Swiss Contract Children
The exhibition VERDINGKINDER REDEN (SWISS CONTRACT CHILDREN SPEAKOUT) addresses the history of the foster care of children in Switzerland during the 20th century. The heart of the exhibition is excerpts from interviews with around three hundred former contract children (Verdingkinder) which were carried out in the context of two research projects. The recordings and written quotes are in Swiss German or French, with explanatory texts and background information translated into English. The exhibition has been shown at eleven locations in Switzerland since 2009, and has been visited by far over 100,000 people. It has helped convince a growing number of former contract children to break their silence and to drive Swiss officialdom to address the topic.
The exhibition seeks to...
- allow those affected to have their say.
- offer a platform for questions and discussions regarding current practices.
- draw connections from the history to the future of non-family upbringing.
- preserve memories of a chapter of Swiss history.
The exhibition cannot rehabilitate the history of the institution of contract children. It merely presents the memories of those affected. A more comprehensive analysis would require the examination of the files of every agency and organisation involved, something that is often no longer possible as many of the sources were destroyed. There were also contract children who benefitted from it. Their voices are absent here. This is because the exhibition seeks to draw attention to the deficiencies and their causes in the hope of avoiding them in the future. Also absent are the many people who are unwilling or unable to talk about their childhoods. If not stated otherwise, all quotations in the exhibition come from interviews or the personal files of those interviewed.