Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

The Hidden Proceedings

NEW ARTICLE: Decisions about terminating parental rights to ensure an adoption from care are not accountable, finds new analysis.

All European countries provide a legal opportunity to terminate parental rights and place a child for adoption without parents’ consent. The child’s best interests principle is the foundation for these decisions. This principle is immensely difficult to apply in practice, and gives great discretionary power to decision makers.

– Adoption from care is an intrusive state intervention into individuals’ family life, and has been discussed numerous times by the European Court of Human Rights as a measure that only can be used in exceptional circumstances. It follows, that it is imperative that decisions made are qualified and can withstand critical scrutiny, states professor Marit Skivenes.

Analysis of the accountability mechanism

Skivenes is, together with Burns, Kriz, Krutzinna, Luhamaa, Meysen, Pösö, Segado, and Thoburn, the author of a new article published in in the European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance. The article presents an analysis of the accountability mechanism in place for child protection adoption proceedings in eight European jurisdictions (Austria, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway and Spain).

The authors examine if the proceedings are accountable to the private parties (i.e. individuals that are concerned – e.g. parents, child), as well as the elected government and the general public. Based on the analyses, professor Skivenes describes the status in the eight countries as overall discouraging.

– There is not only a lack of information about the system and the proceedings, but there is also an alarming lack of transparency and a veil of secrecy. The missing connection between the wider democratic society and this part of the legal systems is of huge concern.

States should take the necessary measures

Skivenes underlines that the analysis does not say anything about the actual quality of decisions.

– The systems may produce rational and reasoned decisions that will endure scrutiny, but as it is now, we do not know much about this. We argue that there are ways to make sure both confidentiality and accountability are safeguarded, and that states should take the necessary measures to ensure accountability.

The full article is available via the link below.

Kenneth Burns, Katrin Kriz, Jenny Krutzinna, Katre Luhamaa, Thomas Meysen, Tarja Pösö, Sagrario Segado, Marit Skivenes & June Thoburn (2019) The hidden proceedings – An analysis of accountability of child protection adoption proceedings in eight European jurisdictions. European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance.

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