Child welfare in Norway

Sist oppdatert: 23.01.2015 // There has been considerable media attention lately regarding a child welfare case that involves a family in Norway of Czech nationality. The Embassy would like to clarify some issues regarding the Norwegian child welfare system in the hope that this will help in understanding the Michalak case.

This article was updated on January 23rd 2015.

Norwegian authorities are obliged under Norwegian law to respect both the children’s and the parents' right to privacy. The Embassy is therefore not able to comment in detail on specific child welfare cases. The child welfare service is also prohibited by law from going public with the details about why it became necessary in specific child welfare cases to place children in foster care.

The Norwegian Child Welfare Act applies to all children residing in Norway, regardless of their status, background and nationality. The Act applies equally to all children in Norway. The purpose of the Child Welfare Act is to help children and young people have a safe childhood, and ensure that children and young people who live in conditions that can harm their health and development get help and care at the right time.

To deprive parents of the caring for children is always a last resort. A care order can only be passed if the child suffers severe neglect, mistreatment or abuse. A care order must always be necessary and in the best interest of the child.

The County Social Welfare Board is the competent authority in Norway to revoke a care order. The Board is an independent and impartial decision-making authority. Parents can once a year file for a revocation of the care order. It is up to the County Board to decide if a return to the parents is in the best interest of the children. If the County Board upholds the care order, the parents can appeal the decision to the court. They are then entitled to a free lawyer. 

Both the children and the parents have strong legal safeguards when care orders are prepared and decided, including free legal assistance from a lawyer. This also includes requests to revoke the care order. If the parents disagree with the decision, they can appeal to the court. Both the child welfare services, the County Boards and the Norwegian courts treat everyone equally.

In international child welfare matters, Norway bases itself on multilateral agreements, not bilateral. Norway has ratified the relevant multilateral agreements, except The Hague Convention of 1996 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children. Norway is, however, in the process of ratifying The Hague 1996 Convention. The child welfare services of Norway will then be able to cooperate much more closely than today in child welfare cases that involve children with links to other countries that are parties to The Hague 1996 Convention.

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