The Human Safety Net for Families

The situation

Impoverished children in wealthy Switzerland – this is reality. On average, there is one child affected by poverty in every school class. More than three children per class are at risk of experiencing poverty (Caritas 2019). Impoverished children are already at a disadvantage when they start school. One of the main reasons for this is that early childhood education in Switzerland is a private matter. Poverty-affected children often live in social isolation, and often don’t have access to education, culture and sporting activities from an early age. The longer children live in poverty, the worse their chances become of finding their way out of it as adults. That is why investing in children at this age is especially worthwhile. In their first few years, children absorb information and carry it with them for life. From an early age, they acquire the knowledge and skills required for a successful start to their schooling.


Our goal

For children to develop positively and get an equal start in life, they need appropriate support. This includes a stimulating environment and loving role models. Parents and caregivers play a key role here. The “Human Safety Net for Families” programme offers guidance in this respect, starting with early childhood education. Early education plays a crucial role in preventing poverty. Our programme supports parents in parenting issues and supports them on how to promote learning through play at home. Parents get to consult the professional staff at family centres and come into contact with other families. Our long-term goal is to support as many Swiss family centres as possible with establishing professional services for early childhood education.

Partners & initiatives

MegaMarie: a space to meet, play and be creative

Getting crafty, trying things out, discovering the world with all the senses. Learning through play and interacting with others is not only fun, it’s also highly beneficial for the brain. The MegaMarie space for play, crafts and interaction takes parents and children up to the age of six on a daily voyage of discovery. In times of tablets, smartphones, etc., activities such as group singing, painting, reading and crafts are a welcome change. The programme aims to inspire parents and caregivers. It promotes interaction between families, helping to reduce their social isolation. Parents can also consult the professional staff, who are happy to offer their advice.


MegaMarie is a project initiated by the “Marie Meierhofer Institut für das Kind” (MMI). For over 60 years, the institute has been a centre of excellence committed to ensuring that children get what they need to grow up healthy, both within the family home and beyond. With its space for play and interaction, the MMI and its partners are testing both new and proven forms of play and learning. It’s a place where research and practical application are used hand in hand. The knowledge gained is intended to be applied in other meeting places for young children and their caregivers in the future. The findings are also being used in the training and further education of playgroup leaders and nursery staff.



Impact 2019 – 2022

  • 1’957 caregivers have visited the MegaMarie space
  • 2’116 children have visited the Mega Marie space
  • Parents and children have received 711 support offers
  • 175 staff training events have been organized


More information on Marie Meierhofer Institut für das Kind.

MegaMarieplus: strengthening family centres across the country for the benefit of children and their parents

If children are to develop positively and get an equal start in life, the need loving care, affectionate support and places to play and unleash their creativity, while parents appreciate the opportunity for dialogue and advice on day-to-day topics. This is precisely what family centres can offer – and where the MegaMarieplus programme will be coming into play. Supported by The Human Safety Net, the Marie Meierhofer Institut für das Kind has partnered with the Netzwerk Bildung und Familie to develop a practical programme that is based on scientific findings and is designed to empower family centres. The aim is for 60 family centres to take part in the programme by 2025. Around 24,000 parents and children under the age of six in fragile family situations will benefit from the services. Alongside this, it is hoped that at least 25 municipalities will also start supporting the family centres or will intensify the support they already provide.


The programme is based on three important levers:

  • Knowledge transfer: family centres are given the ability to develop impactful services for children and families or to take over well-established services. As part of this process, the focus is on training and supporting experts and volunteers at the centres.
  • Empowerment: family centres receive support with reinforcing their structures and developing further. Their networks are expanded so that they can learn from each other.
  • Collaboration: municipalities are advised on how they can support family centres for their citizens. This starts by demonstrating why family centres are so valuable, which, in turn, lays the groundwork for greater involvement on the part of municipalities and the public sector.


The programme builds on the expertise of the Marie Meierhofer Institut für das Kind and the Netzwerk Bildung und Familie, which currently encompasses around 155 family centres. It is implemented courtesy of a broad alliance of partners. To date, the following organisations have agreed to collaborate: a:primo, Associazione Progetto Genitori, Fadenspule, Kinderfreundliche Gemeinden (UNICEF), KKJ, LAPURLA, LISS, Primokiz (Radix), SIKJM. The implementation of the programme is to be documented on an ongoing basis and its impact evaluated by an external body. This enables new findings to be gleaned and adjustments to be made swiftly if required.