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Removals of children by the child welfare system – variation and differences across countries

When it comes to child welfare, high income countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, England and the US) vary in their policies, laws and professional practice.  In the book “Child Welfare Removals by the State” edited by our researchers Kenneth Burns, Tarja Pösö and Marit Skivenes, analysis shows that what these countries do have in common is that the decision to remove a child is based on a mix of sociolegal reasoning, though there is no dominant model of child removal decision-making.

  • Each country has its own unique approach to decision-making bodies, processes, decision-makers and knowledge bases
  • Tresholds for interventions vary a great deal among countries; reflecting the different child welfare system orientations
  • The authority to undertake or facilitate removals of children – with or without parental and/or children’s consent – differs among countries
  • Some countries set specific age criteria for children’s participation in decision-making, others do not. The age for when you are a full party to the decision-making process also varies across country. In Finland this age is 12, in Norway and Sweden it is 15, and in England it is 16.
  • Across the eight countries studied in the book, there are clear weaknesses in decision-making processes for voluntary placements. These weaknesses are lack of competence, lack of due process procedures and transparency. This raises concerns that these voluntary removals might in fact not be voluntary.


Burns, K., Pösö, T. and & Skivenes, M. (2016). Removals of children by the child welfare system – variation and differences across countries. In:  Burns, K., Pösö, T. and & Skivenes, M. (eds). Child Welfare Removals by the State: A cross-country analysis of decision-making systems.

If you would like to read more from our book, please click on the following link: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/child-welfare-removals-by-the-state-9780190459567?cc=no&lang=en&