Zurich, 13 June 2018 – In Switzerland, a range of public and private organizations are in charge of protecting children from violence, assault and neglect. The third cycle of the Optimus Study, initiated and funded by the UBS Optimus Foundation, provides a comprehensive overview into forms of endangerment, levels of support provided and how well the system works. In a sample of 432 Swiss child protection agencies, more than 80 percent participated in the most recent survey. The results showed that, each year, between 30,000 and 50,000 children come into contact with child protection agencies such as government-sponsored bodies (KESB/APEA), hospitals, the police and victim aid services.
The reported cases are likely just the tip of the iceberg. The results of the current study imply that the services do not always meet actual needs. For one, because there are significant differences in services available across different regions of Switzerland, which means some children may have better access than others. Secondly, there are differences in the degree to which child protection organizations capture the same kinds of endangerment in boys and girls. Thirdly, the data show that children who have suffered physical maltreatment come into contact with child protection agencies relatively late: they are on average older than ten years.
Myriam Caranzano, physician and child protection expert from Canton Ticino says: "I find it particularly disturbing that the youngest, and therefore the most vulnerable children, are the least protected."
Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Switzerland is duty-bound to do everything it can to protect children. A better understanding is needed how to provide all children – regardless of where they live, their gender or their age – with the necessary support. An improved, standardized data collection is essential in the context of country-wide monitoring, to understand the reasons for possible disparities and service gaps.
Christian Nanchen, Head of the Cantonal Office for Youth – Canton Wallis, says that "the most efficient measure would be to create a legal basis for child protection at the federal level."
To this end, Phyllis Costanza, CEO of the UBS Optimus Foundation, would like to present the latest study as a call to action, with recommendations on how to improve child protection in Switzerland: "We have achieved a lot since the Optimus Study was initiated, but a lot remains to be done."