The Child Welfare Service's Tasks

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Barne- og familiedepartementet

The child welfare service is to help ensure that children and young persons grow up in a secure environment.

The child welfare service's main task is to ensure that children and young people who live in conditions that may be detrimental to their health and development receive the necessary assistance and care at the right time.

The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion has overall responsibility for the child welfare service. Below is an overview of how the Norwegian child welfare service works and is organised: 

The child welfare services in the municipalities

All municipalities are under an obligation to have a child welfare service and are responsible for all children who need the assistance of the child welfare service being given the necessary help. The municipal child welfare service must among other things: 

  • Investigate if a report is received
  • Decide to implement voluntary assistance measures and emergency orders
  • Follow up children and families
  • Prepare cases for the county social welfare board 

The child welfare service's responsibilities and tasks are regulated by the Child Welfare Act and regulations issued pursuant to it. The Act applies to all children in Norway, irrespective of their background, nationality or resident-permit status.  Children and parents from other countries have the same rights as Norwegian nationals in child welfare cases.

How the child welfare service works

  • The child welfare service is primarily there to provide assistance.
  • What is best for the child is the fundamental consideration for the child welfare service and this is crucial to the choice of child welfare measures.
  • Child welfare service employees must spend a lot of time informing children and parents of what is happening in their case so that the parents understand how the child welfare service can help them. Very few people have experience of the child welfare service and persons with an immigrant background know very little about how the Norwegian child welfare service operates.
  • All children and families must experience that the child welfare service treats them with understanding and respect.
  • Parents who have a question regarding the child welfare service's work in specific cases that affect them directly should contact the child welfare service and ask for information.
  • The child welfare service has a duty to provide information and guidance to parents.
  • The child welfare service must use qualified interpreters if language problems may arise. Children must never be used as interpreters. 

Taking a child into care 

  • More than 60 per cent of all the help provided by the child welfare service entails voluntary measures in the home. This may be in the form of advice and guidance, a personal support contact, a kindergarten place, a respite home or respite measures at home, and various ways of providing support to parents.
  • Depriving parents of the care and control of a child is always the last option.
  • An interim care order means that the child welfare service assumes the care and control of the child and that the child must leave his/her parents' home against the parents' wishes. In such case, the child usually moves to a foster home, but may also move to an institution. All interim care orders are basically temporary so that the parents can recover the care and control of the child.
  • It is the county social welfare board, not the individual child welfare service, that decides whether a child is to move to a foster home or institution against the parents' wishes. The county social welfare board is an independent and impartial decision-making body.
  • If the child welfare service believes that an interim care order is beneficial to the child, it prepares and presents an interim care order case to the county social welfare board.
  • The county social welfare board may decide that the child welfare service is to assume the care and control of a child if the child is subjected to serious neglect and assistance measures in the home are not enough to properly safeguard the child. The interim care order must be considered necessary and beneficial to the child.

Examples of serious neglect are:

  • the child is subjected to violence, ill-treatment or other forms of serious abuse
  • the child's health and development risk being seriously harmed because the parents are unable to take sufficient responsibility for the child, for example due to substance abuse.
  • The county social welfare board considers all the relevant factors in the case before making a decision.
  • Before the child welfare service asks the county social welfare board for an interim care order, it must have thoroughly investigated the child's care situation. These investigations often include reports from a psychologist who is an expert in this field. Parents may also hire their own experts to report on the child's care situation.
  • The child welfare service may make an emergency order and remove the child temporarily to a foster home if the child is subjected to acute danger in the home. However, the county social welfare board must also approve this. The parents can appeal against this decision, including to the courts. An emergency placement may last for six weeks. If the child welfare service believes that the child requires a longer stay outside the home, it must ask the county social welfare board for an interim care order. 

Parents' rights

  • In an interim care order case, the parents are entitled to free legal assistance, to be heard and to appeal against the county social welfare board's decision to the courts.
  • Children and parents are basically entitled to have contact with each other following an interim care order. It is the county social welfare board that decides whether they are to have contact and, if so, the level of contact.
  • Only the county social welfare board and the court can revoke an interim care order so that the parents can once more have care and control of the child. The child welfare service cannot decide on this.
  • All interim care orders are basically temporary. An interim care order is to be revoked when it is overwhelmingly likely that the parents can provide the child with satisfactory care. 

Cooperation with foreign authorities

  • Norwegian and foreign authorities have had a number of meetings concerning the Norwegian child welfare service. The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion will shortly publish English-language webpages containing information on the Norwegian child welfare service.
  • The Norwegian embassy in Moscow has published information in Russian about the Norwegian child welfare service on its website.
  • The Russian Ombudsman for Children visited Norway in 2011 and met the then Minister responsible for children. The Norwegian authorities also gave information to the Russian authorities during a visit in 2013.
  • Many cases reported in the media are based on specific cases where one party is allowed to state its views. Norwegian authorities cannot comment on individual cases in the media. Child welfare cases contain information of a sensitive nature and the children and their families are protected by confidentiality rules.
  • The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion cooperates closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding how Norway can best provide a correct picture of the Norwegian child welfare service. 

The Hague Convention

  • Norway's ratification of the 1996 Hague Convention will strengthen co-operation with other states in cross-border parental disputes and child welfare cases. The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs is designated as Central Authority for the Convention in Norway. The Convention will enter into force 1 July 2016.