Norwegian child welfare authorities take over the custody of more than 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 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 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 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. The project goal is to generate knowledge which 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.
Annually, Norwegian child welfare authorities take over custody of about 1250 children which are in risk for lifetime health impairments. The decisions often lean on expert reports. From 2010, all expert reports are submitted to The Norwegian Commission on Child Welfare Experts, whose mandate is to assure their quality. By now, an archive of more than 7300 reports has accumulated. Despite their decisive impact on vulnerable children’s health and development, this internationally unique data material has never been subjected to systematic research. The research group has got clearance to access the data register, and has conducted a pilot study.
The objective is to investigate what characterizes expert reports and how they are used in child welfare decision-making processes, to promote sustainable services and reduce unwarranted variations in service provision for users of child welfare services.
The project is organized in two work packages. WP1 investigates the knowledge base, normative standards and the assessment methods of expert reports through qualitative and quantitative analyses. WP2 investigates how expert reports inform practices in child welfare services/-authorities, through qualitative data collection procedures and analyses. Through a cooperation with English and Swedish partners we will compare practices and learn from differences.
The project avoids challenges such as privacy related to health information. As a privacy requirement, exploring the expert reports take place at the premises of the registry. A challenging part will be the initial organising of the material into more fine-masked variables. To meet these challenges, a strength of the project lies in its broad representation from different research disciplines and user-groups. Other data will be managed in accordance with the Norwegian Personal Data Act, including General Data Protection Regulation and HVLs regulations. All personal data will be securely stored on HVLs research server.