Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

How are adoptions from care justified?

PUBLIC DEFENCE: Our very own Hege Stein Helland expertly defended her dissertation “Discretion and the Demand for Reasons: Justifications for the Child’s Best Interests in Decisions on Adoption from Care in England and Norway” for the degree of PhD at the University of Bergen, Friday 19 November.

Helland’s dissertation asks: ‘How do legal and professional decision-makers justify the child’s best interest in decisions on adoption from care?

Through a qualitative approach including analysis of court judgements, formal legal decisions, and open-ended responses to a survey vignette, Helland examines this question in four independent articles (see links below). Her findings suggests that the respect for parental liberty and family autonomy clash with demands in child protection work to protect the needs and welfare of children. Moreover, her analysis shows that there are informal patterns of behavior and inconsistencies in best interest justifications in the cases studied. Discretionary decision-making contributed to variance in interpretations of the child’s best interest. Decision-makers also seem to have a poor understanding of children’s identity development and lack sufficient attention to sibling relationships. Lastly, Helland shows that the substantive reasoning of the best interest of the child are unbalanced among Norwegian judges.

The dissertation is available in digital print here.


Article I: Helland, H. S. (2020). Tipping the Scales: The Power of Parental Commitment in Decisions on Adoption from Care. Children and Youth Services Review, 119, 105693. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.105693.

Article II: Helland, H. S. & Nygård, S. H. (2021). Understanding Attachment in Decisions on Adoptions from Care in Norway. In Pösö, T., Skivenes, M. & Thoburn, J. Adoption from Care: International Perspectives on Children’s Rights, Family Preservation and State Intervention (pp. 215-231). Bristol:Policy Press.

Article III: Helland, H. S. (2021). In the Best Interest of the Child? Justifying Decisions on Adoption from Care in the Norwegian Supreme Court. The International Journal of Children’s Rights29(3), 609-639. https://doi.org/10.1163/15718182-29030004.

Article IV: Helland, H. S. (2021). Reasoning between Rules and Discretion: A Comparative Study of the Normative Platform for Best Interest Decision-Making on Adoption in England and NorwayInternational Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, 35(1). https://doi.org/10.1093/lawfam/ebab036.

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