Social Services and Foster Care

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We started the week by visiting the Social Services for the City of Zurich agency. After meeting Raphael Gägauf, a team leader and supervisor of the agency, we learned about the child welfare in Switzerland. The presentation covered the services that this agency provides for families in need. Some of these services include: mother and father advice, financial aid, educational and family counseling, managing income and wealth, and many others.

The most surprising difference between American and Switzerland’s child welfare policy is that Switzerland does not have adoption. However, the foster system in Switzerland is very similar to adoption in America. Stability and consistency are very important for a child’s well-being. The foster system in America, in many cases, does not provide children with the best placements. The reason for the broken system is America is because America is immensely larger than Switzerland, and therefore, there are an immense amount of children who need homes. It was very interesting to visit this agency and learn about the differences in American and Swiss child welfare policies.

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In the afternoon, we visited a foster home for adolescents in the Zurich area. This home was different than anything that we, as Americans, had ever seen before. The facility had the capacity to house eight individuals within the main living space and four in studios, which were across a courtyard from the other main flat. This individual home houses teens from 14-18 but have made exceptions for individuals who are older than 18. In this facility, each teen in the main flat has their own room, provided with their own furniture, and can bring their own things to make their room feel more like home.  Each sex is also provided with their own separate bathroom so that there is one bathroom for the girls and one for the boys. In the studios, the teens are offered more independence and freedom. Each studio offers a small living space, a kitchenette, a bathroom and a “bedroom”; like the main flat the studios are provided with the basic furniture.  While touring the facility, the US students voiced how weird it was just to see matching furniture within the group home.

In this facility, there are 6 social workers for the 12 teens that the facility can hold which means that each social worker has a caseload of two clients. As of right now there are only 10 teens which means two of the social workers only have one client on their case load. As the social worker, they do the administrative work and work with the other staff that works with their clients. And although they are assigned two teens of their own they work with all the teens when they are on duty in the home.

After this long day of visiting these agencies, most of the students made their own plans for the rest of the evening. I believe these agencies are doing a great job meeting the needs of their clients and enjoy working within their agency.

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5 Comments

  1. Morgan Freeman

    14. July 2016 at 23:31

    After being at the first agency I am still shocked to know that Switzerland does not have an adoption system! I do, however, appreciate that they try to keep the children with the families as much as possible unless in extreme circumstances. I really enjoyed seeing the second agency and the facility they offer to the children/teens that reside there.

  2. Elizabeth Sweeney

    17. July 2016 at 5:09

    This was probably one of my most favorite days because I was so amazed at how different Switzerland is from the United States! It still blows my mind that they do not have an adoption portion for children, but seeing the foster care institutions was interesting as well. The foster care agency is a place where the child can stay but with a social worker rather than a family. Ideally, it would be great to have a social worker with every foster child watching them, but like you guys said America is way too big for that.

  3. Michelle Columbe

    18. July 2016 at 17:02

    The difference between the U.S. and Swiss social service policies were astronomical. At the first agency, we learned about services for families, which I found interesting because I have worked in the child welfare system in the U.S.. I found it interesting that they do not have adoption in the sense that a parent never loses their parental rights. In the U.S., parental rights are terminated in order for the children to be permanently placed if it is the best interest of the child. We did learn that their foster care option is more similar to adoption in the U.S., which made me understand their system a little bit better. The foster care agency that we visited was very nice. The fact that social workers are placed with foster children is a great idea because of all of the issues that our foster care system have. Sadly, like it was stated we do not have enough social workers for this to happen in the states.

  4. Nicole Baumer

    18. July 2016 at 23:37

    I think it is mind blowing how nice the foster home was for these kids. The place that they showed us was very luxurious and I am glad to hear that this is not normal it was just very new and up to date. I think it was also crazy to hear they do not have adoption in Switzerland, but that their foster care is just longer and more stable. I also thought it was a crazy thought that they do not bring police with them in the case of a removal. This was one of my favorite days to see the differences between each country in their child welfare work, because that is the field I want to work in after school.

  5. By Chukwudubem Obianagha

    20. July 2016 at 22:07

    One of the mid blowing things we were able to see was at the facility that had access to 6 social workers for only 12 kids. First, the idea that 12 kids had 6 social workers to take care of them was something that was almost impossible in the United States. We also visited the facility where most of the kids had access to their own personal rooms, the kitchen was massive and the rest rooms were very neat and new. We also saw the self contained rooms and how well furnished and pretty it looked which was a surprise for the American students because such facilities are not available for juveniles in the United States. We realized that due the population of the United States it would be almost impossible for replicate the same services offered in Switzerland.

    The idea that adoption was not necessarily a thing in Switzerland was also a big topic of discussion. The Swizz depended mainly on foster care while the United States depended on both foster care and adoption which was a bug difference.

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