Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Literature update #2 2018

LITERATURE OVERVIEW: See our list of articles of interest from April/May.


Journal of Social Work Practice is out with a new special issue on Professional judgement and decision-making in social work. Decision-making within child protection is a key issue in some of the eight articles in this issue. It also covers a range of countries and can be of relevance for practitioners, managers, researcher and policy-makers.

Our kids: Unaccompanied minors and the question of care. Rodriguez and co-authors argues in their article that unaccompanied minors is urgently in need of our attention as child and youth care workers and scholars.

What Is Neglect? State Legal Definitions in the United States’. Author R. Rebbe, Phd Candidate in Social Welfare at the University of Washington, discusses the definition of Neglect in the United States.

The listen to me project: Creating lasting changes in voice and participation for children in care through a youth-led project. Damiani-Taraba and co-author presents their results form a youth-led project on the voices and participation of children in stata care in Canada.

Rapid Sense Making: A Feasible, Efficient Approach for Analysing Large Data Sets of Open-Ended Comments. Working with survey data with over half a million free text comments, Etz and co-author contributes with the development of feasible and efficient method to analyse big free text data.

How articles are selected

  • A full list of articles are collected based on TOC alerts from journals by the publishers; Taylor & Francis Online, SAGE Journals, Science Direct, Brill Publisher and Idunn.
  • The short list is selected based on an assessment of the articles theoretical, methodological and/or empirical relevance to the projects at the Centre.
  • Please note that the list of articles is not based on a qualitative assessment of the articles scientific contributions or level.

ILLUSTRATION: Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism / MGalloway, Wikimedia Commons

List of new publications

Child Maltreatment

Children & Youth Services

International Journal of Qualitative Methods

Journal of Social Work Practice, 
Vol 23, issue 2: Professional judgement and decision-making in social work

International Journal of Children’s Rights

American Politics Research

British Journal of Politics and International Relations

Scandinavian Journal of Public Health

Children and Youth Services Review

Journal of Public Child Welfare

The American Statistician

Child & Family Social Work

Tidsskrift for Samfunnsforskning

Journal of Social Work Practice

European Journal of Social Work

Adoption Quarterly

Journal of Child Custody

American Behavioral Scientist

References and abstracts

Rebbe, R. (2018) What is Neglect? State legal definition in the United States. Child Maltreatment, 1-3

Neglect is the most common form of reported child maltreatment in the United States with 75.3% of confirmed child maltreatment victims in 2015 neglected. Despite constituting the majority of reported child maltreatment cases and victims, neglect still lacks a standard definition. In the United States, congruent with the pervasiveness of law in child welfare systems, every state and the District of Columbia has its own statutory definition of neglect. This study used content analysis to compare state legal statutory definitions with the Fourth National Incidence Survey (NIS-4) operationalization of neglect. The resulting data set was then analyzed using cluster analysis, resulting in the identification of three distinct groups of states based on how they define neglect: minimal, cornerstones, and expanded. The states’ definitions incorporate few of the NIS-4 components. Practice and policy implications of these constructions of neglect definitions are discussed.


Damiani-Taraba, G., Sky, I., Hegler, D., Woolridge, N. Anderson, B. & Koster, A. (2018) The listen to me project: Creating lasting changes in voice and participation for children in care through a youth-led project. Children & Youth Services.

In this article, we present the results from a youth-led project on the voices and participation of children in state care in Ontario, Canada. The purpose of this project was for youth to share their voice about what they wish child protection workers and agencies could do to improve their experiences within the child protection system. Many youth in care in Canada and internationally report that their voices are not heard and that they are not involved in decisions involving their care. Seven themes were extracted from this voices of youth project asking child welfare workers and agencies to listen to [them] and believe [them], keep [them] informed and be honest, involve [them] in decisions, support [them], keep [them] connected,; ignite [their] passions, and don’t give up on [them]. Suggestions from the youth involved in this project are offered on ways to create true and meaningful change in child welfare.


Rodriguez, D. X. (2018) Our kids: Unaccompanied minors and the question of care. Children & Youth Services.

