The use of Expert Reports as evidence in Child Protection Decision-Making
Deciding in child welfare cases is a difficult task which can have major consequences for those involved. Psychological knowledge plays a key role in the assessments. With this project, we want to achieve equal practice across experts' mandates, approaches and conclusions in the best interest of children and their guardians.
Criticism towards the Norwegian CPS practice has been put forward by the ECtHR that criticised Norwegian courts for focusing solely on the child’s rights instead of combining these with the rights of the parents. The criticism also concerned insufficient evidence, including the lack of updated expert reports where the parents’ life situation had changed. Also the Norwegian Government expressed a need to improve the formal framework around expert reports, specifically that the lack of standardized procedures and uniform approaches may affect the legal security of the parties and result in less equal and fair decisions. The variation amongst mandates and the random interviewing practice amongst experts in CPS cases may affect legal decision-making, why it is an urgent need to provide scientific evidence on how expert reports are used in CPS cases, and develop uniformed procedures.
We will study how four parties to the ECHR use experts in CPS cases, and examine if standardized mandates affect the Norwegian legal decisions. We will make qualitative and quantitative comparisons of the Norwegian and Swedish judgements to explore how authorities evaluate and justify the child’s best interest and the rights of the parents in CPS proceedings, including what mandates, approach and theoretical foundation the experts apply when providing the Courts with their reports. To secure the opinion of the child in an interview, we will develop a digital approach to assist experts and test the effects of this intervention in a quasi-experimental design. For these purposes we will use a large-scale register data of more than 700 experts ́reports per year, compare ad hoc vs. standard mandates in terms of the precision to the CWA of the experts ́ evaluations, testing a child friendly App interview, and integrate archive data from the Norwegian and Swedish Courts and Norwegian CWS boards to examine complex pathways of and compare the judicial decision-making process in Norway vs Sweden.
For more information about the project, please consult the project's main webpage.
The project is carried out at the Department of Psychology in collaboration with the Department of Public Law, UiO, and the Faculty of Law, University of Bergen.