Institutt for administrasjon og organisasjonsvitenskap

Legitimacy and Fallibility in Child Welfare Services

This was a research project on child welfare services in Norway, Finland, England and USA. The project was funded by the Norwegian Research Council, and ran from September 2012 to June 2017.


The aim of the project was to identify some decisive factors and mechanisms in different welfare state arrangements and child welfare systems that promote or hinder high quality decision-making in the best interest of children and families. Professor Marit Skivenes from the department of Administration and Organization Theory, University of Bergen, was the Principal Investigator. The project was a part of the Centre on Law and Social Transformation at the University of Bergen and CMI.

The importance and relevance of our research project can be summarized as follows:

  1. An analysis of the interaction between different settings (institutional, political and legal) and how they influence actual decision-making in the child welfare area yields new knowledge on strength and weaknesses in decision-making processes,
  2. A critical examination of the quality of decisions, gives us insight into potentials for improvements in the system, and
  3. To be able to evaluate successes and failures, and to understand why and how child welfare systems can provide children at risk with the necessary means to grow up as healthy individuals, it is important to analyse the explicit and implicit normative bases of different child welfare systems, especially their conception of the child’s best interest and what is valid knowledge.

The need for improved systems is urgent, because we know that the outcome for children in the child welfare system is not good, and the evidence for the correlations between childhood neglect and abuse and adult well-being is well-documented, e.g. in the Adverse Childhood Experiences studies. 

More information

Read more about the project and our findings here (norwegian). An easy-to-read summary of the findings from the project is available here (norwegian). You can also follow the link to publications from the project below.