The question of care and what it means both conceptually and practically in the designated arena of child and youth care is a vexing one in the 21st century. Without a doubt, there are increasing numbers of young people who are either demonstrably in need of care or perceive themselves to be either lacking adequate care or simply existing outside those social spaces where care is available. Perhapsthere is no better exemplar of the contested set of relations that is contemporary childhood than those young people traversing national borders. Some of these young people travel with family members, but an ever-increasing number travel unaccompanied by parents or any other form of adult relation. Of these, a group particularly at risk are those without legal documentation. We would argue that this group of young people is urgently in need of our attention as child and youth care workers and scholars.


Yakhnich, L., Grupper, E. & Romi, S. (2018) Focused training of child and youth-care workers for promoting social and educational inclusion of youth at risk. Child & Youth Services

Engaging marginalized youngsters in the mainstream society poses a great challenge for child and youth-care (CYC) workers. Workers’ ability to promote significant inclusion of these adolescents is largely shaped in process of their professional education. Most academic programs for CYC workers define the profession too broadly, and this lack of specification, reflecting the scope and complexity of the field, could have a negative impact on the inclusion-aimed process of professionalization. This opinion note aims at opening a discussion about a new, inclusion-focused perspective on higher professional education of CYC workers. This discussion could suggest a refinement of CYC curricula to reflect specific characteristics of the target populations as well as consider some core concepts of the field of child and youth care.


Etz, R. S., Gonzalez, M. M., Eden, A. R. & Winship, J. (2018) Rapid Sende Making: A Feaseble Efficient Approch for Analyzing Large Data Sets of Open-Ended Comments. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 17, 1-10.

This article shares the problem-solving process and resultant rapid sensemaking methodology created by an interdisciplinary research team faced with qualitative “big data.” Confronted with a data set of over half a million free text comments, within an existing data set of 320,500 surveys, our team developed a process to structure the naturally occurring variability within the data, to identify and isolate meaningful analytic units, and to group subsets of our data amenable to automated coding using a template-based process. This allowed a significant portion of the data to be rapidly assessed while still preserving the ability to explore the more complex free text comments with a grounded theory informed emergent process. In this discussion, we focus on strategies useful to other teams interested in fielding open-ended questions as part of large survey efforts and incorporating those findings as part of an integrated analysis.


Falconer, R. & Shardlow, S. M. (2018) Comparing child protection decision-making in England and Finland: supervised or supported judgement? Journal of Social Work Practice, 23(2), 189-203.

Systems for the protection of children have evolved differently across nation states. Studies have identified contrasting system ‘orientations’, related to how child protection problems are framed and how organisations respond in different contexts. In this study, the influence of national and organisational factors on practice-level decision reasoning by social workers has been compared. Interviews were conducted with 30 child protection social workers in sites across England and Finland, structured around two hypothetical case vignettes. While similarities were observed in how the social workers responded to the vignettes, there were differences in the nature and extent of managerial involvement described, with the English social workers appearing to rely on managerial input for decision-making to a greater extent than the Finnish social workers. These findings suggest evidence for two distinct organisational approaches to decision-making: ‘supervised’ and ‘supported’ judgement. Here, supervised judgement describes a hierarchical, ‘top-down’ form of decision-making, while supported judgement describes a more horizontal and shared decision-making approach. The lens of comparative methodology has revealed how these organisational factors come into play in different child protection systems. The practice implications of supervised, manager-led approaches to decision-making, as contrasted with supported, team-led approaches, are discussed.


Mosteiro, A. Beloki, U., Sobremonte, E. & Roderiguez, A. (2018) Dimensions for argument and variability in child protection decision-making. Journal of Social Work Practice, 23(2), 169-187.

