Summer University in Social Work 

Legal, institutional and ethical issues in child protection

Prof. Marit Skivenes — University of Bergen, Norway

The presentations address the typologies identifying that child welfare systems in modern states can crudely be categorized into two types (Gilbert, Parton, and Skivenes 2011; Gilbert 1997): risk-oriented and service-oriented. Norway belongs to the latter category and has a child welfare system that is family-service-oriented and child-centric (Skivenes 2011). A risk-oriented system has a relatively high threshold for intervention and a focus on mitigating serious risks to children’s health and safety (Gilbert et al. 2011), whereas in service-oriented systems, the aims are to promote healthy childhoods and to mitigate serious risks and prevent harm (Skivenes 2011). Thus, the state provides early intervention services to children and families in at-risk situations to prevent the escalation of more serious risk and future harm to the child. The major differences between these two systems reside in their underlying ideologies and the ways in which they address children who are at risk. Service-oriented systems provide services to families and are based on a therapeutic view of rehabilitation in which it is possible for people to revise and improve their lifestyles and behaviors. A basic attitude is that the child welfare system should be part of a broader welfare system that provides services to prevent more serious harm and, consequently, prevent out-of-home placements. The intervention threshold for providing services in these systems is low. The key questions to be addressed are how systems and states differ in their decision making in removals of children from their birth family. How may the state achieve legitimacy for these interventions? What are the important considerations?

  • Berrick, J., J. Dickens, T. Pösö & Skivenes, M. 2016. Time and quality of decision making in child protection: A cross-country analysis. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership, & Governance
  • Magnussen, A-M & Skivenes, M. (2015). The Child´s opinion and position in care order proceedings: An analysis of judiciary discretion in the County boards’ decision-making. International Journal of Children’s Rights.
  • Berrick, J. S. Peckover, T. Pösö & M. Skivenes (2015). The Formalized Framework for decision-making in child protection: A cross-country comparison. Journal of European Social Policy, 25 (4), pp. 366-378.
  • Skivenes, M. (2010). Judging the child’s best interests: rational reasoning or subjective presumptions? Acta Sociologica, 53 (4), pp. 339-353.
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