The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Norwegian Constitution and the Norwegian Child Welfare Act all state that children have the right to participate in all matters affecting them. Child protection workers also have a duty to work with children and parents and help them as much as possible.
Nevertheless, research indicates that young children in the CWS do not have sufficient opportunity to participate in their own affairs, and that the CWS does not provide satisfactory arrangements for younger children to participate in decisions about their lives.
Although child protection staff are aware of the problem, knowledge of the tools and methods that exist for good communication and cooperation with younger children is lacking.
This means that too many children are left out of their own case decisions, without understanding the reasoning behind them.
Today, a European development project has been tasked with sharing experiences across national borders and proposing solutions to enable the CWS to better meet and include the youngest children.
Participation is a right
The Norwegian Child Protection Act states that all children capable of forming their own opinion have the right to participate in all matters affecting them. The child must receive sufficient and appropriate information and has the right to freely express his or her opinion.
The obligation to listen to children and give due consideration to their views in accordance with their age and development is consistent with both Article 104 of the Norwegian Constitution and Article 12 of the United Nations Convention United Nations on the Rights of the Child. . Neither the constitutional provision nor the UN article operates with a fixed age limit for the child’s right to participation.
Participation must be ensured in all phases of the processing and follow-up of the child’s file, and the CFS must ensure that the child’s participation takes place in a safe environment.
Despite these provisions, available research on child participation suggests that there is still some way to go – especially when it comes to the youngest children in the CWS.
The child protection service needs more knowledge about how interaction and communication with young children can occur in a way that ensures their views are seen and heard.
The challenge is the same in other countries.
Need to communicate differently
You can’t expect a two-year-old or a five-year-old to sit at a table with an unknown worker doing a home visit. We need to find child-friendly approaches. The responsible adult must communicate with the child in an understandable way.”
Inger Sofie Dahlø Husby, Associate Professor, Department of Social Work, NTNU
“Play, body language, drawing and other types of tools – as well as time – should be used when communicating with young children. For children to participate, social workers and other adults must get to know the child and make it easier for him or her to convey how they are and what their needs are. This needs to happen in settings and environments that the children perceive as safe,” says teacher Randi Juul aggregated in the same department.
Husby and Juul are both working on the Norwegian part of the PANDA development project, which received funding through Erasmus+, the EU’s program for education, training, youth and sport.
The collaborative project includes participants from four European countries and aims to find solutions to ensure that children under the age of 12 can participate in their CWS cases.
The Norwegian part of the project also involves the municipality of Trondheim and the child protection services of the municipalities of Ålesund and Fjord. Also involved is Forandringsfabrikken – The Change Factory – which collects and disseminates knowledge from children and young people about how they experience support services, with the aim of improving systems.
learn from others
“This project will allow us to find tools and approaches that will make it easier for child protective services to interact with children,” Husby said.
She points out that good examples of involvement and working with young children can be found in kindergartens. Training social workers and others who meet children in the CWS is an important aspect of the project.
The different countries will also exchange their experiences through the project. The Norwegian project participants have already presented the recent project of the Municipality of Trondheim Stein, Saks, Papir (rock, paper, scissors) parenting strategy to participants from Belgium, Northern Ireland and Spain.
The PANDA project started in the fall of 2020 and continues for three years.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)