BRIM Bergen Research group for intervention and mental health across the Lifespan
Research project

Reexamining Contact Rights After Care Orders in Norway: An Empirical Analysis from 1998 to 2023

This study delves into the pressing issue of contact rights between children and their parents following care order decisions by the Norwegian Child Welfare Tribunal. Recent judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) have raised concerns about the violation of the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights) in cases involving child protective services (CPS) in Norway. We aim to examine the stipulation of contact rights after a care order and the factors influencing decisions made by the Norwegian Child Welfare Tribunal from 1998 to 2023.

Main content

Norwegian CPS cases have faced considerable scrutiny at the ECtHR, with 43 cases communicated since 2015, and 23 cases concluding with violation, the highest number of violations in Europe regarding child protection cases. These decisions emphasize the importance of reunification with biological parents after care order. Frequent contact between children and parents is pivotal for reunification, but the Norwegian practice has been criticized for not aligning with this goal.

Children's removal from their parents is a significant state intervention, and care order decisions are particularly intrusive. The CPS initiates these proceedings when they believe it's in the child's best interest, and the tribunal decides on the matter. Contact stipulations were linked to the care order's purpose; before ECtHR judgments, long-term placements had limited contact, while family reunification had more frequent contact.

The ECtHR's influence has led to significant changes in the Norwegian child protective service, including recent reforms and forthcoming revisions in guidelines. Existing studies indicate infrequent contact stipulations, suggesting a lack of emphasis on family reunification. Nonetheless, some recent changes have been observed in the child welfare tribunals practices.

This research addresses a critical gap in the field, aiming to provide a comprehensive analysis of contact rights within Norway's child protective service, based on empirical data spanning two decades.

This PhD project will use the database from the Child Welfare Tribunal Decisions in Child Protection Cases: Database for Child Protection Judgements, comprising information on approximately 3,500 decisions from care orders and institutional placements 1998, 2008, 2018, and 2021. All the tribunal decisions are being coded in Nvivo.