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12 million for child welfare research

Research group

From left to right: Hans Jørgen Wallin Weihe, Halvor Fauske, Halvor Nordby, Astrid Halsa, Grethe Netland, Camilla Bennin, Bjørn-Arne Buer og Anne Sigfrid Grønseth. Kerstin Söderström and Mari Rysst are also a part of the research group but were not present when the photo was taken. (Photo: Gro Vasbotten/INN University)

Child welfare researchers at INN University have been granted NOK 12 million to study Decisions and Justifications in Child Protection Services.

Last April, the research group on child welfare at INN University has submitted a project application to the Research Council's programme “Health, care and welfare services research (HELSEVEL).” Seven months later, the response arrived in the form of a NOK 11,997 million grant, and a very enthusiastic and constructive evaluation of the project “Decisions and Justifications in Child Protection Services (CPS)”

With professor Halvor Nordby and associate professor/head of department Grethe Netland in the lead, a research group with ten participants – mainly from the Department of Social Work at INN University in Lillehammer – has developed a research project that the Research Council referred to as “a project at a high international level and of major national and international interest” and added that the researchers are among the foremost in their field.

Expectations are thus quite high, and the group is preparing for a 1 April 2018 start. The project is planned to run until 2022. One PhD candidate will be employed in the project, and the vacancy will be published in the near future.

Building knowledge in an area that impacts many

Dean Ingrid Guldvik is pleased and proud that INN University has received a Research Council grant for a project that aims to study such a highly important area with such far-reaching impact for many.

- This confirms that we have a strong academic environment in child welfare, she says. The project will contribute to building knowledge in an area that is important to many who rely on cooperation with child welfare services, and will also strengthen our education at bachelor, master and PhD levels.

Research Vice-Rector at INN University Lillehammer Eva Bakøy, praises the project's ambitions and high quality.

- For INN University, it is especially valuable to be deemed capable in practical subjects such as child welfare. The potential social importance of the forthcoming research project cannot be doubted, says Bakøy.

Collaborative project and user participation

Project leader Nordby believes that the reasons for receiving the grant are two-fold:

  1. Firstly, there has been a lot of focus on child welfare work in recent years, especially on challenges related to justification and decisions regarding taking into care children and youth.
  2. Secondly, the research group behind the application possesses the highest expertise in researching issues that fall within the overall objectives of the project – to gain insight into how the basic principle of safeguarding the Best Interest of the Child is understood and applied in various ways in child welfare.

- In addition, we have associated with many external partners who will actively contribute to the project, among other things, by ensuring that it is adapted to the knowledge-needs in the field of practice, Nordby says.

It is precisely the diversity and the potential impact for external partners that the Research Council has emphasized: Norwegian academic partners are the University of Bergen, University of Agder, and Volda University College, while the foreign partners are Keele University (UK), Matej Bel University (Slovakia), Jagiellonian University (Poland), Hradec Kralove University (Czech Republic), Stanislaw Staszic University of Applied Science (Poland) and University of Stockholm.

From the field of practice and government agencies, the project will utilize cooperation with the Division of Mental Health of Innlandet Hospital Trust; the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs; Child Welfare Services of Oslo, Bærum and Hareid-Ulstein-Volda-Ørsta (Inter-municipal); The National Professional Council for Education and Research in Child Welfare.

User involvement is implemented through collaboration with The Change Factory, the Advocacy Group for Children of Drug Users and RIO (Substance Addiction National User’s Organization).

About the project “JustificationCPS”

The main objective of the project is to identify how interpretations of the “Best Interest of the Child” principle is reflected in the child protection services’ justification for the decisions they reach. The project will pay particular attention to how cultural values, ethnicity, and minority status affect the decisions.

The project is divided into seven “work packages” in which the project participants will investigate how practices and decisions are justified: How is the principle of user participation in the decision on taking into care and family counsels interpreted and applied in County Social Welfare Boards’ decisions and work with minority families? What concepts of knowledge and norms for justification are reflected in interpretations of the Best Interest of the Child principle? What different interpretations of the Best Interest of the Child principle – and other values – can be identified in different cultures? By finding answers to these questions, it is an overarching goal to help strengthen child welfare education and improve child welfare justification practices.

The seven sub-projects / work packages are as follows:

  1. Justification and values
    Research question: How are justifications grounded in values?
  2. “Fear of the Norwegian child care services”: Reasons for decisions, and forming of interventions in minority families.
    Research question: In what ways do decisions and justifications on the Best Interest of the Child (BIC) regarding minority families, reflect different cultural values related to ethnic background on the one hand, and social and economic marginalization on the other?
  3. Justification of care orders in Norway:
    Research question: What arguments are used by the County Social Welfare Board to support decisions on taking into care children of 0-6 years?
  4. CPS and Home-based support – justification for interventions.
    Research question: What kind of help and support do the Child Protection Services provide for families with parental mental illness or substance abuse? How do they justify the interventions and how do parents and children experience these services / interventions?
  5. Family group conferences (FGC) and decision making in CPS.
    Research question: In what ways does the model of FGC contribute to improve the justification of decisions in CPS?
  6. Justification for removal at birth
    Research question: How do CPS justify removal at birth, how are removals carried out, and what kind of follow-up is offered to the parents?
  7. Justifications, ethical normative theory, and practical and public reason.
    Research questions: What, if any, typical normative ethical reasoning do we find in justifications of decisions within the CPS? To what extent do the justifications fulfil criteria for sound justificatory reasoning?