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Professional Development of Care Leavers

Qualitative longitudinal study

At a glance


Research question

What factors and conditions promote or hinder care leavers' studies at a higher vocational college or university? What support do care leavers need in order to achieve their educational goals successfully?


Care leavers are young people in transition to adulthood who have spent part of their lives in a children's or youth home, a residential group or a foster family. Various international studies show that care leavers formally achieve lower educational qualifications than their peers who grew up with their parents. The results of these few studies indicate that this also applies to care leavers in Switzerland. In Switzerland, youth welfare measures end at the age of 18 in most cantons. This means that care leavers have to manage the transition to adulthood with less support and become financially independent earlier than many other young adults. This limits their opportunities for professional development at colleges of further education, universities of applied sciences or universities. In view of the demand for lifelong learning with a view to a successful and viable professional life, care leavers are potentially at a disadvantage.


The project aims to gain in-depth knowledge of educational pathways in order to support care leavers in their professional development in line with their needs in the long term. The project also aims to contribute to raising awareness among professionals in the fields of child and youth welfare and education.

Approach and target group

In the first step, interviews will be conducted with care leavers aged between 20 and 35 studying at a higher technical college, university of applied sciences, university of teacher education or university. Using a guided interview, the care leavers are asked about their educational progress and the factors that support and hinder their studies. The care leavers are interviewed once in the initial phase of their studies and a second time around one to one and a half years later. The interviews discuss personal, social, financial and structural factors that influence the start and progression of studies.

In a second step, based on the research findings, awareness-raising projects will be developed for professionals from child and youth welfare and the education sector. Furthermore, needs-based support services for care leavers will be developed in collaboration with care leavers to promote their professional development.