Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Services to Vulnerable Families

ARTICLE: Study of services and support for mothers and newborn babies in vulnerable situations in eight European jurisdictions.

European countries have a legal obligation to provide services to vulnerable families, and children should not be removed from their parents’ care unless no other viable measures are available.

In an article published in Children and Youth Services Review, Katre Luhamaa, Amy McEwan-Strand, Barbara Ruiken, Marit Skivenes and Florian Wingens examine whether and how eight jurisdictions provide support and services to families with newborn babies who are considered to be at risk in the child protection system.

– A main finding from our study is that services are provided in a majority of the newborn care order cases. However, there are distinct differences between jurisdictions in terms of service provision, but these differences do not follow the established lines of child protection systems, explains PhD Candidate Barbara Ruiken.

Country differences

The paper shows that in four countries – England, Finland, Ireland and Norway, all or almost all cases evidence service provision. Whereas in Austria, Estonia, Germany and Spain there is significantly less evidence of service provision by the welfare state or by the child protection system.

– Our analysis reveals that a seemingly clear and straightforward obligation to only decide a child removal when no other measure is available, is not an important consideration in some European countries, states professor Marit Skivenes.

Knowledge gap

Skivenes points out a caveat to the findings, as the analysis is based on what the judiciary has found important to mention in the judgement, and not the actual service provision.

The authors conclude that there are knowledge gaps in terms of the proven effects of services and what is actually provided to the child and the parents.

– It is a continuous dilemma to find the right point to terminate services or change direction in a case, whether it is to apply for removal or provide other services, says Skivenes.

The full article is available open access from the link below.

Luhamaa, McEwan-Strand, Ruiken, Skivenes & Wingens (2021). Services and support for mothers and newborn babies in vulnerable situations: A study of eight European jurisdictions. Children and Youth Services Review.

PHOTO: Colourbox

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