The purpose of this article is to analyse the arguments presented by 181 professionals in the child protection system of the Basque Country (Spain) to justify their decisions regarding the implementation of measures related to family preservation or separation. The implementation of a case vignette demonstrated variability in professional decision-making, with 62% of professionals choosing family preservation and 38% opting for family separation. A series of argument categories which can be used by most professionals when making decisions are extracted from analysis of the content. However, in spite of using similar types of arguments, the professionals differed in the importance they attributed to such criteria and their interpretations. Differences in decision thresholds were directly related to professionals’ beliefs regarding the benefits of the interventions analysed. To reduce this variability, reflecting on these beliefs and analysing the effectiveness of interventions in child protection to incorporate evidence of professional judgement are recommended. The present study, on the one hand, identifies the argument categories used to justify decisions and, on the other, analyses the existing variability when interpreting these categories.


Nhlamganiso, N. (2018) Child protection decision-making: social workers’ perceptions. Journal of Social Work Practice, 23(2), 189-203

Deciscon-making is located at the heart of social work as a core professional activity, because much of what social workers do concerns decisions about future courses of action. Drawing on elements of the learning together systems model and Falkov’s Systemic Family Model, this study investigated social workers’ perceptions regarding how child protection decisions are made. Evidence was drawn from a constructivist–-interpretivist qualitative research design, involving 16 semi-structured interviews with qualified and experienced social workers and 20 direct, non-participant observations of child protection meetings. Evidence from the study suggests that professionals and family members do not rely entirely on the guidance on the threshold criterion of the likelihood and significance of risk of harm when making decisions. Instead, they use discretionary intuition and analytical judgement, involving multidimensional criteria which includes consensus between professionals and with family members; individual professional’s state of mind; other agencies and professionals’ priorities as well as external factors such as the availability of resources. Conclusion can be drawn that existing guidance on decision-making is inadequate, hence the discretionary use of a combination of intuitive heuristics and analytical thinking in a complementary manner. This study, therefore, contributes to considerable conceptual clarity regarding the complex child protection decision-making process.


Berrick, J. D. Dickens, J., Pösö, T. 6 Skivenes, M. (2018) International Perspectives on Child-responsive Courts. International Journal of Children’s Rights

Child friendly justice and access to justice for children are explicit concerns for the European Union, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Council of Europe and the Child Rights International Network. This study examines court systems as child-responsive by eliciting the views of judicial decision makers on child protection cases (n = 1,479) in four legal systems (England, Finland, Norway and the usa (represented by California)), based on an online survey. In this paper, we asked judicial officials who have the authority to make care order decisions how they view the childfriendliness of the courts. We presented them with six statements representing standard features of child responsive courts. Findings show that there is considerable room for improving both structure and practice of the court proceedings, for example the use of child friendly language and child-sensitive time frames. There were variations across states, and some variation across type of decision maker. Implications for the development of education and training about the opportunities for children’s engagement are considered.


Gleason, S. A., Jones, J. J. & McBean, J. R. (2018) The Role of Gender Norms in Judical decisoin-Making at the U-S Supreme Court: The Case of Male and Female Justice. American Politics Research, 1-36.

Although still a minority, the growing number of women on both the Bench and at the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court has important implications for judicial decision-making and successful advocacy at the Court. Research in judicial behavior generally focuses on vote direction and the presence of female attorneys in a case. We offer a more nuanced account of how gender impacts both attorney success and judicial decision-making by drawing on work in social and political psychology and utilizing quantitative textual analysis to explore the tension between masculine norms of behavior that are valued in the legal profession and feminine norms of behavior that are expected of women, but devalued in the legal profession. Based on the Court’s long-standing disdain for emotional arguments, we examine how the emotional content in 601 party briefs shapes the Court’s majority opinions. Our results indicate that male justices evaluate counsel based on their compliance with traditional gender norms—rewarding male counsel for cool, unemotional arguments and rewarding female counsel for emotionally compelling arguments. However, we find no evidence that gender norms shape the opinions of female justices. Given that the justice system is supposed to be “blind,” our results highlight the durability of gendered expectations and raise questions about the objectivity of judicial decision-making.


Oser, J. & Hooghe, M. (2018) Democratic ideals and levels of political participation: The role of political and social conceptualisation of democracy. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 1-20.

