Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Child perspective in focus

PUBLICATION: Marit Skivenes argues for children’s right to participate in her contribution to the book “Barnas barnevern”.

A key element of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the the right to participation and respect for the views of the child. Article 12 states that when adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to express their opinion and to have their opinions taken into account in accordance with their age and maturity.

This critical right is discussed in the chapter “Barneperspektiv i fokus” (“Child Perspective in Focus”)  by professor Marit Skivenes. The chapter introduces the new book Barnas Barnevern (“Children’s Child Protection Services”), published by Universitetsforlaget. The book is initiated and edited by Forandringsfabrikken – The Change Factory through their Child Protection Pro’s-project.

This is an expert-by-experience project where children and young people share their experiences and advice to improve the child protection system. The main authors of the book are seven Child Protection Pro’s and seven managers from the Norwegian Child Protection Services.

Five reasons for participation

In the chapter, Skivenes presents five reasons why children should participate and be involved in their own child protection cases.

  1. It is a moral commitment to involve the individual in matters that concern them.
  2. Questions about what is in the best interest of a child can only be decided when the child is involved. Individuals should themselves be authors of their own lives.
  3. The quality of the decisions becomes better by involving the child, because the child has unique access to information about himself and his own wishes and values. The child has first-hand experience of what has happened to them and how this feels.
  4. The involvement of children means that children can learn and gain an understanding of the situation, from themselves and their surroundings.
  5. By involving the child, better adapted measures can be achieved, thus improving the implementation of decisions and measures.

Still a way to go in Norway

Marit Skivenes is pleased to have contributed to the book, which will be used in the education of new child protection workers.

– The Change Factory and the Child Protection Pro’s have been a” tipping point” for the Norwegian discussion on children’s rights. This group of children and young adults, who are experts through their experiences, have entered into a dialogue with professionals and politicians, and made them aware of what it means to work in a child-centered way.

Skivenes points out that we still have a way to go in Norway with regard to children’s status and rights.

– Those who work in the child protection system need to view children as competent individuals with rights. At the same time, there is also a need for societal and cultural change, so that all adults acknowledge that children are individuals and moral subjects.

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