Background

The child welfare service shall ensure that children who live under conditions that may be detrimental for their health and development receive the necessary help, care and protection at the right time. Child welfare cases are handled by the child welfare service in the municipalities. The child welfare service take action in accordance with the Child Welfare Act. The service make decisions regarding voluntary assistance measures and emergency orders. They also prepare care order cases and other compulsory measures. Such measures can only be made by the County Social Welfare Board, or the Courts. The Boards are impartial and independent state bodies.

Since 2015 a number of Norwegian child welfare cases have been and are pending for the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and the Court have found violations of article 8 and the right to family life. The Court has pointed out the duty of the authorities to work towards reunification of the child with the parents. The judgements challenge the legitimacy and trust in the Norwegian child welfare system. Some of the judgments have demonstrated that the decision-making process and balancing exercise between the interests of the child and its biological family have not always been adequate. In three Grand Chamber decisions from 2020, the Norwegian Supreme Court has given its interpretation of the ECHR judgements.

Based on the ECHR judgements, the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget) made a resolution to appoint an expert committee to review the Norwegian child welfare service, with the aim of improving legal safeguards in all parts of the service, where the best interests of the child shall form the basis for the committee’s work.

The assignment

The committee shall assess measures to strengthen legal safeguards in all stages of the child welfare service’s work, from investigation to aftercare. The committee shall, among other things, assess:

  • The decision making process of the child welfare service and County Social Welfare Board. This includes measures for a greater degree of transparency
  • the use and the role of experts in child welfare cases
  • how to strengthen children and parents’ legal safeguards through control mechanisms, processes that safeguard the right to participation and right to appeal.
  • the authorities’ follow-up of children and parents after a care order, with the aim to reunite the child with the parents
  • the child welfare services’ access to measures and competence when handling with complex cases
  • the role of supervisory authorities to ensure legal safeguards
  • how to strengthen legal safeguards to children who are placed in emergency care and children in institutions

The best interest of the child shall form the basis for the work of the committee. The committee shall obtain knowledge from children and parents, and other relevant participants and actors, in addition to the use of research, studies and reports.

You can upload your input to the committee here.