The primary purpose of Child Welfare Services is to ensure that children living in conditions that may be harmful to their health and development receive the necessary help and care at the right time, and to help ensure they have a safe and secure environment in which to grow up. The Child Welfare Act applies to all children who reside in Norway regardless of their background, residency status or citizenship.
About the child welfare service and the Child Welfare Act
Child Welfare Services in Norway exists primarily to provide help and support to allow parents to fulfil their responsibilities as caregivers. 53,088 children and young people aged 0-22 years old received help from Child Welfare Services in 2014. The provision of assistance in the home is adequate for the majority of children and families who come into contact with Child Welfare Services. Normal measures include advice and guidance for the family, respite measures, support meetings and nursery places.
Child Welfare Services are responsible for intervening if the assistance provided does not adequately meet the child's needs. In such cases it may be necessary to place the child outside of their home in the short or long term. When a child is placed outside their home,
Child Welfare Services should ensure, insofar as it is possible, that the child's religious and cultural background is maintained. Read more about Child Welfare Services.
We can only distinguish between home-based treatment and placements outside of the home at the end of the year. The figure will always be lower at a given time than during the course of the year.
Children subject to child welfare services measures in or outside of the home
At the end of 2014 there were 33,321 children aged 0-17 years old in receipt of assistance from Child Welfare Services. 65 % of children received home-based treatment, and 35 % were placed outside their homes in foster homes, residential care units or residences with follow-up.
The Child Welfare Act provides access to placements outside the home both with and without the parents' consent, and on both a permanent and temporary basis. At the end of 2014, 74 % of children in placements were being cared for by Child Welfare Services, while the remaining 26 % were in placements for other reasons. These include voluntary placements, placements due to serious behavioural problems in the child, or emergency placements if Child Welfare Services believe a child may be seriously harmed if they remain at home.
Taking children into care
Child welfare services must sometimes take children into care against their parents' will. This applies in cases where children lack adult caregivers, or when Child Welfare Services assess the situation to be so harmful to the child's development that it is necessary to remove the child.
Child Welfare Services may take children into care for any of the following reasons:
- If there are serious shortcomings in the daily care received by the child, or serious shortcomings in relation to the personal contact and safety required by the child based on their age and development.
- If the parents fail to ensure that a child who is ill, disabled or has special needs receives the treatment and training that they specifically require.
- If the child is mistreated or subjected to abuse in the home.
- If the child's health or development may be seriously harmed because the parents are unable to care adequately for the child.
A care order must be decided by the County Social Welfare Board .
8,892 children under the care of child welfare services
During the course of 2014, a total of 9982 children aged 0-17 years old were under the care of child welfare services. These represented 19 % of children in receipt of help from Child Welfare Services in this age category. The majority of these children were taken into care at an earlier date.
The number of children under the care of Child Welfare Services at the end of the year was somewhat lower, totalling 8,569 children aged 0-17 years old.
1,665 children were subject to a care order in 2014
The number of new children under the care of child welfare services during the course of one year has in recent years remained stable, and is significantly lower than the total number of children under the care of child welfare services. During the course of 2014, 1665 children were made subject to a care order issued by a county social welfare board. This is equivalent to 1.5 children per 1000 0-17 year olds.
Children from immigrant backgrounds receiving help from child welfare services
In 2012, 53,198 children and young people aged 0-22 years old received help from Child Welfare Services, either in the form of assistance at home or a placement outside of the home. 23 % of these (12,467) were either or Norwegian-born children with immigrant parents .
Among children and young people aged 0-22 years old, 36.5 per 1,000 received help from Child Welfare Services in 2012. If one breaks these figures down based on background, the corresponding figures are:
- 32.0 per 1,000 children with no immigrant background.
- 76.3 per 1,000 children who are immigrants.
- 50.4 per 1,000 Norwegian-born children with immigrant parents.
One factor contributing to the high number of immigrants in receipt of child welfare measures is that unaccompanied refugee minors are included in this group.
Child welfare measures among children from selected countries
The graph below shows immigrants and Norwegian-born children with immigrant parents from selected countries who received help from Child Welfare Services at the end of 2014 compared with the population.
Children and young people who were subject to child welfare measures during 2014, by country of origin.
The number of children who received help from Child Welfare Services during the course of 2014 varies significantly by country of origin, and depending on whether the child has immigrated to Norway or was born in the country to immigrant parents.
In 2014, 53,088 children - or 3.6 % of the population aged 0-22 years old - received help from Child Welfare Services. The corresponding figures for immigrants and those born in Norway to immigrant parents from a selection of countries was:
- 7.0 % of children from Russia (414 children)
- 2.0 % of children from Lithuania (195 children)
- 3.8 % of children from Estonia (40 children)
- 2.3 % of children from Romania (65 children)
Children with immigrant backgrounds who are taken into care
At the end of 2012, Child Welfare Services had 7 out of every 1,000 children aged 0-17 years old under its care. These are children who have been taken into care by Child Welfare Services as a result of care orders issued by County Social Welfare Boards. Some of these children have been under the care of Child Welfare Services for several years.
If one breaks these figures down based on background, the corresponding figures are:
- 6.9 per 1,000 children with no immigrant background.
- 8.8 per 1,000 children who are immigrants.
- 5.5 per 1,000 Norwegian-born children with immigrant parents.
Children under the care of Child Welfare Services from selected countries
The graph shows the number of children under the care of Child Welfare Services at the end of 2014 in comparison with the population aged 0-17 years old from selected countries of origin.
Children under the care of Child Welfare Services at the end of 2014, by country of origin.
At the end of 2014, Child Welfare Services had 8,569 children aged 0-17 years old under its care - the equivalent of 7.6 per 1,000 for this age category. The corresponding figures for immigrants and those born in Norway to immigrant parents from a selection of countries was:
- 2.0 per 1000 children from Poland (35 children)
- 6.6 per 1,000 children from Russia (31 children)
- 5.0 per 1,000 children from Romania (12 children)
- 8.4 per 1,000 children from Iraq (91 children)
At the end of 2014, the number of children under the care of Child Welfare Services from the Czech Republic and Estonia was so low that it is not possible to provide any figures due to privacy concerns. The figure among immigrants and those born in Norway to immigrant parents was 3 or fewer.
Adoption as a child welfare measure
Adoption is rarely used in Norway as a child welfare measure. However, its use has increased in recent years. In 2015, there were 64 adoptions under § 4-20 of the Child Welfare Act, while the corresponding figure in 2008 was 14.
Number of forced adoption decisions taken
Parents' rights in the event of care orders
Parents have legal rights in their dealings with the County Social Welfare Board. A lawyer of their choosing will be appointed, and the Norwegian state covers all expenses. They have the right to be heard and may call witnesses before the County Social Welfare Board.
Parents may bring the case before the court system if they disagree with the County Social Welfare Board's decision. After a care order is implemented, the parents are entitled, once a year, to request that the County Social Welfare Board consider whether they should regain custody of their children. If the parents' caregiving abilities have changed significantly the County Social Welfare Board can also reverse the decision at an earlier date.
Family counselling services provide guidance to parents who have lost custody of their children.
Statistics Norway (2015). Children with immigrant backgrounds in Child Welfare Services, 2012. Reports 2015/16
Statistics Norway. Child Welfare Services.
County social welfare boards. Extracts from the County Social Welfare Boards' case management system Sakarias. Source is not publicly available.