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.
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.