Concerns about democratic legitimacy in contemporary democracies bring new urgency to understanding how citizens’ attitudes and ideals affect their political activity. In this article, we analyse the relationship between citizens’ democratic ideals and political behaviour in the European Social Survey’s 2012 uniquely extensive questions on these topics in 29 countries. Using latent class analysis, we identify two groups of citizens who emphasise different citizenship concepts as discussed by T.H. Marshall, namely, a political rights and a social rights conception. The multilevel regression analyses indicate that those who emphasise social rights have relatively high levels of non-institutionalised political participation, but are less involved in institutionalised participation. In contrast, those who emphasise political rights are more active in all forms of participation. We conclude by discussing the implications of the findings that, even in an era of economic austerity, those who emphasise social rights are not the most politically active.


Bergström, M., Fransson, E., Wells, M. B., Köhler, L. & Hjern, A. (2018) Children with two homes: Psychological problems in relation to living arrangments in Nordic 2- to 9-year-olds. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 1-9.

Aim: Joint physical custody, children spending equal time in each parents’ respective home after a parental divorce, is particularly common in Nordic compared with other Western countries. Older children have been shown to fare well in this practice but for young children there are few existing studies. The aim of this paper is to study psychological problems in 2- to 9-year-old Nordic children in different family forms. Methods: Total symptom score according to the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire as well as scores showing externalizing problems were compared among 152 children in joint physical custody, 303 in single care and 3207 in nuclear families through multiple linear regression analyses. Results: Children in single care had more psychological symptoms than those in joint physical custody (B = 1.08; 95% CI 0.48 to 1.67) and those in nuclear families had the least reported symptoms (B = −0.53; 95% CI −0.89 to −0.17). Externalizing problems were also lower in nuclear families (B = −0.28, 95% CI −0.52 to −0.04) compared with joint physical custody after adjusting for covariates. Conclusions: Young children with non-cohabiting parents suffered from more psychological problems than those in intact families. Children in joint physical custody had a lower total problem score than those in single care after adjusting for covariates. Longitudinal studies with information on family factors before the separation are needed to inform policy of young children’s post-separation living arrangements.


Lindahl, R. & Bruhn, A. (2018) Professional dilemmas and occupational constraints in child welfare workers’ relationship with children and youth in foster care. Children and Youth Service Review, 88, 333-340.

At the same time as the number of child and youth placements in foster care is increasing in Sweden, some serious deficiencies have been highlighted, such as instability in placements and shortcomings in the social services’ monitoring. Because the child welfare workers are ultimately responsible for these children’s situation, understanding how they handle their multi-dimensional occupational role is crucial. The aim of this article is to study child welfare workers’ individual and collective experiences of and expectations about their occupational role and responsibilities in their administrative and relational work with children and youth in foster care. Individual interviews with child welfare workers from a previous evaluation of a national pilot project, and two focus groups with child welfare workers, constitute the empirical basis. Theoretically the article explores central concepts such as sub-roles, dilemmas, professionalism, and functional specificity. The results show that the child welfare workers are burdened by a heavy workload, but that the prerequisites and the obstacles they face also must be understood in relation to prevailing contradictions and dilemmas in their occupational role. Even though the child welfare workers stress that professionalism is about putting relational work first, their activity is dominated by administrative tasks and functional specificity.


Portwood, S. G., Boyd, S. A., Nelson, E. B., Murdock, T. B., Hamilton, J. & Miller, A. D. (2018) A comparison of outcomes for children and youth in foster and residential group care across agencies. Children and Youth Service Review, 85, 19-25.

