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Professionalised, hybrid, and layperson models in Nordic child protection - actors in decision-making in out of home placements

Journal article
Authors Elin Hultman
Torbjörn Forkby
Staffan Höjer
Published in Nordic Social Work Research
ISSN 2156-857X
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Social Work
Language en
Keywords Child protection;decision-making; laypersons or experts; Nordic countries
Subject categories Social Work


Decisions about child protection and interventions in families are one of the most difficult responsibilities of welfare states. The aim of this article is to describe and analyse the commonalities and differences in the child protection decision-making systems in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. We focus on the actors involved, especially the laypersons, and their role in the decision-making process when deciding on out-ofhome placements, both on voluntary and coercive grounds. The study is based on a comprehensive analysis of official documents, legislation, guidelines, and reports about child protection in each country together with a review of recent research in the area. This is complemented by 12 interviews with key informants with knowledge about the child protection systems in their respective countries. We found that there is an expanding influence from external experts and dwindling influence from laypersons. We discuss the organisation in terms of three different decision-making models – a professionalised decision-making model in Finland, a hybrid decision-making model in Norway and Denmark, and a layperson decision-making model in Sweden. One conclusion is that all of the countries aim for children to be involved and for decisions to be made in compliance with the rule of law, but this is realised quite differently when it comes to which actors should be given the authority to make the decisions. Which model is the best would have different answers depending on which perspective the models are evaluated from. However, the consequences of decisionmaking models for children need to be studied further.

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