Children are not sufficiently involved

McEwan-Strand, A., & Skivenes, M (2020)

NEW ARTICLE: Many children are absent in the decision-maker’s justification and conclusion about adoption, finds Skivenes & McEwan-Strand.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 (CRC) clarifies in Article 5 that states should ensure and protect children’s right to be involved in decisions that concern them, from the earliest possible age.

In an article published in the International Journal of Children’s Rights, Professor Marit Skivenes and researcher Amy McEwan-Strand examine how decision-makers in the Norwegian County Board considers children’s capacities as set out in Article 5 of the CRC.

– Our empirical focus was on adoptions from care and the children who cannot be reunified with their birth parents. These cases are highly important to the involved children, and we wondered if they were given agency and had their capacities assessed, explains Marit Skivenes.

Discouraging findings

The article is based on an examination of all judgments on adoptions from care made in Norway in a six-year period (2011-2016) involving children aged 4-17 years old, a total of 169 judgments. These cases are decided after a two- to three-day hearing in the court-like County Board.

The results of Skivenes and McEwan-Strand’s analysis are discouraging because many children are absent in the decision-maker’s justification and conclusion about adoption.

– Young children do not have their capacity assessed, and are not present in the cases. Older children’s capacity undergoes a shallow assessment, such as only briefly mention their opinion. Overall, children’s role and place in cases about adoption from care are minimal, says Skivenes

Does not follow the law

Skivenes and McEwan-Strand conclude that the law is not followed and that children’s rights as laid out in the CRC are not respected.

The authors write that possible explanations for the situation, that they do not have data to conclude about, may be: lack of guidelines for how to give children agency; that decision-makers do not have sufficient competency in assessing children’s capabilities; and/or that decision-makers are not aware of their obligations; or are not willing to give children agency.

However, they do also emphasize that there are some good examples of involvement in their analysis, which proves it is fully possible to give children agency. Furthermore, that new guidelines for involving children, are in place for the County Boards.

– Involvement of children is not impossible nor difficult to realise, and the County Board should aim to achieve this ambition in the future, states Skivenes.

Marit Skivenes is a Research Leader for the Child Rights Unit at LawTransform.

McEwan-Strand, A., & Skivenes, M. (2020). Children’s Capacities and Role in Matters of Great Significance for ThemThe International Journal of Children’s Rights28(3), 632-665.