Department of Government

Differences in child care systems between Norway, England, Finland and the United States

In a new article Professor Marit Skivenes and her colleagues compare petitions in care order templates across the four child welfare systems of Norway, England, Finland and the United States.

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Professor Marit Skivenes has, together with Jill Duerr Berrick (UC Berkeley, USA), Jonathan Dickens (University College Cork, UK) and Tarja Pösö (University of Tampere, Finland), published the article “Care order templates as institutional scripts in child protection: A cross-system analysis” in the journal Children and Youth Services Review. In it, they compare petitions in care order templates across four child welfare systems: The Norwegian, English, Finnish and American. The petitions can be seen as a manifestation of the institutional formulation that shape practice and state principles in child welfare systems.

The authors find that the four templates vary in length and content, as well as formal authorization and implementation. Further, care order templates are a structural element of these welfare systems, that delimit the nature and types of information courts are given to hear in child care cases.

This article compares blank care order application templates used in four countries (England, Finland, Norway, and USA (California)), treating them as a vital part of the ‘institutional scripts’ that shape practice, and embody state principles of child protection. The templates are used when child protection agencies apply to court for a care order, usually to remove a child from the family home. The templates prescribe and shape the type of information and analysis that is required justify such an extreme level of state intervention in family life. They are a mechanism and a manifestation of the principles and the legislation of each child welfare system, and are able to cast light on issues that might otherwise remain unseen or unnoticed in cross-country comparisons. The analysis of the documents compares the language and form of the four blank templates, their inter-textuality, their readership, and authors. The analysis highlights the discretionary space allocated to social workers across countries and the state frameworks within which child protection efforts are embedded.