PH.D.-Profil: Barbara Ruiken
By analysing care order decisions from first-instance decision-making bodies regarding newborn children I seek to understand how decision-makers in eight countries use the discretionary space attributed to them when deciding on a powerful state intervention into the private sphere.
More specifically, I want to see how these eight countries (Austria, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway and Spain) assess and balance risk and protective factors in their written decisions. The countries have similar approaches to child protection as they are all (relatively) wealthy European countries, but differ in the underlying principles of child protection systems and types of welfare state.
Understanding how discretionary decisions are made and what influences them is important as different decisions for similar cases can challenge the rule of law, and discretionary space can lead to difficulties in holding politicians accountable for policy implementation (the “black hole of democracy”). Care order decisions are vital for the individuals involved, and must be of high quality to not threaten the legitimacy of the child protection system. Despite the challenges connected to discretion, some claim that being able to use discretion is necessary to be able to make decisions regarding highly complex and dynamic situations.
In my first article I look at care order decisions regarding newborn children of mothers who misuse substances, I want to find out if and how the justifications vary between different child protection system orientations.