Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Competence in Child Protection Cases

NEW ARTICLE: Comparison of the judicial child protection procedures in Germany with other European countries.

Senior research fellow Jenny Krutzinna, together with Thomas Meysen, have recently published an article in the German journal “Forum Familienrecht” (Family Law Forum).

The high profile Staufen child abuse case triggered a public debate about judicial and professional competence in child protection cases. The authors use the case as a starting point to compare judicial child protection procedures in Germany with those in other European countries.

– Regardless of the respective structure, all countries have deficits both in training judges and in hearing children directly. Researchers in the various countries particularly emphasize the need for better training and further education for all professional groups involved in child protection cases, Krutzinna explains.

Mismatch between values and practice

In Germany, the understanding of special competence as crucial in child protection is considerably watered down in professional practice. Scarce resources, lack of advanced training courses for judges, which remain rare and are voluntary, and other organisational interests all contribute to this. This has led to demands for a quality push in child protection.

– The need for change goes beyond improving qualifications. Reflection and learning from past cases do not take place systematically, control routines are missing and the lack of systematic data collection further impedes quality improvements, states Krutzinna.

Need for constructive system critique

The authors argue that on top of improving qualifications and setting qualification standards for professionals working in all areas of child protection, there is a desperate need for mechanisms for constructive criticism of the system.

– To avert the constant threat to the child protection system through the media or political staging which risks devaluing the entire system, critical analysis and continuous quality improvement should become standard in the national, regional and local interdisciplinary child protection activities.

The European comparison shows that child protection procedures can be improved based on knowledge gained through system critique, provide that the actors involved are open and willing to question and change or abandon familiar procedures and organisational structures to improve the system overall.

Full reference:

  • Meysen, Thomas & Jenny Krutzinna (2020). “Familiengerichtlicher Kinderschutz in Deutschland”. Forum Familienrecht: 1/2020.


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