Working collaboratively with two state associations and their member (nonprofit) agencies providing out-of-home care to children and youth, University researchers conducted a multi-site project to examine whether there were any differences in individual child-level outcomes between children placed in residential group care and those placed in foster. The study employed a quasi-experimental repeated measures design, with data collected at a minimum of two intervals (at intake and 3-month follow-up) and at subsequent intervals of 6 and 12 months for children remaining in care. Samples for analyses were drawn from 1082 youth in either residential group care (n = 903) or foster care (n = 179), in one of 37 agency sites across two southeastern states, who participated in a broader evaluation project. The average ages of participating youth in residential and foster care were 13.97 (SD = 2.43) and 13.65 (SD = 2.73), respectively. Based on his or her score on the Children’s Global Assessment Scale (CGAS) at intake, each participant was also assigned to the low functioning group (n = 526; 53.1%), the borderline group (n = 232; 23.4%), or the high functioning group (n = 232; 23.4%). Analyses confirmed that youth in foster care tended to have higher levels of general functioning at baseline than did youth placed in group care. However, the degree to which youth progressed in care on measures of general functioning and mental and behavioral health problems did not differ based on placement setting; youth in residential group care settings progressed at the same rate as youth in community-based settings, regardless of their level of functioning at intake. The only exception to this pattern was in regard to anxiety; there was an observable, but non-significant trend of youth in foster care reporting decreases in anxiety levels, while those in group care reported increased anxiety.


Pryce, J., Lee, W., Crowe, E., Park, D., McCarthy, M. & Owens, G. A case study in public child welfare: county-level practices that address racial disparity in foster care placement. Journal of Public Child Welfare

Racial disproportionality has been a longstanding issue within child welfare. The continued overrepresentation of black children in the foster care system is troubling. The authors of this article conducted a case study of two counties in New York State that have steadily decreased the number of black children in foster care in an effort to identify what aspects of their child welfare practice impacted the decline. The case study employed document analysis, in-depth interviews, and focus groups with child removal decision makers. Utilizing a grounded theory approach to content organization and analysis, several themes emerged as noticeable factors. Some of the most salient themes included preventive services and resources, community collaborations, case practice development, family meetings, workforce diversity, the court system, and, the most unique, blind removal meetings. The themes found in this study present promising practices to assist in decreasing the racial disparity in child welfare removal decisions.


Steen, J. A & Burg, M. A. (2018) Parental attitudes following exposure to child abuse prevention campaign materials: a randomized trail. Journal of Public Child Welfare.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate child abuse prevention campaign materials. Using a randomized posttest design, 600 parents from an online research panel were recruited and surveyed. Multiple regression results indicate that exposure to the campaign materials had a significant relationship with four of the five domains (effects of child maltreatment, the appropriateness of harsh parenting, the physical dangers and needs unique to childhood, and the power to prevent child maltreatment). These results have implications for the child abuse prevention practitioners who seek to design and distribute effective campaign materials.


DerryBerry, D., Aho, K., Edwards, J. & Peterson, T. (2018) Model selection and regression t-statistics. The American Statistician.

It is shown that dropping quantitative variables from a linear regression, based on t-statistics, is mathematically equivalent to dropping variables based on commonly used information criteria.


Brown, T., Winter, K. & Carr, N. (2018) Residential child care workers: Relationship based practice in a culture of fear. Child & Family Social Work.

In a contemporary context dominated by reports of the historical institutional abuse of children and young people in residential children’s homes, and where the voice of workers is largely absent, this study explores the views and experiences of 26 workers in the Republic of Ireland regarding relationship‐based practice. Using an exploratory, qualitative approach and informed by ‘appreciative inquiry’; semi‐structured interviews were undertaken with 26 residential care workers. The findings highlight that relationship‐based practice has not been fully understood and/or embraced in practice because of a culture of fear that has permeated the Irish residential childcare system. Using theoretical concepts associated with the sociology of fear, the paper explores their effects on practice and argues that these are amplified given the current low status of residential care workers, the impact of media reports and the influence of current discourses around professional practice in which ‘objective’ and ‘emotionally detached’ practice is viewed as synonymous with efficiency and effectiveness. The paper ends by considering implications for professional practice in residential childcare settings.


Bulling, I. S. & Berg, b. (2018) “It’s our children!” Exploring intersectorial collaboration in family centres. Child & Family Social Work.

