The decision to arrange for social measures lay with the government agencies. They could delegate it to private or church organisations which saved costs. For a long time, individual needs were not in the foreground. Sometimes families were administered for generations.

© Our Faces – Our Stories, 2022

The Scope for Action of Individuals Was Large

The procedures for official social measures were not uniformly regulated. The scope for action of governmental, private and church organisations was large.

Those who did not conform or fled risked a transfer, an extension of their measures or interference with family planning. Rarely did the affected persons and their families receive sufficient information on the proceedings, potential legal remedies and duration of a measure. To proceed against decisions of authorities was very difficult ...

The Power of Files

A look at the files reveals how people were judged. The not uncommon negative attributions determined biographies and furthered the stigmatization.

The illustration shows an excerpt from a personal file. The boy Alois Kappeler is described in a derogatory manner in the letter from the "Seraphisches Liebeswerk" Solothurn. Among other things, it says: "Poor genetic make-up, early childhood neglect or imbecility".

The Seraphische Liebeswerk Solothurn placed catholic children and teenagers, facilitated adoptions, controlled placements in foster care and residential homes and ran own facilities. Alois Kappeler was placed in more than 30 places. The extract of a letter to the welfare commission renders the negative assessments in his files visible (1967). There are attributions such as “bad heredity”, “early childhood neglect” or “imbecility”.

Derogatory descriptions of children, adolescents and adults can be found in many files. They come from various groups such as officials, clergymen, psychiatrists, carers and employees of private and church organisations. Stigmatising attributions had an influence on subsequent evaluations and were given great weight. The so-called file biographies reflect the opinion of the authorities of the time and often had nothing to do with experiences of those affected.

Who Paid for it All?

If possible, the costs for foster care placement or accommodation in an institution were borne by the affected persons or by their family environment (principle of subsidiarity). In many cases low-cost solutions were chosen, but these were often contrary to the needs of those affected.

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