Improving decision‐making in care order proceedings: A multijurisdictional study of court decision‐makers' viewpoints

Marit Skivenes & Milfrid Tonheim - Child & Family Social Work


Child welfare removals of children are among the most invasive decisions a state can make toward its citizens, and typically it is the courts that make these decisions. These interventions are regularly exposed to criticism. In this paper, we examine if and how care order proceedings could be improved in England, Finland, Norway, and California, USA. We have asked the judiciary decision‐makers about their view on what should be improved. Our findings show that the organization of the proceedings, including time and staff, are identified as issues in all four systems. Furthermore, the preparations by the child welfare agency are also mentioned as an issue, for English, Finnish, and Californian decision‐makers. Very few decision‐makers indicate features related to the individual, situational, and contextual dimensions, which is interesting since this would be expected from organization theory. The strong call for change in the way proceedings are organized indicates a need for modernization as well as better use of available competency from child development experts. The respondents focus on the elements that a decision‐maker has direct experience with and knowledge about, and this is indeed worth noting for policymakers in the four systems.