Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Errors and Mistakes in Child Protection

NEW CHAPTER: Skivenes & Tefre examine the structures for detecting and communicating errors and mistakes in the Norwegian child protection system.

‘Norwegian child protection’ has become infamous around the world, and the local word for child protection – “barnevern” – is said to be the most commonly known Norwegian word.  The system has received criticism from the foreign mass media and religious organisations, as well as domestically from various professional groups or concerned parties.

In a new book chapter, Marit Skivenes & Øyvind Tefre address the ongoing debate by examining how the Norwegian child protection system works in terms of detecting errors and mistakes. The chapter is published in the book Errors and Mistakes in Child Protection, edited by Biesel, Masson, Parton and Pösö.

Three types of errors

The authors identify three main types of errors that are consistently repeated over time:

  1. The lack of involvement of children as well as not treating children in a manner that allows them to freely express their views.
  2. The repeated criticism of child protection agencies for their failure to follow procedures and to provide sufficient documentation in casework.
  3. Both state and municipal agencies have poor internal control and leadership, fail to address known errors, and are slow to establish or follow necessary routines.

Incremental approach

Skivenes & Tefre claim that the Norwegian child protection system is not driven by incidents and crisis, and that the errors and mistakes identified have not created pressure for immediate reforms.

– It appears that Norwegian developments focused more on a critique of the system than on individual errors and mistakes. We also question the value of learning provided by the system of audits when the same errors are repeatedly identified. This may be the reason why some long-standing issues, for example, children’s participation, remain unaddressed, write Skivenes & Tefre

The authors conclude that Norway has had an incremental approach to child protection in the past 20 years, characterized by gradual development and amendments to the Child Welfare Act.

Skivenes, M. and Tefre, Ø. (2020) “Errors and mistakes in the Norwegian child protection system”. In K Biesel, J Masson, N Parton and T Pösö (Eds.) Errors and Mistakes in Child Protection. International Discourses, Approaches and Strategies. Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press.


Comments are closed.