Curriculum Vitae


1968 to 1971
lic. Nat. oec. in Paris and Basel

1971 to 1975
Studies: Social service work/ Psychology in Luzern and Fribourg



German (mother tongue)


Professional life

1976 to present Head of Tipiti Association

Alternative to institutions

1976 to present Head of Tipiti Association

In 1976 Rolf Widmer, economist and social worker, established the Association for Therapeutical Pedagogy for Large Families and Small-Group Schooling (VHPG) together with other experts active in Pedagogy and Psychology. Rolf Widmer remained the driving force of the association which was renamed ten years ago into Tipiti Association – where children and adolescents live and learn.

With an annual budget of nine million Francs, Rolf Widmer manages the tipiti Association in Eastern Switzerland with 130 staff members at present and around 200 children who are looked after.

Further details at tipiti.ch

2000 to 2015 Director Switzerland. International Social Services Foundation (ISS), Geneva/ Zurich

Support for children and families in conflicts across borders

Support for children and families in conflicts across borders

As a director of the Swiss Office of the International Social Service (ISS) in Geneva Rolf Widmer was part of an international network for child protection across borders.

The organization unites social and legal partners in more than 140 countries, the aim being to find a child-focused solution through mediation as conflicts can rarely be resolved purely with legal means. The approach is adopted in cases of international abductions and adoptions, for unaccompanied minor refugees, in cases of divorce, in cases of trade in children and organs and in search of origin. The network works on about 25 000 cases a year which involve about 60 000 children; the Swiss office works actively on about 1000 files of about 3000 children and their families. Each situation is a matter of active peace building and in each situation the aim is to resolve a conflict in a constructive way and to the benefit of the child.

In order to be able to react in a preventive way to the various situations which the ISS is regularly faced with, Rolf Widmer has expanded the range of tasks of ISS:

  • Many young women who end up as prostitutes from the Southeastern countries grew up in institutions in the affected countries. Instead of sending these young women back to their countries, he launched the programme for vocational and social integration for institutionalized adolescents, he trained local experts and together with them he developed a programme for personal counseling and support for institutionalized adolescents on their way to autonomy. With the active assistance of the ISS 600 adolescents in Bulgaria and 300 adolescents in Ukraine were supported. This work resulted in the development of principles for the countries concerned in order to sustainably integrate this approach in the structures of those countries.

  • In West Africa the ISS wanted to take a South-South approach with local partners as regards the migration of children and adolescents and in 2002 we jointly developed the WAN Programme (www.reaso.org). Thus with the development of common standards so far we have managed to reintegrate 6000 children living in the streets back in their countries and family communities. Together with the respective communities we implemented economically sound measures and individual support programmes for the children and adolescents.

  • In Tunisia and Algeria Rolf Widmer participated in the introduction of programmes whose goal was to provide a reliable and stable relationship framework for children born out of wedlock and to raise the public awareness for better acceptance of these children and their mothers.

Further details about ISS at www.ssiss.ch

2001 to 2014 Head of the Swiss Specialised Body for Adoption

In 2001 as part of his ISS mandate Rolf Widmer became the head of the Swiss Specialised Body for Adoption.

These services were elaborated and offered in the whole German-speaking part of Switzerland:

  1. Information point for people who want to adopt in the country

  2. Information, documentation and further training point for authorities, specialized bodies and foster parents

  3. Preparation courses for candidate foster parents before they obtain an evaluation of their social situation

  4. A point of evaluation and preparation for candidate foster parents

  5. Presentation of foster parents for domestic adoption to the custodians which is the proper placing of these children

  6. Support with the search of origin in line with article 268c of the Swiss Civil Code. In collaboration with our office partner of the International Social Service we can assist with the search in the entire world

  7. Advanced training offers for foster parents

  8. A joint programme with the Children in Foster Care Action Switzerland

  9. Counseling and accompanying mothers-to-be

  10. Set-up and accompanying families in transition by the time the mothers take a decision with respect to the long-term solution

Further details at www.adoption.ch

1990 to 2000 Head of Asylum Organisation, Zurich canton

In the 1990s Rolf Widmer was head of the Asylum Organisation for the Zurich canton, back then the largest care institution of Switzerland with up to 8000 asylum seekers and hundreds of staff members.

Extremely important: the young refugees who came partially straight from the war when Yugoslavia collapsed in the war. They needed a programme for the daily activities, language classes, training courses, access to education and vocational training, job counseling. There were programmes which were partly developed under Swiss standards in the work with refugees:

  • TAST Daily programme for adolescents
  • WORKFARE Vocational programmes
  • PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICE Service Support for traumatized people
  • BROCKITO The other Brockenhaus
  • ZÜRI ROLLT Free bikes in the city
  • MNA Accompanying unaccompanied minor asylm seekers
  • MEDIATOR PROGRAMME Refugees accompany refugees
  • FRIENDS United Refugees young refugees sing songs about war, fleeing and love
1975 to 1990
  • 1986 to 1990 Head of the Special boarding school Chilberg, Fischingen: reconstruction into a support centre with needs-oriented social pedagogy and school offers

  • Personal life, 3 foster sons (orphans from Lebanon) in Switzerland

  • 1984 to 1986: activities for child protection in Lebanon and Iraq: evaluation if children without parents can be taken in the extended family; programme for child soldiers from Iran into Iraq

  • 1983: evaluation of the possibilities to take Lebanese and Palestinian children to Pestalozzi children’s village

  • 1982 to 1984: management team in the Pestalozzi children’s village in Trogen AR

  • 1975 to 1982: pedagogical and administrative head of the Sonnenhof clinic, Ganterschwil AR, 70 staff members

Diverse Mandate über die Jahre
  • ISS/ Tipiti Cooperation: Set-up of support structures for 4000 orphans in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  • FICE Switzerland President: upbringing for children and adolescents without parents/ www.fice.ch

  • UNICEF mandate (Tunisia, Moldova, Algeria)

  • 1984-1986 experience in Lebanon and Iraq during the war in Lebanon and in the context of the current refugee crisis: the consequences for the children

  • Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC): Serbia/ development of the social housing concept: programme for the refugees to stabilize their life situation

  • SDC: reform programme of the extrafamilial upbrining, education and redesigning of living spaces for institutionalized children, construction of care centres for disabled, etc.

  • SDC: reform for the extrafamilial upbrining in Belarus and Armenia

  • Institute for children’s rights: education in the Czech Republik, Hungary

  • Experience with minor asylum seekers/ unaccompanied minor foreign nationals from Bosnia, Kosovo, currently Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria, etc.

  • Development of prospects for institutionalized children in Eastern Europe and children in the streets in West Africa

  • Developer of standards and manuals for social pedagogy work with children in difficult life situation (children in the streets, refugee children, children in foster care, etc.) which are applied in various countries (Bulgaria, Ukraine, Algeria, West Africa, Lebanon)

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