The Child’s Right to Family Life When Living in Public Care: How to Facilitate Contact that Preserves, Strengthens, and Develops Family Ties

Tina Gerdts-Andresen, Marie Valen-Sendstad Andersen, Heidi Aarum Hansen

This study addresses children’s right to family life when placed in public care and questions how the Child Welfare Service and the Child Welfare Tribunal understand and facilitate this right within a Norwegian context.

Based on a thematic analysis of 18 interviews, factors that have the potential to contribute to and challenge the strengthening and development of ties are presented.

The implications of these factors for practice are discussed in light of the value of family life, the double role of foster parents, and the use of discretion when balancing children’s right to family life and their need for protection.


  • Foster care expands a child’s family, including the right to strengthen and develop family ties both within the foster family and with the biological family.
  • A significant part of strengthening and developing ties when a child is placed in public care involves facilitating discussions between the child and their parents.
  • Understanding how to strengthen and develop ties demands understanding the value of shared history between parent and child individually.
  • Working to strengthen and develop ties does not presuppose agreement about previous experiences.
  • Foster parents might have conflicting interests when understanding what is in the child’s best interest.