The AssessmentProcess in Norwegian Child Protection Jim Lurie Torill Tjelflaat EUSARF 2014 Making a Difference
Aimofthe Presentation • Describehowchildprotectionworkers in Norway workwithassessmentsofchildrenreported to be at risk • Describe key aspectsoftheinvestigative and decision-making processincluding: • Legal basis for an investigation • How comprehensiveareinvestigations? • Different types ofinvestigations • Roleofthechild in theinvestigation • Useofprofessional experts • Reasons for dismissing an investigationwithoutintervention • Factorscontributing to success and failureofinvestigations
Data Collection/Research Design • Exploratory research design • Comparisonofviewsofchildprotectionworkers and countysupervisors/inspectors • Semi–structuredqualitativeinterviews • Informants: • Leaders/staff from 18 municipalchildprotectionagencies; including 7 single municipalagencies, 7 inter-municipalagencies, and 4 district agencies • Supervisors/inspectors from 3 countylevelchildprotectionauthorities in central Norway
Statistics on dismissalsof risk reports and investigations • Reports, investigations & interventions • Child welfare services (CWS) received over 49,000 reports ofchildren at risk in 2012, 20 % ofthesedismissedwithoutinvestigation • CWS carriedout 37,000 investigations in 2012, 53 % ofthesedismissedwithoutintervention • Takentogetheronly 38 % of cases reportingchildren at risk resulted in an intervention in 2012 (less than 19,000 interventions)
Penalties for usingtoomuch time, but not for poorqualitywork • CWA (§ 6-9) sets time limits for reviewing a risk report (1 week) and for completionof an investigation (normally 3 months), thecountygovernorcanimpose fines on agencies not meetingthese deadlines • 2 % of risk reports, and 14 % ofinvestigationsdid not meet deadlines in 2012 • CWA imposesnopenalties for poorqualitychildprotectionwork in thesetwo areas, thiscanresult in agenciesprioritizingtimeliness at expenseof more thoroughinvestigations
Legal framework: Whenshould CWS investigate a report ofconcern? • CWS shallinvestigate reports ofconcern «if there is reasonablecause to assumethatcircumstancesobtainwhichmayprovide a basis for measurespursuant to thischapter» (§ 4-3) • Lowestthreshold for intervention is for voluntaryhome-based family support (§ 4-4) – «whenthechilddue to conditions at home, or for otherreasons is in particularneedofassistance» • CWS shallalsoinvestigate more seriousconcernsinvolvingpossiblemistreatment, seriousneglect, or a childwith persistent, seriousbehavioral problems; suchinvestigationsmayresult in a care order (§ 4-12), or compulsoryplacement in a residential care facility (§4-24)
How comprehensiveshould an investigation be? • Norwegian law has 2 standards for comprehesivenesswhichcanconflictwitheachother • General rule for all public decision making is «to ensurethat a case is illuminated as well as possiblebefore a decision is made» (Public AdminAct § 17) • CWA has more specificrulewhichcan limit thescopeof an investigation– «whichshallbe carriedout in such a way as to minimizethe harm it causes to anyoneaffected, and shallnot have a widerscopethanthatjustified by its purpose. (CWA § 4-3)
Twokindsofinvestigationsaimed at help or control • Law gives CWS workerstwo different types ofauthority – help and control • Though all investigationsarelegallybasedupon CWA § 4-3, informants distinguishedbetweentwokindsofinvestigations: less seriousfocused on home-based, consensualhelp to thefamily (CWA § 4-4), and more seriousfocused on possiblemandatory care order and placementoutsidethehome • Most families receivesupportive services from CWS (83 % in 2012), while 17 % wereplaced in care • Informants reportedthatthedecisionaboutthedegreeofseriousnessofinvestigation has clear consequences for practice
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.
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.
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.
Variationbetween CWS agencies in ourstudy • CWS agencies vary in theirpracticewithinvestigations: • Useof plan for investigation • Comprehensiveness • Information collection (how and from whom) • Useofstandardized instruments • Interactionwithparents and thechild • Useof experts • Reason for dismissal or for intervention • Dismissalswithoutintervention from 20 – 77 % • Over legal time limit from 0 – 78 %
Reasons for concluding an investigationwithnointervention • Reported risk not confirmed; childreceivingadequate care • Problem not within CWS mandate, for instance parental conflictinvolvingseparation/divorce/childvisititation • The family is alreadyreceivinghelp from anotheragency, or is referred to anotheragency by CWS; but is this valid reason for dismissal? CWS canretainresponsibility for case and evaluationwithout providing ownintervention • CWS concludesthatintervention is neededbutparentswon’tconsentand insufficientgrounds for mandatory action; CWS can «dismisswithconcern» and reopeninvestigationafter6 months
Factorscontributing to a successfulinvestigation • Most informants emphasizedimportanceof a goodcooperativerelationship to parents (sometimes to child) • Factorscontributing to thiswere: • openness and honesty on part of CWS workers • goodinformation to parentsabout CWS and theinvestigativeprocess • agreementabout plan for investigation • goodcommunication/dialoguebetween CWS and parents • frequentcontactwithparents during investigation • goodcontactwithparents makes contactwithchildeasier
Successfactors (2) • Timelyresponse from otheragencies to CWS informationrequest • Good and completeinformationaboutchild and family from otheragencies • Good plan for investigation • TwoCWS workerscooperating on investigation • Competent/experienced CWS workers • Availabilityofcompetent interpreters