Care orders – for children

Most children live with their parents. Sometimes, children have such a difficult home life that they can no longer live at home. The adults in charge can then decide that the children have to move away from their parents. The children will usually go to live with other adults who can take better care of them. We call this a foster home, and the adults who live there with the children are called foster parents. Sometimes, children have to move to a child welfare institution. A child welfare institution is a house where several children can live together, and several different adults look after the children. The adults do not live at the institution, but have their own homes elsewhere. When the adults at the institution go home, other adults come to look after the children. There are always adults present with the children at child welfare institutions.

Even if the children cannot live at home with their parents, they are allowed to see their parents from time to time. Either the parents come to the place where the children are staying and spend some time with them there, or the children go to their parents’ home and spend time with them there. Sometimes, the children meet their parents in other places, for example at a playground. The children and their parents usually spend a few hours together. The children are also allowed to talk to their parents on the phone. Sometimes, the adults in charge think that seeing their parents again will make things so difficult for the children that they should not see their parents at all. 

Care orders – for parents

If a child’s home situation is clearly unacceptable, the Child Welfare Tribunal can, on certain conditions, issue an order for the municipality to take the child into care. A care order is a highly invasive measure, and strict conditions apply.

The European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child limits the authorities’ right to interfere with family life. These rules take precedence over Norwegian law. The Supreme Court of Norway has stated that Norwegian law complies with these international rules.
The Child Welfare Act stipulates as a fundamental condition for taking a child into care that the child suffers mistreatment at home, such as abuse or neglect. A child may only be taken into care if it is necessary. A care order must not be issued if a satisfactory care situation can be established for the child at home with the assistance of the child welfare service and other agencies. Such assistance would include kindergarten support, respite care, supervision at home, urine testing, parental guidance etc. Even when a child is neglected and extensive assistance measures are not enough, a child shall not be taken into care unless that is the best solution for the child.

The consequence of a care order is that the child has to move away from his or her parents to live in a foster home or an institution. The foster parents or institution will then exercise daily care of the child in the parents’ stead and on behalf of the child welfare service. A foster home is a family that has been approved and meet requirements for particular ability, time and resources to give children a good, safe home. Foster parents must meet good conduct requirements and submit a police certificate of conduct. Children in foster homes are subject to regular supervision visits to see how the child is doing in the foster home, with at least four visits a year for children under 15 years of age. The supervisor will talk to the child, usually without the foster parents being present.

When a child is taken into care, it is up to the Child Welfare Tribunal to decide whether the child is placed in a foster home or an institution. Young children are usually placed in foster homes. It is the child welfare service that chooses the foster home. The child welfare service must always consider whether it is possible to choose a foster home in the child’s family or close social network. If the parents demand that the child be placed in a particular home, for example with the child's grandparents, it is up to the tribunal to consider and decide whether the child should be placed there.

When a child is taken into care, the tribunal also has to decide how often the child and his or her parents should get to see each other and for how long. If necessary to prevent the contact having a harmful effect on the child, for example if the child is scared of being along with his or her parents, the tribunal may decide that access sessions should be supervised. The Child Welfare Tribunal can also restrict the right to contact the child by telephone, mail and social media.