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13 November 2020




Marianne Haslev Skånland:

The Raundalen Committee's evaluation of the biological principle, Recommendation NOU 2012-5, and the presentation of the Recommendation


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'Barnevernet' is the Norwegian term for 'the child protection service', the CPS. Its official name in English is the
Norwegian Child Welfare Services.
   The Recommendation of the Raundalen Committee, the press release accompanying its publication and the other documents relating to it and referred to here are all in Norwegian, published by the Norwegian government.
   The translations into English given are mine and not from official sources. In some instances, Norwegian titles etc may not have clear equivalents in English. I have chosen translations I believe to come close.
MH Skånland
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The so-called Raundalen Committee was appointed by the Ministry of Children and Families on 18 February 2011, under Minister Audun Lysbakken (Socialist Left Party). The committee delivered its Recommendation on 6 February 2012. (Inga Marte Thorkindsen, also of the Socialist Left Party, took over as Minister shortly after, on 23 March 2012. The Ministry has had some name changes.)

The committee members were:
Professor Arne Johan Vetlesen 
Unit leader for Barnevern Erna Bakken 
Barnevern leader Iben Schier van den Berg 
Senior lecturer Inge Kvaran 
County Board leader Inger Mo 
Special education educator Sabreen Selvik 
Lawyer Stig Åkenes Johnsen 
Psychologist Vigdis Bunkholdt 
Professor Willy-Tore Mørch 
Senior lecturer Øyvind Kvello 


The letter from the Committee accompanying its Recommendation makes it clear that the Committee has held an evaluation of 'the use of the biological principle' to be a central question:
"I statsråd 18. februar oppnevnte regjeringen et ekspertutvalg som skulle foreta en utredning av det biologiske prinsippets anvendelse innen barnevernet. Utvalget ble bedt om å belyse de vanskelige problemstillingene som oppstår i barnevernets arbeid når det biologiske prinsipp kommer til anvendelse. Ekspertutvalget ble også bedt om å vurdere dagens lovgivning i forhold til barnets rettsikkerhet samt vernet av ufødte barn og å fokusere på de minste barna. Utvalget ble bedt om å sammenstille relevant forskning og kunnskap samt oppsummere funn som var særlig interessante for myndigheter og fagmiljøer som utvikler barnevernet."
(In cabinet meeting on 18 February the government appointed an expert committee to carry out an evaluation ot the use of the biological principle in Barnevernet. The committee was asked to elucidate the difficult problems that arise in Barnevernet's work when the issue of the biological principle is applied. The expert committee was also asked to evaluate today's legislation in relation to children's security under the rule of law, as well as the protection of unborn children, and to focuse on the youngest children. The committee was asked to collate relevant research and knowledge and summarise findings of special interest to authorities and expert milieus developing Barnevernet.)
NOU 2012:5
Bedre beskyttelse av barns utvikling – Ekspertutvalgets utredning om det biologiske prinsipp i barnevernet
Til Barne-, likestillings- og inkluderingsdepartementet

(NOU 2012:5
Better protection of children's development – the Expert Committee's elucidation of the biological principle in Barnevernet
(Letter) To the Ministry of Children, Equality and Inclusion)
The Government, 6 February 2012

The Recommendation itself can be accessed from the above page and from the front page of the document as well.


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On the same day the government also publishes a news and press release:

Foreslår nytt prinsipp i barnevernet
(Proposes a new principle in Barnevernet)
The Government, 6 February 2012

The news release opens with the statement:
"Kva skal vera terskelen for at barnevernet skal ta over omsorga for eit barn? Dette diskuterer Raundalenutvalet i ei utgreiing som i dag vart overrekt barne-, likestillings- og inkluderingsminister Audun Lysbakken. Utvalet foreslår eit nytt prinsipp i barnevernet om at barnet si tilknyting skal ha forrang samanlikna med det biologiske prinsippet."
(What is to be the threshold for Barnevernet to take over the care of a child? This is discussed by the Raundalen Committee in a study report which today was presented to Minister Audun Lysbakken of the Child, Equality and Inclusion Ministry. The Committee proposes a new principle in Barnevernet which entails that the child's attachment is to take first place compared to the biological principle.)


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At the bottom of the page it is possible to click into the Committee leader
Magne Raundalen's presentation of the Expert Committee's Recommendation. The presentation is relatively long. The points below are those in which the Committee's attitude and proposals regarding the biological principle are particularly clear:


"Målet med en utredning om det biologiske prinsipp er at spørsmål knyttet til anvendelsen av prinsippet i barnevernet blir grundig utredet. Utredningsarbeidet skal først og fremst belyse vanskelige problem-stillinger i barnevernets arbeid."
(The purpose of carrying out an assessment of the biological principle is that questions concerning the implementation of the principle in Barnevernet should be thoroughly reviewed. The assessment work should primarily throw light on difficult problems in the work of Barnevernet.)

