New guidelines for child welfare cases across national borders

The circular provides guidelines for the local authorities on how they are to deal with child welfare cases where children have connections to several countries.

More and more children in Norway have connections to other countries because, for example, they have a foreign nationality, or parents or other family members living abroad. Such cases may be demanding for the child welfare service to process, and the Ministry therefore has produced a circular on this issue.

“The circular makes it clear that the child welfare service must always try to contact the child's family abroad before initiating a care order case,” says Solveig Horne, the Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion. “If the child has strong connections to another country, the child welfare service must assess whether it is in the child's best interest to receive follow-up abroad, rather than issuing a care order which means that the child must be moved to a foster home in Norway.” 

Read the Circular.

Assistance for the local authorities

“The local authorities have asked for guidelines on how to deal with such cases. The circular will make it easier for the case processing officers in the child welfare service to know how to proceed,” claims Solveig Horne, the Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion.

The guidelines provide information on how the child welfare service should examine and follow up children with connections to several countries, how to cooperate with the immigration authorities if the child has an on-going immigration case and how to deal with questions from foreign authorities, particularly embassies.

Children with connections to several countries may be more vulnerable, and it may be especially demanding to take care of and protect these children.

“The child welfare service is first and foremost an assistance service,” the Minister adds. “If we intervene in the family situation at an early stage and establish a good dialogue, we can build trust and cooperate on assistance measures, and in this way address the problems before they get too big.” 

Examining the child's care situation

“Looking after the child's best interest is the most important principle the child welfare service has. The service must consider the child's connections to Norway and other countries when assessing which child welfare measures are in the child's best interest,” Solveig Horne says.

The child welfare service must also cooperate with the immigration authorities if the family has an on-going immigration case. If the child and the parents wish to have contact with the embassy of their country of origin, the child welfare service should as a general rule facilitate this.

Ratification of the Hague Convention

The Government’s aim is that Norway will ratify the Hague Convention of 1996 within the course of 2016. Once Norway has ratified the convention it will have rules for voluntary placement in foster homes and institutions in other convention countries. Rules will also come into force for voluntary placement in foster homes or institutions in Norway based on decisions made in another convention country. In exceptional cases, a child welfare case may also be transferred to another convention country when this is found to be in the child's best interest. The convention lays down rules about cooperation and information exchange with other convention countries. Such cooperation is generally carried out through a central authority in each member country. The Government will therefore appoint a central authority pursuant to the convention which will provide guidance to the local authorities and assist in dialogues with foreign authorities. The circular will be adjusted once Norway has ratified the Hague Convention of 1996.