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Family resources in crisis?

A study on how families experience child and youth services in the canton of Zurich during times of COVID-19

At a glance



This study sheds light on how parents and adolescents in child and youth care experienced the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in the canton of Zurich. Subsequently, we researched what role different child and youth care services and child protection interventions had in these times for families.


While some parents and children coped well during the pandemic, other families saw their already precarious circumstances worsen. For child and youth care workers, this presented a difficult situation, strained by uncertainties. But what do families receiving services in child and youth care report about how they got along during this time? How did they handle the transitions and how do they continue to accommodate them? How did they perceive services and interventions in child protection and child and youth care and where do they see a need for change? The Institute of Childhood, Youth and Family initiated a study to answer these questions. The study was commissioned by the Office for Youth and Vocational Guidance of the canton of Zurich in cooperation with the Social Services of the city of Zurich.


The study provides insights that will help to improve family support in the Canton of Zurich. To get a comprehensive overview of the range of services offered in child and youth care, five forms of services were examined, each differing by targeted age-group, type of delivery, or intensity. What they have in common is that they address parents and children in precarious or stressful situations, most of whom were not directly focused on in scientific studies at the beginning of the pandemic. Comparable questionnaires, a comprehensive sample, and in-depth interviews in child protection guardianships, a type called “educational guardianship” in Switzerland, were used to uncover the specifics of each of the different forms of support as well as informing about the diverse family situations during the pandemic.


Methodologically, a combination of a comprehensive client survey and an in-depth interviews was chosen. The interviews took place between October 2020 and June 2021, the survey between February and April 2021. The study focused on the period between the first pandemic lockdown in spring 2020 and the second wave of the pandemic in spring 2021. In addition, general questions were asked about the perception of the services and interventions. Both parents and adolescents aged ten and older were surveyed and interviewed in child protection guardianships. The client survey additionally took into account the experiences of parents in maternity and paternity counseling, remedial early education and in an early-intervention program called ”zeppelin”.


571 parents and 86 adolescents took part in the survey; in relation to the households contacted, this equals a response rate of 36 %. We conducted interviews with 19 parents and 10 adolescents from 17 families. The findings are summarized in the projects report in German, available at the ZHAW Digitalcollection. The study’s findings and resulting practical consequences were discussed in several workshops organized by the commissioning party. The insights on how to improve family support in the canton of Zurich in the future were summarized in a practical commentary by the Office for Youth and Vocational Guidance of the canton of Zurich.