Services providing support for children and families are often described as fragmented and more concerned with the boundaries of their fields of responsibility than collaborating with other sectors. To meet the need for greater collaboration, there is increased impetus for establishing interdisciplinary services, such as family centres. This paper presents the results of a qualitative study based on in‐depth interviews and participant observation in 3 Norwegian family centres. The findings provide insight into central challenges in developing new practices within the field of family support; we discuss how intersectorial collaboration is constructed in relation to the core objectives of the family centre, professional competence, and service stability. This study demonstrates that both managers and professionals struggle with prioritizing intersectorial work, which mainly focuses on prevention and health promotion, over and above their traditional sectoral responsibilities. It also illustrates the necessity of articulating intersectorial collaboration as an explicit aim and exploring its implications and examining how this contributes to family centres building supportive communities. Building integrated services is not the ultimate goal of this particular form of service provision but rather the first step towards building interconnected support systems for all children in the community.


Colvin, L. M. & Miller, S. (2018) Serving clients and the community better: A mixed-methods analysis of benefits experienced when organizations collaborates in child welfare

Data from extensive qualitative interviews (n = 67) and a survey instrument (n = 80) are used in this study to examine the perceived benefits experienced when organizations interact in community‐wide child welfare practice. Three prominent findings are organized into an evidence‐informed model detailing the benefits of collaboration whereby, (a) relationships between organizations were perceived to improve client and community services, (b) network‐level benefits were newly identified and distinguished separately, and (c) the benefits at the organizational level in a child welfare context were clarified. Fifteen overall benefits emerged, and findings have numerous implications, such as demonstrating a flaw in using any single measure of network performance. A model is presented to organize the results of this study, and findings are discussed for their relevance to policy, practice, and theory development, with particular emphasis on future directions for examining the complex interorganizational interactions in child welfare practice.


Rysset, M. (2018) Barn og Migrasjon. Mobilitet og tilhørighet. [Book review]. Tidsskrift for Samfunnsforskning, 59(02), 218-221.

Norge har, som resten av Europa, opplevd økt innvandring de siste to år, med en foreløpig topp i 2015. Den såkalte «flyktningkrisen» har satt migranter på den norske politiske dagsordenen i større grad enn før. Det norske politiske landskapet og med det også norsk media, har derfor vært fylt av innlegg og saker om hvordan Norge skal forholde seg til og behandle barn som migrerer enten alene eller sammen med familien. Media har blant annet skrevet om retur av barnefamilier og enslige asylsøkere til land som fortsatt er krigsherjet og utrygge, og om enslige mindreårige asylsøkere som forsvinner fra asylmottak etter avslag eller lang ventetid. Feltet er komplisert og meningene mange. Det er derfor betimelig at det nå er kommet en bok som gir oss grundig og saklig bakgrunnsinformasjon.


O’Sullivan N. (2018) Creating space to think and feel in child protection social work; a psychodynamic intervention, Journal of Social Work Practice.

Professionals working with families in difficulty require a structured space to consider their work. As organisations and the systems within and across them become more sophisticated it seems that less attention is being paid to the emotional and psychological aspects of working with families than to the paperwork and processes that surround the work. Systems psychodynamic theory and the methodical reflective practices it underpins offers a suitable framework in which to consider practicing and researching in this emotionally complex field. This paper describes one aspect of a small doctoral study designed to provide a sustained reflective space (Work Discussion Group) to Irish child protection social workers in order to closely explore the reality of their practice experience. This paper explores one worker’s experience of bringing a written account of her work with a family to the WDG. Findings suggest that her work was undertaken in a climate concerned with efficiency, certainty and the reduction of risk. This climate evoked anxiety and reduced opportunities for reflective and considered practice. The work discussion group provided containment for this worker’s anxiety and allowed her to make sense of this anxiety and its accompanying defences and to move closer to working with this family.


