The main function of the child protection services is to ensure that children and young people whose living situations pose a threat to their health and development receive the necessary help and care at the appropriate time. Child protection services also have a duty to ensure that all children and young people have a safe environment to grow up in. Both local municipalities and central government agencies have functions and responsibilities in the area of child protection.
The role of local municipalities
All municipalities must have a child protection service (barnevernet) that performs the everyday tasks required under the Child Protection Act. The child protection service must implement measures to assist children and their families. This assistance may take the form of advice and counselling, where necessary in combination with other measures. Such measures will usually take the form of, for example, the allocation of a kindergarten place, the appointment of a designated support person, additional advice and counselling and/or in-home respite.
Child protection services also have a duty to intervene if measures taken within the home are inadequate to address of the child's needs. In such circumstances, and in consultation with the parents, the child protection services may arrange for the child to spend a period in foster care or in a children's home, or at a centre for parents and children. In cases where a child is to be placed away from the family home without the parents' consent, the municipality must obtain a care order from the county social welfare board.
The county social welfare board
The county social welfare board has decision-making powers in matters such as the taking of children into care and compulsory interventions in cases where young people have serious behavioural problems. Decisions made by the board may be appealed to a court of law.
Supervision and appeals/complaints
The County Governor is responsible for supervising the activities of the municipal child protection services. This responsibility includes dealing with complaints about case handling by the child protection services. When hearing complaints, the County Governor will decide whether the child protection services have complied with the Child Protection Act and the Public Administration Act.
The County Governor also hears appeals about individual decisions made by the child protection services under the Child Protection Act. In most cases these appeals will involve complaints by parents or children that they have not been provided with the type of assistance they desired.
The County Governor is also responsible for supervising care institutions run by the child protection services in order to ensure that children in care are well treated. This supervisory responsibility includes responsibility for ensuring that the children are treated considerately and with respect for their individual integrity. Among other things, this responsibility means that any child who has been subjected to coercive treatment at a care institution may complain to the County Governor.