(Anti-)Fragile Residential Education during a Pandemic: A Review of Facility Size, Openness and Closeness


  • Vinzenz Thalheim University of Kassel
  • Mark Schrödter University of Kassel


residential childcare, Covid-19 pandemic, education


Residential care settings are of special concern in a pandemic. So far, the academic and public discourse has mainly examined institutions for elderly people. However, institutions for children in out-of-home care also face special challenges. Although immediate response measures have been developed, there is evidence that pandemic containment and lockdown measures may impede children’s development and well-being. Institutional life has to be restructured to meet the children’s needs for safety and education in a way that can be maintained in the long term. In this assessment of the possible consequences for residential childcare during and after a pandemic, we review evidence from general research on residential care, the early findings of studies on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on children, and ethnographic interviews with professionals in the field of residential care in Germany. We demonstrate that there are good reasons to conjecture that residential childcare facilities can be fragile, robust or even antifragile when faced with the challenges posed by a pandemic and the measures taken to combat it. That is, practices of safety and education may break down, be maintained or transformed both during and after a pandemic.