Consultation regarding adaptations and exemptions from the Child Welfare Act to handle the increase in refugees from Ukraine to Norway

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The authorities are now planning for a large number of children to arrive in Norway at the same time. The current dispensation rules allow an increase in people in care centres. The services may become overwhelmed, nevertheless. The Ministry of Children and Families therefore proposes necessary adaptations to the rules to make the system flexible enough to receive a large number of children over a short period of time.

‘We will take good care of the Ukrainian children who are fleeing war and arriving in Norway. They may need help from a care centre for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers and from the child welfare service. Displaced unaccompanied minor asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, and we must have good systems in place to protect them,’ says Minister of Children and Families Kjersti Toppe.

Ms Toppe adds, ‘The proposals can only be implemented if a situation arises that makes this completely necessary, which is not the case at present.'

The proposals have been assessed in relation to Norway’s human rights obligations, and continue to centre on the principle of due process. However, the extraordinary situation, with the war in Ukraine, means that authorities need a greater scope of action than normal, to help all arriving children, even though we cannot offer as extensive services as we do normally.

Some of the changes proposed:

  • The Office for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufetat) currently has care centres that serve unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. It would be better for young children in particular to stay in a home while they wait to be settled. The Ministry proposes that Bufetat offers children a family-based placement instead of a place in a care centre. The home must meet the same requirements as those that apply to foster homes.
  • The duty of the County Governor to supervise care centres must not change, and they must also supervise private homes. Supervisory activities are important to safeguard children’s due process rights. A considerable increase in the number of children will put great pressure on the County Governor's resources in terms of its obligation to conduct a set number of supervisory activities per year. The Ministry therefore proposes an exemption from the requirement regarding the number of supervisory activities, when necessary, in order for the County Governor to allocate their resources in a manner that is proper and expedient.
  • When children are settled, there may be a greater need for foster homes, especially for the youngest children. The Ministry proposes easing the training requirements, so that foster parent training can be completed within six months of the child having moved in, not before the child moves in.
  • In order to ensure that the child welfare service has greater flexibility to allocate its resources when it is under pressure, to best serve all of the children it is responsible for, the Ministry proposes certain changes to the rules regarding the requirement regarding the set number of supervisory activities and deadlines.

The exemptions will only be applicable if a high number of people displaced from Ukraine makes it strictly necessary to offer services to children.

The Ministry’s proposals are based on an attempt to identify and assess regulatory bottlenecks which can be removed, albeit keeping the general framework around the child. 

There are dedicated rules that state that children in the care of the authorities of another country can be transferred to the Norwegian child welfare service. We propose simplifying some of the procedures attached to this because it will be difficult to contact the authorities in a country at war. 

You can read the full consultation memo here (in Norwegian).
The consultation deadline is 12 April 2022.