To get a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of the child protection decision-making process and proceedings in the child protection system, we conducted key informant interviews with a number of experienced decision-makers from Austria, Estonia, Ireland, Norway and Spain. Below a brief overview of the process is presented.
We conducted 18 key informant interviews with experienced decision-makers from Austria, Estonia, Ireland, Norway and Spain – the five countries included in the Discretion project (project details available here). The purpose was to get a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of the child protection decision-making process and proceedings (i.e. care order of newborns and adoption proceedings) in the child protection system of each of the five countries. Our aim was to better understand the decision-makers entrusted with making these child protection decisions to underpin the analysis of other data, such as written judgments, policy/organisation documents, and survey material.
Key informant interviews are a type of qualitiative in-depth interviews, where the interviewee, as a result of their skills or position in society, is considered an expert source of information. They are designed to explore a topic and to identify themes and issues that are to be researched in more detail. We have interviewed first-instance decision-makers in child protection cases, which are judges or administrative decision-makers. We based our selection on experience with deciding care order cases, knowledge of the respective child protection system, and attempted to select decision-makers from different regions within each country.
We wanted to scope perspectives on a range of issues we had identified through the analysis of written judgments and policy documents, and our research interest was very narrowly focused on the decision-making processes in child protection cases and thus our target group consists of highly specialised professionals within a narrowly defined decision-making context.
The themes identified during the judgment and policy analysis were used to develop the interview guide (see below). The questions were developed with three aims in mind: 1. To validate the findings from the judgment review, and 2. To obtain clarification on open issues which had arisen during the judgment review, and 3. To gain a better understanding of how these decision-makers think. Five themes were developed, which centred on the decision-making approach, justifications of decisions, the involvement of children in proceedings, as well as attitudes on research and learning effects within the system. A survey vignette which had been used in prior research was also included as a practical example of a decision-making situation. Our target group were judges and decision-makers at the first-instance (court/court-like) level.
To understand what kind of permission we needed to approach decision-makers in each country, we had conversations with the project’s country experts to discuss the best process in each country: Katrin Kriz (Austria), Katre Luhamaa (Estonia), Kenneth Burns (Ireland), Marit Skivenes (Norway), Sagrario Segado (Spain).
- Austria: We already had permission from the Ministry to conduct a survey through their intranet for judges and our country expert had previously interviewed two judges with their written consent. We decided to follow the same process and to not seek additional permission.
- Estonia: Our country expert informed us that there is no requirement to ask for prior permission, as judges are independent and can decide themselves whether to participate in interviews.
- Ireland: Permission was sought from the President of the District Court, Judge Colin Daly, based in Dublin. This was granted following a short request for additional information.
- Norway: It was not necessary to seek permission.
- Spain: It was not necessary to seek permission.
For each country, we followed an individual approach in identifying suitable interview partners. All potential interview partners were sent the interview guide and a consent form via email (see link to interview guide and consent form below).
In total 18 interviews were conducted, which lasted between 50-100 minutes. The interviews were conducted using Teams, Skype or Zoom (depending on our interview partners’ technical possibilities and preferences) and were recorded with prior consent of each key informant. Consent was given either through a signed consent form, which was shared prior to the call, or it was asked and recorded at the beginning of the call based on the information contained in the consent form.
- Austria: 3 interviews
- Estonia: 2 interviews
- Ireland: 5 interviews
- Norway: 3 interviews
- Spain: 5 interviews
All interviews were transcribed by a native speaker (except Ireland) based on the audio files and directly identifying information, such as names, were removed from the documents. Any flags by the transcribers were checked and corrected, and a broad quality-check was conducted for Austria, Ireland, and Spain.
All non-English language interview transcriptions were translated, except for Norway. The purpose of the translations was to capture the essence of what was said, which sometimes resulted in phrasing / wording that is not polished.
Interview guide and consent letter
The overview was developed by Dr. Jenny Krutzinna at the Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism, University of Bergen, Norway, with input from Prof. Marit Skivenes.
Last updated on 11/05/2021.