Child Protection in times of Covid-19 and beyond
Countering the impact of stressors, constraints and uncertainties on families, professionals and organizations
At a glance
- Co-project leader : Prof. Dr. David Lätsch, Dr. Tim Tausendfreund
- Project budget : CHF 439'356
- Project status : ongoing
- Funding partner : SNSF (NFP 80 «Covid-19 in der Gesellschaft» / Projekt Nr. 210027)
- Project partner : INTEGRAS Fachverband Sozial- und Sonderpädagogik, Fachverband Sozialpädagogische Familienbegleitung Schweiz, apemo.ch - Groupement des AEMO et pratiques éducatives en milieu ouvert de suisse latine
- Contact person : Tim Tausendfreund
Increased stressors, wide-ranging constraints in private and public life and uncertainties regarding the future may have increased the risk of child abuse and neglect during the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, the functioning of the Swiss child protection system was severely challenged. Studies suggest, however, that some children, parents, and professionals were able to activate newfound resources to avert distress. Against this backdrop, this NRP 80 study aims at identifying possibilities for optimization of service delivery relevant to child protection in Switzerland during the Covid-19 pandemic. It will lead to the proposition of strategies for more effective prevention of child abuse and neglect and child protection interventions in times of health emergencies or comparable societal crises.
The project involves caregivers, young people, and professionals in several sectors of the child protection system, and it addresses researchers, professionals and policy-makers alike. It is dedicated to contributing to a more resilient system of child protection in Switzerland by providing empirically derived knowledge, practical guidance, and opportunities for intra-cantonal coordination and inter-cantonal exchange in times of crisis.
While international studies suggest the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the prevalence of child abuse and neglect worldwide and has compromised the performance of national systems of child protection, the situation in Switzerland remains largely unknown. Several studies have been published on the well-being of children or adolescents in Switzerland during the pandemic more generally, but no study has systematically analyzed trends in child abuse and neglect or thoroughly examined the functioning of national, cantonal, or regional systems of child protection during this time.
The project is intended to fill this gap by providing empirical knowledge
i) on the challenges that a range of organizations connected to the child protection system have faced during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic,
ii) how they have dealt with these challenges within their organizations and at their interfaces,
iii) how these responses were perceived by parents and children in the child protection system,
iv) how clients themselves experienced and dealt with problems during a pan-demic, v) what outcomes have been observed for these responses, and
vi) what may be learned from these combined experiences to better prepare the system for the event of another health emergency - or more another comparable acute societal Crisis - in the future.
The project combines six work packages.
Work package 1 will deliver two separate systematic literature reviews, one on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on specific domains within national systems of child protection, and another on recommendations for policy changes and resilience-building that have been proposed in the scientific literature.
Work package 2 contains a comprehensive institutional survey in the child protection systems of two cantons in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and two cantons in the Romandy. The cantons will serve as case studies, and the surveys will collect data on the incidence of child abuse and neglect cases in the participating institutions before and during the pandemic, along with professionals’ quantitative and qualitative assessments of challenges observed.
In work package 3, interviews with management and frontline workers from selected institutions will provide an in-depth understanding of the professionals’ experiences and the conclusions drawn from them, while
work package 4 will examine the perspectives of caregivers and their children in three types of child protection interventions (”parenting guardianships” according to Art. 308 para. 1 CC, intensive family support, and residential care).
In work package 5, propositions derived from work packages 1 to 4 will be submitted to an inter-cantonal panel of experts, following a Delphi procedure. This will help to determine the generalizability of findings from the case studies with respect to other parts of Switzerland.
Finally, in work package 6, a comprehensive research report will be written that organizes and interprets the empirical findings from a more theoretically driven perspective.
The study may identify gaps in service delivery during the Covid-19 pandemic and lead to the proposition of strategies for more effective prevention of child abuse and neglect and child protection interventions in times of health emergencies or comparable societal crises. By addressing researchers, professionals and policy-makers alike, it may contribute substantially to a more resilient system of child protection in Switzerland.