CAPA – What is it and when does it intervene?

The Child and Adult Protection Authority ("CAPA") ensures the protection of persons who are unable to take care of their needs themselves. The goal is the mildest restriction to personal freedom, which is imperative for the protection of individuals.

What does that mean exactly?

The new Child and Adult Protection Law (previously Law on the Protection of Adults) has been in force since 2013. It serves as the basis for the employees working at CAPA. People with legal and psychological backgrounds as well as social workers work closely together. Accordingly, CAPA can be described as an interdisciplinary, specialised authority.

The organisation of these public authorities is the responsibility of the respective canton. The federal government gives only minimal requirements. Depending on the canton, CAPA can be designed as a judicial or an administrative authority.

What does CAPA do?

CAPA’s procedures are laid down in the Swiss Civil Code (Articles 440-453). Including but not limited to, it must/can perform the following tasks in Child and Adult Protection:

  • Appointing/dismissing and introducing deputies
  • Taking an active part in the management of deputies
  • Putting an advance care directive into effect (see What needs to be considered when drafting up an advance care directive)
  • Intervening in the event of a danger to interests in connection with a patient decree
  • Taking various protective measures for minors (termination of the right to decide on place of residence, termination of custody)
  • Arranging care-related hospitalisation in the event of serious mental health problems

As already mentioned, each canton defines the responsibilities differently. It is therefore best to check the website of the respective canton of residence if you need specific information.

You can also find helpful information on the website of the Conference for Child and Adult Protection (CCAP). It not only collects important statistics for the whole of Switzerland, but also coordinates intercantonal cooperation. Under the navigation path “Organisation” you will then find a complete address list of all CAPA contact points.

When does CAPA intervene?

CAPA ensures the protection of persons who are unable to take care of their needs themselves. This can be the case, for example, in the case of mental or psychological impairment, addiction or minority. Intervention by the CAPA is also possible if parents can no longer adequately take care of their child. If the authorities learn of a situation that presents a danger, they must clarify how to proceed.

If necessary, CAPA can appoint a deputy. This supports the person in need in their administrative and financial matters. In addition, if the parents are unable to provide enough care for their child, the deputy can arrange for care support. In special cases, the authority can even order the placement of a person in a psychiatric institution or a home.

The Child and Adult Protection Authority is bound by the law for every action it takes. As a governmental agency, it may only intervene with a sufficient legal basis. This protects the persons concerned from unjustified governmental intervention. CAPA can only offer support where the law provides for it.

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