Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

A tale of two cases – investigating reasoning in similar cases with different outcomes

NEW ARTICLE: Why is it that some care order cases result in the child being removed from parental care, while in others, the child is not, despite the cases being similar? This is investigated in the recent article published in the prestigious European Journal of Social Work, by DIPA´s PhD candidate Barbara Ruiken. Findings suggest that the different outcomes and the reasons behind them are a result of discretionary assessments that are interpreted differently and lead to different outcomes.

Child protection systems are set up to make sure that the rights and welfare of children are protected. One of the tools wielded to safeguard children is care orders, namely, placing a child in state care. In such decisions, decision-makers are given the responsibility to find the best possible solution, however, their judgement can lead to unjustified decision irregularity and pressure the legitimacy of the decisions as well as the decision-making system. State mandated decision-makers implement child protection policy and have power over individual citizens’ lives. As such, equal treatment in their decisions is essential for the rule of law. This paper investigates how decision-makers reason and justify different outcomes for similar cases, by an analysis of four pairs of judgments (from Norway, Estonia, and Finland) about care orders. The comparison is within pairs and not across countries. Findings indicate that the different outcomes and the reasons behind them appear to be a result of discretionary evaluations (risk, cooperation of the parents etc.), which are interpreted differently in the cases and lead to different outcomes.

The article is open access and can be found here.

Comments are closed.