"Det er usikkert om det biologiske prinsipp vil ha samme vekt etter at tilbakeføringsbestemmelsen i § 4-21 ble endret i 2009."
(It is unclear whether the biological principle will have the same weight after the 2009 revision of § 4-21 about conditions for return of the child.)

"Utvalget er kjent med at det finnes forskning som tyder på biologisk preferanse i foreldreskapet, men tolker forskningen om den tilknytningen som oppstår mellom barn og deres omsorgspersoner som det sterkeste grunnlaget for et utviklingsstøttende foreldreskap. Utvalget har ikke funnet forskningsbaserte holdepunkter som hverken bekrefter eller avkrefter at det har en avgjørende egenverdi for barn å vokse opp med sine biologiske foreldre."
(The committee knows that research exists pointing to a biological preference in parenthood, but interprets the research about the attachment developing between children and their care-persons as the strongest basis for development-supportive parenthood. The committee has not found research-based facts which either support or disprove that growing up with their own biological parents should be of value for children in itself.)

"Utvalget anbefaler at det etableres et fjerde, førende prinsipp for vurdering av vanskelige avgjørelser i barnevernssaker. Bakgrunnen er at en for stor vekting av egenverdien av det biologiske prinsipp kan føre til at barnet vokser opp under ugunstige omsorgsbetingelser dersom tilknytningen og relasjonsutviklingen mellom barnet og omsorgspersonene er svak."
(The committee recommends that a fourth, leading principle be established for deciding difficult Barnevern cases. The background is that too heavy emphasis given to the intrinsic value of the biological principle can lead to the child growing up under unfavourable conditions of care if the attachment and the relational development between the child and the persons giving it care are weak.)

"Det utviklingsstøttende tilknytningsprinsippet som utvalget anbefaler som et nytt førende prinsipp i barnevernet, er forskningsmessig begrunnet i utredningens hovedtekst og ytterligere belyst i to vedlegg.
Utvalget anbefaler at det utviklingsstøttende tilknytningsprinsippet gis forrang i forhold til det biologiske prinsipp i saker der tilknytnings- og relasjonskvaliteten er til hinder for barnets utvikling."
(The development-supportive attachment principle recommended by the committee as a new, leading principle in Barnevernet is supported researchwise in the main text of the report and elucidated further in two attachments.
The committee recommends that the development-supportive attachment principle take precedence over the biological principle in cases in which the attachment quality and the relational quality are a hindrance to the child's development.)

"Det er mulig at barneverntjenesten og andre profesjoner tillegger det biologiske prinsipp større vekt enn det er grunnlag for etter rettspraksis. Den høye medholdsprosenten for barnevernet i Fylkesnemndssaker kan være en indikasjon på at barneverntjenesten legger terskelen høyt for å fremme saker om omsorgsovertakelse – muligens for høyt."
(It is possible that the child protective services and other professions place greater importance on the biological principle than is motivated by legal practice. The high proportion of cases won by Barnevernet in the county social welfare boards may indicate that Barnevernet practices a high threshold for submitting cases for taking children into care – perhaps too high.)

"Utvalget vil anbefale at:
   • det for spedbarn fra 0 til 18 måneder tas stilling til adopsjon ikke senere enn ett år etter plassering etter bvl § 4-15, tredje ledd.
   • det for barn mellom 18 måneder til 4 år tas stilling til adopsjon senest 2 år etter fosterhjemsplassering bvl § 4-15, tredje ledd.
   • Adopsjon alltid vurderes i tilfeller der barn er tidlig og varig plassert i fosterhjem."
(The committee will recommend that:
   • for infants of 0 to 18 months, adoption is considered not later than one year after placement according to the Barnevern Act § 4-15, third paragraph.
   • for children between 18 months and 4 years of age, adoption is considered not later than 2 years after foster home placement according to the Barnevern Act § 4-15, third paragraph.
   • adoption is always considered in cases of children being early and permanently placed in foster homes.)

"Utvalget anbefaler departementet å utarbeide en fosterhjemsgaranti for å motvirke ustilsiktede brudd i fosterforhold."
(The committee recommends that the Ministry formulate a foster home guarantee in order to counteract unplanned break-ups in foster relationships.)

" Gjentatte begjæringer og søksmål kan føre til negativ og dermed skadelig uro for barnet. Utvalget foreslår ikke absolutte grenser for tilbakeføring da disse kan komme i konflikt med konvensjoner Norge er bundet av. I stedet foreslår utvalget at krav om tilbakeføring og samværsendringer kan nektes realitetsbehandlet dersom det noen tid etter plassering ikke fremkommer bevis som tilsier at situasjonen er endret for barnet."
(Repeated demands and civil action can lead to negative and therefore harmful disquiet for the child. The committee does not recommend absolute limits for return, since that may conflict with conventions which Norway is bound by. Instead, the committee suggests that process can be denied regarding demands for return and changes of visitation if there is not, some time after placement, proof indicating that the situation for the child has changed.)



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