Child protection investigations of child custody cases in Norway: caseworkers’ obstacles and coping strategies
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionNordic Social Work Research. 2023, 13 (2), 293-305. 10.1080/2156857X.2021.1972329
In Norway, Child Protection Services (CPS) is responsible for investigating concerns about children at risk of being harmed by their parents’ conflicts. This study focuses on caseworkers’ experiences of investigating cases invol- ving long-lasting custody disputes between parents, and presents the findings of qualitative research engaging 31 CPS caseworkers. CPS is required to investigate cases involving parental conflicts, and the findings show that caseworkers consider custody disputes to be harmful to children. Many of these families have had limited experience with public services before the marriage breakdown, and parents give contradicting stories about their situation to caseworkers. Consequently, caseworkers are pushed to position children as key informants, which violates the child participation principles set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These children are, moreover, described as loyal to their parents, and often refuse to participate. The data analysis draws on Lipsky’s concept of ‘street-level bureaucracy’ to shed light on how caseworkers manage con- flicting goals and demands when conducting investigations. The findings suggest that a system needs to be developed to provide caseworkers with resources and knowledge to help them investigate and to work with these complex family situations in a better way.