Child protection When violence wears a familiar face

Children should feel safe at home, in school and in their communities – the places where most children experience violence. This is what we discovered in our latest Optimus Study.

by Phyllis Costanza, CEO UBS Optimus Foundation 13 Jun 2018

Children should feel safe at home, in school and in their communities – the exact places where most children experience violence.

We are fortunate in Switzerland to have dedicated and committed professionals in Switzerland, working tirelessly across the child protection spectrum. But in order for them to do their jobs effectively, we need data to judge the health of the entire child protection system, and allow adjustments to be made where necessary. Only then can we reach our shared goal of protecting all our children no matter who they are, or where they live.

Our latest Optimus Study has shown it is possible to create the basis for the standardized collection of data we need. Over a survey period of three months we've gathered data from 351 child protection organizations, which corresponds to 81% of the organizations we surveyed in Switzerland. This is what we discovered:

  • Each year between 30,000 and 50,000 children are admitted or re-admitted to organizations in the child protection system. But, many cases still get unnoticed. This number does not include all those children whose cases are unrecorded. 
  • Relatively few cases are referred by schools or early childhood care providers – schools record only 9% of endangerment records1 and 3% of criminal charges2. So there is a pressing need to invest in ways to promote early detection and further sensitize teachers, pediatricians, midwives, and others.
  • Children who have suffered physical maltreatment come into contact with organizations in the child protection system relatively late: on average they are older than ten years, even though much younger children experience physical violence.
  • Access to services across regions in Switzerland is not the same, meaning that depending on where they live, children have different levels of access to support.

I'm glad to say that a lot has been achieved since we initiated the Optimus Study series ten years ago – a multi-country epidemiological survey conducted in China, South Africa, and now most recently in Switzerland. But there is much still to do. This new study is intended as a call to action, with concrete recommendations to further advance the protection of children in Switzerland.

Best,
Phyllis Costanza, CEO UBS Optimus Foundation

Back in 2013 we've launched our first Optimus study in Switzerland where we presented data from students and institutions from the field of child protection. Since then, we have a new Child and Adult Protection law in Switzerland that came into force in January 2013. The institution KESB (Kinder- und Erwachsenenschutzbehörde) is an interdisciplinary professional authority which was created to protect the rights of children and adults who are not capable of doing this for themselves. Against this backdrop we decided to gather another and wider set of data in Switzerland, which we're launching with the current Optimus study in Switzerland.

Want to know more about child endangerment in Switzerland?

Download the full study.

Optimus Study series

For the past ten years, we've focused on improving understanding of the scope, scale and context of violence against children and the response of child protection systems to establish a solid basis for action, both public and private. We did this by initiating and funding the Optimus Study series. To learn more about all previous Optimus Studies you can visit

UBS Optimus Foundation is an expert grant-making foundation that helps UBS clients use their wealth to effect positive social change for children. We connect clients with inspiring entrepreneurs, new technologies, and proven models that bridge the gap for children between surviving and thriving. We select programs that improve children’s health, education and protection, and have the potential to be transformative, scalable and sustainable. And as UBS covers all our administrative costs, we guarantee that 100 percent of all donations go to support program partners, including research and development activities that benefit children. In 2017, we reached over two million children.

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