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Homes for Children and Young People in Canton Zurich: A Changing Landscape

Background and aims

The legal framework governing homes for children and young people in Canton Zurich is being revised. This is essential because the specialised work now carried out by these institutions no longer necessarily reflects what most people associate with a “home”: assistance is becoming increasingly flexible and permeable. Resources are sought in the child’s own environment.


The Amt für Jugend und Berufsberatung, the cantonal agency leading this revision of the statute, commissioned R&D to take stock of the situation: Are institutions changing? Does capacity match demand? What cost flows are involved?


Questions like these were to be answered using data already available to the agencies: the goal was to piece together the jigsaw in order to establish a picture.

The earliest data of sufficient quality was from 1995.


It turned out that the landscape has remained stable over this relatively short span of almost 20 years. There are no more homes than there used to be, nor are they bigger, and the number of places available has not increased relative to the population of Zurich.

However, the facilities have become more expensive: costs have risen both per place and per day of residence. The contributing factors are above all the redistribution between federal and cantonal agencies, regular pay increases in the Canton and the adaptation effects of a new financial model introduced during this period. About half the costs are borne by local authorities, the Canton assumes around 20 per cent, and the remaining third is spread across various funding agencies, including the Federal Office of Justice and the other cantons who place children and young people in Zurich.

The most striking finding from this study, however, is that the agencies are not seeing major items in their data: almost nothing can be discovered about the children and young people cared for in these residential institutions. Once an appointment schedule has been approved, there are various ways it can be implemented, and so it is only a rough guide to who is employed, what qualifications they have and how many hours they spend working where. Besides, the surroundings in which the home operates are not systematically monitored, although so much happens there: there are, for example, training centres geared to taking on young people whose circumstances are so precarious that they would once probably have ended up in a home. These days they acquire their vocational training outside the home sector. It is difficult to predict where these changes will lead.

Consequences for practice

The agencies have already adopted a range of measures to fill these and other gaps in their knowledge. There is now far more data available than five years ago. The time is therefore ripe for the new legislation on homes for children and young people – assistance for children and young people in Canton Zurich is being redesigned on a broader footing.




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