger Paula; Berthet Danielle; Bloch Lea; Bannwart Cécile;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Talks/events/exhibitions "Fatale Fürsorge" - gewaltsame Todesfälle fremdplatzierter Kinder im Kanton Luzern. German-speaking Switzerland 2020

Abstract

Many children in out-of-home care in Switzerland have experienced serious and sometimes even fatal abuse. Repeatedly, placed adolescents and former foster care children have attempted or committed suicide. Yet, supervision of foster homes and foster parents has long been neglected, cases of non-fatal and fatal abuse have been legitimized or covered up completely, and children who committed suicide were blamed for their own deaths to protect the interests of the authorities and caregivers involved. To some extent, the fact that this has been possible can be explained by social perception processes. The social status of placed children was low in the twentieth century, and negative attitudes towards them as well as positive attitudes towards physical punishment can still be found today. However, despite these facts, there has still been no systematic study of these cases and the role of the authorities within such cases in Switzerland. As a consequence, little is known about not only the frequency and phenomenology of these cases but also whether there are avoidable aspects of supervision and case processing by institutions and authorities that potentially increase the risk of violent death for placed children.Therefore, the study’s objectives are twofold: on the one hand, it will describe and systematically analyse cases of violent death among children in foster care. On the other hand, by analysing the attitudes underlying both supervision practice and the processing of such cases by institutions and authorities, it will identify avoidable aspects that potentially increase the risk of violent death for placed children. Hence, the proposed study will focus on two main research questions addressing (1) the phenomenology of cases of suicide and homicide in children under the age of 18 who were placed in foster care between 1913 and 2012 in German-speaking and Western Switzerland and (2) attitudes towards placed children underlying supervision practice and the processing of these cases by (civil/penal) authorities that potentially increase the risk of their violent death.Methodologically, the research questions will be addressed by performing a data, analysis, and investigator triangulation. This will validate results and conclusions from different (professional) perspectives. Computer-assisted qualitative and quantitative content analyses will be used to analyse not only material on determined and undetermined cases of suicide and homicide of placed children (e.g., official documents, personal journals and biographies of former placed children) but also qualitative interviews with former placed children who witnessed a violent death of an acquainted foster child.The proposed project will build up the first ever knowledge base on cases of violent deaths of children in out-of-home care as a contribution to Swiss contemporary history on compulsory social measures and placements. It will extend the current state of research within this field by taking into account both the institutional perspective and that of former placed children. In addition, findings will help to gain a better understanding of attitudes towards placed children and how they impact on supervision and case processing. This will help to make practitioners in the field of child protection more aware not only of these cases but also of the impact of social perception processes on supervision and case processing. In this way, the project will contribute to the prevention of violent deaths of placed children. Furthermore, the project results can be used to critically review institutional practices and supervision regulations in future cases. Regarding the victims’ relatives and friends, the findings will cast light on and acknowledge the fate of the victims as an integral part of the Swiss contemporary history of compulsory social measures and placements. Regarding future cases, findings can help to avoid unnecessary emotional distress in relatives and friends of future victims as a consequence of distorted case processing based on negative attitudes towards placed children.
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