Expert reports as basis for decisions in Norwegian child welfare services
Western Norway University of Applied Sciences
Comissioned Research Project
September 2020 - February 2025
Norwegian child welfare authorities take over the custody of more than a thousand children each year. Often, the decision leans heavily on reports from commissioned external experts, typically psychologists. In 2010, the government established the Commission for child welfare experts to ensure the quality of these reports. Before courts can use them as the basis for decisions, the reports must be reviewed and accepted by the commission. By now, the commission has archived around 8000 expert reports. There has been almost no research on these data.
This project seeks to undertake research in a number of areas directly linked to expert reports and their application. One part of the project focuses on the contents of the filed reports. It will investigate what characterises the reports, the kinds of knowledge and norms experts adhere to, the types of assessment methods they use, and the conclusions they reach. We will also consider how experts’ approaches have developed over time, and look specifically at how experts manage the assessment of families with minority backgrounds.
The other part of the project will explore child welfare services' use of these reports and to which degree they are regarded as useful to child welfare services assessments. We will undertake focus group interviews with child welfare services practitioners and managers, individual interviews with expert psychologists alongside a study of county court decisions, accessed through the “Lovdata” website. In addition, through a partnership with researchers in England and Sweden, we will be able to compare these contexts when it comes to the role of expert reports in child welfare decision-making processes.
With their significant impact for the futures of the children and families they concern, the thousands of filed reports represent a unique resource for the field of child welfare services. We aim to generate knowledge that can contribute to improvements and developments in child welfare services practice in the use of expert reports in their assessments, and in their decision making in cases where children may be removed. We will disseminate findings from the project to key players throughout the child welfare system. Findings will also be useful for developing curricula for future child welfare practitioner qualifications, as well as courses for child welfare experts.