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Presentation on theme: " The Assessment Process in Norwegian Child Protection Jim Lurie Torill Tjelflaat EUSARF 2014 Making a Difference."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Assessment Process in Norwegian Child Protection Jim Lurie Torill Tjelflaat EUSARF 2014 Making a Difference

2 Aim of the Presentation –Describe how child protection workers in Norway work with assessments of children reported to be at risk –Describe key aspects of the investigative and decision- making process including: –Legal basis for an investigation –How comprehensive are investigations? –Different types of investigations –Role of the child in the investigation –Use of professional experts –Reasons for dismissing an investigation without intervention –Factors contributing to success and failure of investigations 2

3 Data Collection/Research Design –Exploratory research design –Comparison of views of child protection workers and county supervisors/inspectors –Semi–structured qualitative interviews –Informants: –Leaders/staff from 18 municipal child protection agencies; including 7 single municipal agencies, 7 inter-municipal agencies, and 4 district agencies –Supervisors/inspectors from 3 county level child protection authorities in central Norway 3

4 Statistics on dismissals of risk reports and investigations –Reports, investigations & interventions –Child welfare services (CWS) received over 49,000 reports of children at risk in 2012, 20 % of these dismissed without investigation –CWS carried out 37,000 investigations in 2012, 53 % of these dismissed without intervention –Taken together only 38 % of cases reporting children at risk resulted in an intervention in 2012 (less than 19,000 interventions) 4

5 Penalties for using too much time, but not for poor quality work –CWA (§ 6-9) sets time limits for reviewing a risk report (1 week) and for completion of an investigation (normally 3 months), the county governor can impose fines on agencies not meeting these deadlines –2 % of risk reports, and 14 % of investigations did not meet deadlines in 2012 –CWA imposes no penalties for poor quality child protection work in these two areas, this can result in agencies prioritizing timeliness at expense of more thorough investigations 5

6 Legal framework: When should CWS investigate a report of concern? –CWS shall investigate reports of concern «if there is reasonable cause to assume that circumstances obtain which may provide a basis for measures pursuant to this chapter» (§ 4-3) –Lowest threshold for intervention is for voluntary home-based family support (§ 4-4) – «when the child due to conditions at home, or for other reasons is in particular need of assistance» –CWS shall also investigate more serious concerns involving possible mistreatment, serious neglect, or a child with persistent, serious behavioral problems; such investigations may result in a care order (§ 4-12), or compulsory placement in a residential care facility (§4-24) 6

7 How comprehensive should an investigation be? –Norwegian law has 2 standards for comprehesiveness which can conflict with each other –General rule for all public decision making is «to ensure that a case is illuminated as well as possible before a decision is made» (Public Admin Act § 17) –CWA has more specific rule which can limit the scope of an investigation – «which shall be carried out in such a way as to minimize the harm it causes to anyone affected, and shall not have a wider scope than that justified by its purpose. (CWA § 4-3) 7

8 Two kinds of investigations aimed at help or control –Law gives CWS workers two different types of authority – help and control –Though all investigations are legally based upon CWA § 4-3, informants distinguished between two kinds of investigations: less serious focused on home-based, consensual help to the family (CWA § 4-4), and more serious focused on possible mandatory care order and placement outside the home –Most families receive supportive services from CWS (83 % in 2012), while 17 % were placed in care –Informants reported that the decision about the degree of seriousness of investigation has clear consequences for practice 8

9 Differences in practice with two kinds of investigation TypeExtentUse of assess- ment instrument Use of expert Who decides? Role of parents Less serious (§ 4-4) LimitedSeldom, a few items only Almost never CWS leaderPartners, cooperative More serious (§ 4-12) More thorough Varies between agencies, not whole instrument, checklist More often, usually initiative of CSWB County Social Welfare Board (CSWB) Object of investigation, Less cooperation with parents 9

10 The Role of The Child The Child Welfare Act; § 6-3 states that a child who has reached the age of 7, and younger children who are capable of forming their own opinions, shall receive information and be given an opportunity to state his or her opinion before a decision is made in a case affecting him or her. Importance shall be attached to the opinion of the child in accordance with his or her age and maturity. A child may appear as a party in a case and exercise his or her rights as a party if he or she has reached the age of 15 and understands the subject-matter of the case. Findings:  If and how the CWS involves the child varies between services. Almost all speak with young people > 15 years of age (as legal party).  Communication methods vary considerably. Professional discretion is often used to decide on methods. 10

11 The Role of The Child – continued…..  CWS considers information from the child as important; particularly if the child verifies suspicion and seems credible, and the information appears to be convincing and fits into an overall understanding of the situation.  All information from the child is documented in its journal.  CWS’s feedback to the child varies.  Young people > 15 years of age always receive information in accordance with their rights as a legal party in the case.  Feedback to the younger ones seems to be dependent on the child’s involvement in the case, kind of case, and if a measure directly will affect the child; support person, home therapist, school assistance etc.  Parents are often asked to inform the child. Many of the CWSs in the study say they are not good enough at informing and giving feedback to the child at the end of the investigation, and want to do a better job in this matter. 11

12 Use of Professional Experts The Child Welfare Act § 4-3 states that CWS may engage experts. According to the white paper - NOU 2006:9, it is up to CWS to consider if, when and the professional focus for the expert’s contribution. The County Social Welfare Board can also appoint experts in child welfare cases (SWA § 9-6). Findings:  Use of experts vary among the CWSs, but are seldom used in the investigation process.  Many CWS mean their competence is good enough (social work).  Use of experts is an expensive arrangement.  Experts are used in complex cases that need qualified evaluation of parents competence and functioning, the impact of mental health problems, lack of social interaction and attachment, and in families with severe conflicts.  Experts are also used in cases that will end up as care orders, and in cases that will be tried for the CSWB or County Court.  Experts are always psychologists. 12

13 Variation between CWS agencies in our study –CWS agencies vary in their practice with investigations: –Use of plan for investigation –Comprehensiveness –Information collection (how and from whom) –Use of standardized instruments –Interaction with parents and the child –Use of experts –Reason for dismissal or for intervention –Dismissals without intervention from 20 – 77 % –Over legal time limit from 0 – 78 % 13

14 Reasons for concluding an investigation with no intervention –Reported risk not confirmed; child receiving adequate care –Problem not within CWS mandate, for instance parental conflict involving separation/divorce/child visititation –The family is already receiving help from another agency, or is referred to another agency by CWS; but is this valid reason for dismissal? CWS can retain responsibility for case and evaluation without providing own intervention –CWS concludes that intervention is needed but parents won’t consent and insufficient grounds for mandatory action; CWS can «dismiss with concern» and reopen investigation after 6 months 14

15 Factors contributing to a successful investigation –Most informants emphasized importance of a good cooperative relationship to parents (sometimes to child) –Factors contributing to this were: –openness and honesty on part of CWS workers –good information to parents about CWS and the investigative process –agreement about plan for investigation –good communication/dialogue between CWS and parents –frequent contact with parents during investigation –good contact with parents makes contact with child easier 15

16 Success factors (2) –Timely response from other agencies to CWS information request –Good and complete information about child and family from other agencies –Good plan for investigation –Two CWS workers cooperating on investigation –Competent/experienced CWS workers –Availability of competent interpreters 16

17 Thanks for your attention! 17

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