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Appointed Chair of the Child Protection Committee

Professor Marit Skivenes is appointed by the Norwegian government to lead a national working group reviewing the child protection system.

Portrettbilde av Marit Skivenes
Marit Skivenes is a professor in political science and head of the Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism.
Photo:
Daniel Nygård

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The Norwegian child protection system has been heavily criticized in recent years. Audits of the local child protection service and various reports have referred to weak documentation practices, as well as cases of failure in professional assessments.

Since 2015, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has taken a record high number of child protection cases against Norway into consideration, and the state has on several occasions been convicted of violating the right to family life.

On this background, the Norwegian government has appointed an expert committee to assess how the child protection system can ensure better quality and improve rule of law in the most serious and complex cases. The result will be presented in an Official Norwegian Report.

Difficult decisions

– Complex child protection cases involve very difficult assessments and decisions. State interventions are highly necessary in some cases, but interventions can also be enormously destructive if they are unfounded, says Skivenes.

Skivenes emphasize that all nations with a child protection system that has the authority to intervene in the family in order to protect children’s rights, there are tensions and controversies around the balancing of children’s rights and parent’s rights.

– There are different thresholds for when the child protection service is involved in various countries. There are also differences in the degree of trust on whether the child protection system are doing a good job or not, Skivenes explains.

She hopes the committee will contribute to improve the system by providing knowledge and insight into what is needed to ensure high quality decision making in the child protection system.

Mistakes are made

Skivenes is an experienced researcher with several international projects on child welfare, child protection and children’s rights.

– If we compare Norway to other countries, Norway is doing well in safeguarding children’s rights, and are also scoring high on rule of law measures.

– However, this does not mean that there is not a potential for improvement. Research from colleagues and performed by others shows that mistakes are made. These mistakes have major consequences for the children and parents involved, says Skivenes.

Children’s perspective

An unanimous Parliament decided that an expert committee should be appointed to review the Norwegian child protection system.

The government constituted a committee with members from different fields and background, that will present an Official Norwegian Report (NOU) to the Minister for Children and Families.

One of the members are Professor of Law, Karl Harald Søvig (University of Bergen), a renowned expert on children´s rights and a long-time collaborator of the DIPA-centre.

– The committee consist of highly competent and experienced persons, and I am confident that we will be able to deliver a well-founded report, says Skivenes.

An important platform for our work is the recently launched national strategy for children and young people in risk.

– A key recommendation from the strategy is to include children’s perspectives on what is important and necessary for children and young people who are in vulnerable situations.