Valset, K. (2018) Investigating the link between school performance, aftercare and educational outcome among youth ageing out of foster care: a Norwegian nationwide longitudinal cohort study, Nordic Social Work Research

Prior research on public interventions targeting youth ageing out of public care (‘aftercare’) and related educational outcome is scarce. The ones that exist indicate that youth receiving aftercare increase their chances of accomplishing higher education and thereby lower risk of social exclusion in later adult life. Yet, little is known about the characteristics of those who receive aftercare measures compared to the ones that enter adulthood without the same support. By using Norwegian nationwide longitudinal administrative data of the total population born 1986–1990 placed in long term foster care, this article provides empirical insight on how foster youths’ resources as reflected by school performance at age 16 is related to the chances of receiving aftercare. Furthermore, it explores to what extent such a selection might mediate the relationship between aftercare service and completion of upper secondary school at age 21. The results show that medium and to some extent high-achievers are more prone to receive aftercare measures from the child welfare system. However, this selection does not explain the positive educational effects of aftercare. Staying in foster care beyond the age of 18 has a strong positive effect on completion of upper secondary school which is not altered when taking selection into account.


Sainsbury, D. (2018) Policy constructions, immigrants’ social rights and gender: The case of Swedish childcare policies.  Journal of European Social Policy, 1-15.

This article explores how policy constructions shape policy outcomes for immigrant women and men, focusing on two Swedish childcare policies: (1) parental leave and (2) childcare services. It sheds light on the dynamics between policy constructions and (1) the gender differentiation in immigrants’ social entitlements, (2) the gender differentiation in social entitlements of the Swedish-born population and (3) differences and similarities between the two. Among the major findings is that the universal construction of childcare services and parental insurance promotes parity in immigrant and Swedish-born parents’ utilization. Immigrant families have high enrolment rates in childcare programmes and their rates approach or equal those of non-immigrant families. In the case of parental benefits, over 40 percent of immigrant mothers would be ineligible without the universal construction, and a huge immigrant/ethnic divide in entitlement would exist. Second, a gender differentiation characterizes the claiming of parental benefits, and the differentiation is sharper for immigrant parents. Third, the ethnicity benefit differential is much wider for mothers’ parental leave benefits than for fathers’ benefits. Fourth, despite universal policy constructions, immigrants’ weaker attachment to the labour market affects their social rights, and the effect is greater for immigrant women.


Jensen, N. R. (2018) Child welfare systems and migrant children: a cross country study of policies and practice. [Book Review]  European Journal of Social Work.

The political discourse on migration and immigration is supposed to be about migrants and immigrants. Obviously, it is not – as the target group is the national electorate rather than the refugees and asylum seekers. In particular, a number of European countries aim at ‘tightening’ access to their ‘Holy Land’. Once upon a time, we were convinced that either the labour market or the comprehensive school would do the integration of newcomers whether immigrants or asylum seekers. This does not seem to work sufficiently anymore. The national reports state a number of serious challenges as regards child welfare. No country has found the philosopher’s stone, though some of the compared nations have a long tradition of receiving immigrants, like the former colonial empires (the Netherlands and UK for instance). In spite of a growing awareness of the need for exchanging experiences, few improvements have been made so far. This may be explained as a sort of vicious circle that has emerged. Broad segments of the population feel threatened by the never ending processes of immigration and migration. Globalisation, civil wars, climate disasters, etc., have been perceived as ‘something out there’ which we ‘in here’ have to protect ourselves against due to the perception that ‘the boat is full’. Politicians have made a number of quick fixes or even phony solutions, which had to do more with symbols than with realities. Both the tones and overtones of those messages are promoting a hostile climate of reception in the new destination countries and communities.


Skotte, P. S. (2018) On caseworkers’ writing in child welfare − when less is more. European Journal of Social Work

This article describes the fragmentary and sometimes incoherent way caseworkers record cases in child welfare work. While recording practices are often criticised and the relevance of the case records, for both the child welfare services and their clients, may be questioned, the analysis in this article argues that caseworkers record for immediate and anticipated purposes of accounting for correct professional practice. Through brief and indicative writing styles, seemingly incomplete records are adequate to document the fulfilling of legal requirement and legitimate professional assessments and actions. Furthermore, the analysis suggests that purposeful vagueness allows for future reinterpretations of cases, giving leeway to act in unanticipated future situations. The article is based on a contextual analysis of 13 case records from two Norwegian child welfare frontline offices. The analysis is illustrated with examples from one of the cases, which include ethnographic material gathered during the one-year trajectory of casework.


