Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

What is Love in Child Welfare?

NEW REPORT: The Pro Bono group has worked with the expert-by-experience group Barnevernsproffene to study child centrism in Norwegian child protection.

Mitt Liv Barnevern (“My Life Child Welfare”) is a development program for child welfare practice. The programme is initiated by the organization Forandringsfabrikken and their expert-by-experience group Barnevernsproffene – young persons with experience from the child protection system.

The programme consist of tools for child welfare work. Core values are “Openness/honesty”, “Humility”, “Love” and “Participation”. More than 200 municipal child welfare services participate in the program, with different levels of commitment.

Master and PhD students from the Department of Administration and Organization Theory, together with volunteers and researchers from the Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism, have worked Pro Bono to study the implementation of the Mitt Liv Barnevern programme.

PHOTO: From top-left: Marit Skivenes (professor), Amy McEwan-Strand (research assistant), Line Marie Sørsdal (doctoral student), Ida B. Juhasz (doctoral student), Lisette Holm (volunteer), Hege Helland (doctoral student), Siri H. Pedersen (doctoral student), Vilde T. Øvstetun (master student) and Marie T. Storm (master student). Not present: Kaja Eek-Larsen (master student), Oda Krogh Læret (master student), Barbara Ruiken (doctoral student), Hilde S. Sætre (master student) and Emma Ytrearne (master student).

Change of Practice

By conducting a large survey sent to child welfare workers, the students have measured how the core values of the Mitt Liv-program are incorporated into child welfare workers practice.

Of the over 700 respondents answering the survey, a large majority stated that Mitt Liv has increased user participation. In addition, around half of the child welfare workers mention that they have altered their understanding of their own profession because of Mitt Liv, and almost one quarter of the child welfare works mention changes in the language they use.

– This is in line with the core values and recommendations from Barnevernsproffene, who wanted more participation and a change of language, states Amy McEwan Strand, one of the members of the Pro Bono group.

She also finds it interesting that the program has altered how the respondents see their own role; and that showing emotions can also be considered a part of professional conduct.

The core values of the program clearly seem to have been implemented and had an effect on the professional practice of front-line personnel in the child welfare services, concludes McEwan-Strand.

Understandings of Love

One of the core values promoted by Mitt Liv Barnevern is “Love”, which now is included in the child protection act. The Pro Bono group aimed to find out how this concept is understood by child welfare workers.

– In our material, we see a combination of interpretations. Some understand love as compassion and being close, some as the child’s right to participate, and others as the child welfare worker as a professional helper, explains Ida Juhasz.

Impressive result

Professor Marit Skivenes has led the group, and provided advice and input throughout the process. She is impressed with the result of the Pro Bono group.

– It is an important and formidable work that has now been completed. The findings are very interesting, and highly relevant for the ongoing debate on quality in the Norwegian child welfare service.

The report is available in Norwegian: (2019) Pro Bono Group. Rapport. Mot et barneperspektiv i Barnevernet

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