Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Participation Workshop 

On Thursday 7th of March and Friday 8th of March 2024, the Centre for Discretion and Paternalism (DIPA) hosted the Participation Workshop. This workshop is a part of the “Children’s Right to Participation” Project, which intends to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of children’s participatory rights.

– The program aimed to reflect on the topic of children’s representation while examining the existing research and challenges that need to be addressed, particularly within the judiciary and social services, stated PhD fellow Frøydis Lønborg Haarberg

A range of participants contributed to the workshop, including the Participation project partners; representatives of legal institutions (the District Court and Child Welfare Tribunal), child protection services (Bergen municipality), civil society/user organizations (Change Factory), and researchers (University of Bergen). 

– The underlying question of this workshop was “How can children be represented?”, which we tried to address by further investigating the methods and approaches used within the legal and social services, said Professor Skivenes. 

Sharing experiences and existing knowledge 

The first day of the workshop, on the 7th of March, was themed “Representation – Access to legal protection”, and it focused on assessing the legal regulations and the role of judiciary institutions in ensuring effective representation of children. The first session, “Main dimensions in decision-making – between autonomy and paternalism”, was held by Professor Marit Skivenes, followed by a presentation held by PhD fellow Frøydis Lønborg Haarberg, titled “Representation: what do we know?”, which analyzed the existing research on the representation of children in child protection decisions. Additionally, representatives of the civil society organisation Change Factory, as well as the members of the child protection services in Bergen municipality, reflected on the efforts they have taken within this field and the dilemmas they face. There was also discussion about introducing formal lists of designated lawyers for children in child protection cases, with all partner organizations chiming in based on their experiences. 

New insights and recommendations 

The second day of the workshop, on the 8th of March, tackled the topic “Access to Justice”, with the first session “With roots in the population: What do we think of information to children and weighing children’s opinions?” held by Frøydis Lønborg Haarberg. After this followed a session on dialogue processes, which are mediation-like decision-making procedures in the Child Welfare Tribunal, with discussions touching on the participation of children with and without party rights. The second part of the final day also included a presentation by researcher Audun Løvlie on children’s access to justice and effective remedies, with all partner organisations sharing their take on a new concept note on this topic. At the end of the program, the participants had the chance to share their final insights and provide recommendations for future sessions. 

– The Participation Workshop gathered participants and speakers from various fields. In that sense, it achieved its goal of providing a platform for discussion on the existing challenges and recommendations for the development of new policies and mechanisms that will enhance the representation and protection of children, stated Professor Skivenes, concluding that the workshop was a great chance for the partner organisations to draw on each other’s experiences. 

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