70 Years FICE Switzerland!
At the Annual General Assembly on 8 October 2021, the members of the board and further members celebrated this important milestone and discussed previous and future activities to benefit the quality of out-of-home child and youth care. Among the highlights discussed were the project “Creating Futures'' implemented from 2015 to 2022 in partnership with the Hungarian FICE network NENESZ and youth homes in both countries, the ongoing engagement for Quality4Children Switzerland and the continued, active role of FICE Switzerland in the development of FICE International and the FICE Europe network. Roland Stübi was re-elected as president. Clara Bombach left the board after several years of fruitful engagement and passed the baton to new member of the board Patrick Seigerschmidt, pedagogical leader of the Dialogweg – Eichbühl – Fennergut Group Homes of the Foundation of Zürich Child and Youth Homes.
FICE Switzerland supports the petition of the Swiss care leavers' association careleaver.ch for a nationally valid document confirming “Care Leaver Status” of persons aged 18+ from residential and foster care. Anybody with this status should be given access to authorities and services without having to provide documentation regarding parents, receive any training and education allowances due until age 25 directly and not through their parents, and not have to pay back any social assistance payments that had become necessary to start independent life upon leaving care.
FICE Switzerland is pleased to announce the next International Professional Exchange Programme in June 2022 and in collaboration with the Council of International Fellowship (CIF), Switzerland. The programme is open to four to eight social workers and other professionals from closely related fields from outside of Switzerland and with active experience in the work with children, youth and families. Taking orientation from the participants' specific interests, the programme offers them the opportunity to learn about the political, social security, social welfare and educational systems in Switzerland, participate in workshops on public and private services for families, out-of-home care for children and youth as well as health services and intercultural work. A further important part is participants sharing experiences from their own work places and reflecting on them in the light of the experiences of the other participants as well as the programme contents in Switzerland. The programme language is English.
On 18 November, the Community of Practice (CoP) “Creating Futures” presented the views of Young Experts from Switzerland and Hungary regarding “relationships of young people in residential care that promote their self-empowerment” to over 100 leaders and further experts from child and youth care at the renowned annual Brunnentagung of Integras, the Swiss Professional Association for Social and Special Pedagogy. The Conference had the title “’Take me in your arms!’ Professional proximity (not) a contradiction in terms?” and called for participants and the field to look beyond the strong focus on concepts “professional distance” in recent years and consider the meaning and shaping of “professional proximity” (“professionelle Nähe”) in child and youth care.
Under the title “Take me seriously!”, project manager and CoP-coordinator Anna Schmid (FICE) together with CoP members Sandra Rüegg (Jugendnetzwerk Fondation) and Rolf Tobler (Gfellergut Sociopedagogical Centre) presented the views and insights regarding “relationships'' of 195 Young Experts aged 6 to 26 from the five (child and) youth homes of the CoP in Switzerland and Hungary. They received excellent feedback from the audience.
In the project “Creating Futures”, young people, leaders and staff together develop organisational innovations that allow the youth homes to better promote the self-empowerment of young people: their ability to take charge of their own lives, create their own ideas of the future and realize them sustainably. The dimension “relationships” of young people was already declared by them to be of high relevance in this sense in focus group discussions held in 2019. In the current phase of trying out concrete innovations, the Integras’ Brunnentagung served as an impulse that led to young people in all organisations of the CoP reflecting on “relationships” with great interest in the topic. In fact, at least one organisation noted that their children and adolescents were markedly more enthusiastic about the relationship with parents and siblings after having contributed their insights on the topic. Each organisation adopted an approach of its own, such as a questionnaire, group discussions, individual or group interview or playful, creative activities. Results included definitions of the term “relationships”, lists of a wide range of relevant relationships including not only the family or social pedagogues but also peers in the same living group and at school, further friends, mentors regarding jobs, God, pets and even “phones and IPads” as vital tools for, and providers of, contacts, especially during the pandemic. Perceived impacts of relationships as well as evaluations and wishes regarding the quality of relationships were mentioned, also.
Leaders and staff came to a range of conclusions. For example, it is important to support young people in reflecting and talking about relationships. Youth and staff want to see benefits from relationships. For leaders and staff, it makes a big difference to hear from the young people directly.
All organisations of the CoP came to the conclusion that “Talking is silver. Acting is gold”: A positive, professional relationship between leaders and staff with the young people requires hearing their voices, taking them seriously, and taking them into account when shaping concrete actions and organisational developments. All want to involve young people even more in discussions on relevant topics in the future, in activities and regarding contents as self-defined by young people as possible and regularly concerning the topic of relationships as well as further relevant topics. Among concrete ideas to be tried out in the Hungarian organisations are family days to strengthen relationships, trainings for parents promoting better, deeper relationships with their children and joint activities where a coach would support communication between child and parents and joint activities for the young people from the child and youth home and their external friends. Swiss plans include the integration of the topic of “relationships” into the quality management system of the organisation, young people’s involvement in shaping the regularly occurring conversations with the social pedagogues allocated to them as their individual “relationship person” (“Bezugsperson”), young people’s inclusion in staff recruitment and a plenary with all staff and youth regarding findings and further steps concerning “relationships” in 2022.
As a conclusion, Sandra Rüegg quoted one Young Expert’s “If you respect us, we respect you” and concluded that for conducive relationships in and around the youth home, it was of utmost importance that all involved take each other seriously. Rolf Tobler mentioned that mission statements such as that of his own organisation often mention “relationships” between the organisation, its staff and youth. The challenge, however, is to translate such statements of intent into the concreteness of daily practice and life in the youth home. He also mentioned that all people are individuals, and views, expectations and needs regarding relationships will vary. All three presenters concluded that CoP and project “Creating Futures” support and promote positive relationships in which youth are really taken seriously not only by the recent explicit work on the topic, but to an even greater extend by the way in which youth as Young Experts, leaders and staff collaborate as equal partners on important topics of joint interest. All three groups have mentioned that young people’s view of themselves have changed positively through this approach, as have youth’s, leaders’ and staff’s views of each other and, consequently, relationships. More information about Creating Futures.