The economics of foster homes in Switzerland since 1940

Because of modest subsidies and local autonomy, around 1940, numerous foster homes and institutions suffered from a lack of material resources, inappropriate living spaces and dormitories, hygienic standards, and trained professionals. These factors led to inhumane living conditions. How have funding and steering models in foster care developed since then?

  • Project description (ongoing research project)

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    Within the scope of this interdisciplinary study, combining economics and economic history, we will examine the financing and steering models applied in foster homes from 1940 onwards. Special consideration will be given to the federalist dimensions of the Swiss welfare state. Consequently, we will examine the federal, cantonal and local levels. The interaction between state and private actors with regard to subsidy practices will also be investigated. We will analyze three cantons (Geneva, St. Gallen, Uri) and compare their different practices. Furthermore, we will investigate whether and how subsidies were made subject to certain conditions in order to improve the living conditions of foster home residents.

  • Background

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    Research on coercive welfare measures is primarily limited to a geographically restricted area, with the topic hardly ever being examined from an economic and historic perspective. At the same time, foster care has not yet been analyzed along the more general development dynamics of social policy and public finances. With this study, we wish to contribute to bridging these research gaps.

  • Aim

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    Swiss federalism determined the heterogeneous structure of foster care funding. Even following the introduction of "National Financial Equalization" measures (PFN/NFA) in the year 2008, the system remains heterogeneous and complex. A better understanding of these interdependencies is to be achieved by analyzing financing and steering models in child and youth welfare. At the same time, these results will serve as a basis for a reflection upon the current situation and future design of funding scenarios.

  • Relevance

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    Research results will be worked out in close cooperation with persons practically involved in the field under investigation and with stakeholders in view of harnessing future developments in the funding and steering of foster homes. Recurrent panel discussions have been planned to reflect upon the intermediate and final results of this study.

  • Original title

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    The Economics of Residential Care in Switzerland since 1940. Funding and Controlling Models in Child and Youth Care