Walsh, J., White, S., Morris, K. & Doherty, Paula. (2018) How do you solve a problem like Maria? Family complexity and institutional complications in UK social work European Journal of Social Work.

This paper draws on UK data from an international, comparative project involving eight countries. The study examined how social workers’ conceptions and definitions of family impact on the way they engage with complex families, and how social policies that frame social work context impact on the way social workers engage with families. Focus groups were held in which social workers from four service areas (child welfare, addictions, mental health and migration) were asked to discuss a case vignette. Several factors were embedded in the vignette to represent a realistic situation a social worker may come across in their day-to-day work. Social workers clearly identified the complexity of the family’s situation in terms of the range of issues identified and candidate ‘causes’. However, typical first responses were institutional, looking for triggers that would signify certainty about their, or other agencies’ involvement. This resulted in a complicated story, through which the family was disaggregated into individual problem-service categories. This paper argues that understanding these processes and their consequences is critical for exploring the ways in which we might develop alternative, supportive professional responses with families with complex needs. It also demonstrates how organisational systems manifest themselves in everyday reasoning.


de Bogler, A. d P., Dunstan, D. & Kaltner, M. (2018) Open adoptions of children from foster care in New south Wales Australia: Adoption Process and Post-Adoption Contact. Adoption Quarterly.

In Australia, adoptions from care are infrequent and mostly conducted in New South Wales (NSW) despite being legislated in other states. This qualitative study explored the experiences of the adoption process and post-adoption contact of eight foster parents adopting children in their care through the public welfare agency in NSW. The interviews were analyzed following a structured approach, by means of thematic networks. The study revealed that adoption processes and maintenance of birth family relationships depend on a number of factors (e.g., the behavior of the professionals, adoptive and birth parents, children’s reactions, policy and practice contexts). However, the adoptive parents’ experience of the adoption process was largely determined by the system, and in most cases this appeared to subsequently influence post-adoption connection in the families. The findings and the adoptive parents’ recommendations are likely to apply beyond specific geographical jurisdictions. In addition, the reported complexities regarding connections through open adoptions at times resemble those tensions faced by children living in other family types such as those referred to in the foster care literature. Further research on some of these commonalities may expand in some countries the debate regarding adoption as an inherently contestable practice.


Dellor, E. & Freisthler, B. (2018) Predicting adoption dissolutions for children involved in the child welfare system Tidsskrift for Samfunnsforskning, 59(02), 218-221.

While the majority of foster care adoptions are stable and secure, some dissolve, resulting in the return of children to the system. The purpose of this study was to identify factors associated with children’s reentry into the foster care system after adoptions are formally finalized. Using case records from the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services’ (DCFS) Bureau of Information Systems (BIS), we compared 123 dissolved adoptions to 74 successful ones. We found that children’s gender, history of physical abuse, exposure to drug use, and the number of foster care placements prior to adoption are associated with greater odds of dissolution. Furthermore, the odds of dissolution were higher for relative adoptive parents and for adoptive parents with prior substantiated Child Welfare cases. Implications for practice include ongoing targeted training and supportive services for families and improved screening procedures that address the unique needs of adoptive parents.


Guetterman, T. C. & Fetters, M. D. (2018) Two Methodological Approaches to the Integration of Mixed Methods and Case Study Designs: A Systematic Review. American Behavioral Scientist, 1-19.

Case study has a tradition of collecting multiple forms of data—qualitative and quantitative—to gain a more complete understanding of the case. Case study integrates well with mixed methods, which seeks a more complete understanding through the integration of qualitative and quantitative research. We identify and characterize “mixed methods–case study designs” as mixed methods studies with a nested case study and “case study–mixed methods designs” as case studies with nested mixed methods. Based on a review of published research integrating mixed methods and case study designs, we describe key methodological features and discuss four exemplar interdisciplinary studies.

Comments are closed.