USING PARTICIPATORY METHODS TO DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT RESEARCH ON HISTORICAL COMPULSORY SOCIAL MEASURES AND PLACEMENTS IN SWITZERLAND
Many of the child welfare policies and practices in Switzerland before the law reform of 1981 were rather invasive and were exercised under a legal context that sometimes threatened basic human rights. The inclusion of survivors of such measures in the research process has been vigorously requested in Switzerland. Therefore, four individuals who had been placed in institutions as children have been included in the process of preparing a recently initiated, 60-year follow-up study of individuals placed in infant care institutions in Switzerland in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Using focus interviews and “think-aloud” methods, the interviewees commented on two parts of the planned research process: (a) how to contact the cohort, and (b) finalising the assessment instruments. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis. Interviewees felt their participation was a sign of recognition of their experience and expertise. Their input contributed to the research in a host of ways. For example, they helped to make documents more understandable, identified errors and redundancies, and pointed out wording that might cause insecurities or negative reactions. They also pointed to shortcomings in some of the items used in the assessment instruments. In addition, they made significant contributions regarding how best to approach and work with the cohort. This study shows that, when researching historical compulsory social measures, the inclusion of formerly institutionalised individuals in development and implementation is not only feasible, but is of significant benefit to the quality of the research.
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