Seminar at Zurich University of Applied Sciences, School of Social Work in collaboration with The International Federation of Educative Communities (FICE) Switzerland.
From 20th to 22nd October 2021, the Institute of Childhood, Youth and Family at the ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences held the sixth international bachelor seminar “Child and Youth Care Services Around the World” in collaboration with FICE Switzerland. Fourteen highly motivated students attended this international seminar in English. This year’s focus topic was – inspired by current discussions and demands – “De-Institutionalization, Community and Children’s Well-Being: international learnings: good practices & challenges”.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the seminar was held in hybrid form. The lecturers and most students met in person at the Toni ZHAW-Campus and were joined in lively discussions. In a couple of cases, a virtual room allowed students with Covid symptoms to participate from home.
All were very happy to welcome our guest from the Netherlands: Martine Tobé (Co-President FICE Europe, President FICE Netherlands, Director “Stichting Kinderperspectief”). As every year, the students conducted Zoom interviews with experts in alternative child and youth care: a young expert by experiences practitioners and academics from around the world.
On the first day, Samuel Keller led a discussion of contradictory publications on de-institutionalisation in alternative care from around the world, followed by a joint reflection on how and why global exchanges in Social Work could help us in answering current questions on this topic regionally, nationally and internationally. Anna Schmid, board member, project manager and international representative at FICE Switzerland, introduced FICE and gave insights into the binational project “Creating Futures”. Our guest Martine Tobé gave examples from her work in the Netherlands and internationally (see weblinks above connected with her name) and linked these questions to the discourse on “Well-Being” in a playful and creative manner developed by youths from alternative care (“clay your identity”). Then, the students prepared for their Zoom interviews on the second day.
On the second day, students further deepened their engaged discussions thanks to their online interviews with experts around the world: Merle Allsopp (Director National Association of Child Care Workers; President FICE South Africa), Anna Tiili (Central Union for Child Welfare; FICE Finland) Martha J. Holden (Director Residential Child Care Project Cornell University New York; FICE USA), Patrik Reason (President Encontro com Deus; President National Movement for the right of the child to live with the family and in the community; FICE Brazil) and Ráhel Fátima Bocor (Care Leaver,university student, Young Expert in the project “Creating Futures”, Hungary). We learnt about different international contexts and concrete projects that focus on promoting children’s well-being in different settings of alternative care. Following question was of central interest: What can we learn from these experiences for the profession and as (future) social workers in Swiss as well as in international child and youth care.
On the third day, the students created with support from Martine Tobé and presented innovative following relevant “calls for action” in a very creative way on the third day:
- Call for Action I: Social-pedagogical project days at the Federal Asylum Centre by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, School of Social Work
- Call for Action II: Animated film critically questioning the link between poverty and foster care placement
- Call for Action III: Intimacy & Distance in Alternative Care: Goals, Guidelines & Care-Cards
- Call for Action IV: Promoting De-Stigmatisation in Alternative Care
- Call for Action V: Animated Presentation explaining reasons why and how research on Child and Youth Care Services could serve the best interest of the child
Some insights and conclusions the students gained in the interviews:
- You have to work with the child and not just assume that you know what is best for the child. Every child is different and has different needs.
- It is not about knowing the answers, but about asking the right questions.
- But missing data makes it difficult to answer these questions.
- So often we know what we must do, but we lack the ability to apply our knowledge.
- Interviewing people around the world was extremely interesting.
- Change will not come if we wait for some other people or some other time” (Martine).
- Martine was very inspiring. It was impressive how many projects she has already initiated and accompanied, as well as the diversity of implementation. It was very easy to deal with a topic, but to come up with an innovative idea that could make a difference was more challenging. Especially in such a short time. But I don’t think that the best ideas are always the ones that have been thought about the most and the longest.