Understanding the Swiss Adult and Child Protection Agency KESB

If you are a non-German speaker living in Switzerland with your partner or family, it is important to not only have heard about about the KESB (the child and adult protection agency) but also understand how the system works.

The KESB is the child and adult protection agency and is organised in the individual cantons. The description for their work is: to guarantee the protection of those people who are not able to request the support they need themselves. Examples are those who use under age, or whose parents cannot look after them, are developmentally or mentally challenged or severely addicted. The KESB finds out about such people through the person himself, relatives, neighbours, the police, the community authorities, or anyone else reporting such a situation.

In the case of a couple, you must be aware, that the KESB will take over guardianship if your partner is no longer able to make decisions him or herself, for example after an accident, a severe illness, etc. If a couple has not signed a precaution order (Vorsorgeauftrag), the KESB will take over the guardianship and a husband or a wife will need to involve a lawyer to regain guardianship including sometime access to important decisions regarding since, housing, etc. As Barbara Schaerz points out on their website: “They take precedence over family decisions.”

The KESB, which was only created in 2014, is probably one if not the most hated authority in Switzerland and their regulations do not only apply to Swiss but for anyone. But of course, in the media you only read about the rare and worst cases. If you want to understand the process the KESB has to take, check out this link from the SWISS BEOBACHTER​ (in German)

It is absolutely vital that you understand a system that allows this agency to take over guardianship in the event of a person no longer being able to do so himself, i.e. also overriding your decisions as a partner.

All the information including the precaution form can be downloaded for free in the language of a canton from each cantonal KESB website. But if you don’t speak the language, contact Barbara Scherzo from FUNERAL PLANNING SWITZERLAND​ to learn more. They are the only provider of information on this system in English as far as we are aware. Or attend one of her public information events.