Pathways to permanence in England and Norway: A critical analysis of documents and data

Marit Skivenes (University of Bergen) and June Thoburn (University of East Anglia) (2017)

Published in Children and Youth Services Review, vol. 67, 2016, pp. 152-160.

The English language term ‘permanence’ is increasingly used in high income countries as a ‘short-hand’ translation for a complex set of aims around providing stability and family membership for children who need child welfare services and out-of-home care. From a scrutiny of legislative provisions, court judgments, government documents and a public opinion survey on child placement options, the paper draws out similarities and differences in understandings of the place of ‘permanence’ within the child welfare discourse in Norway and England. The main differences are that in England the components of permanence are explicitly set out in legislation, statutory guidance and advisory documents whilst in Norway the terms ‘stability’ and ‘continuity’ are used in a more limited number of policy documents in the context of a wide array of services available for children and families. The paper then draws on these sources, and on administrative data on children in care, to tease out possible explanations for the similarities and differences identified. We hypothesize that both long-standing policies and recent changes can be explained by differences in public and political understandings of child welfare and the balance between universal services and those targeted on parents and children identified as vulnerable and in need of specialist services.