Children and family

Childhood and the Children and Parents Act

Fem barn sammen Barn som leker Barn i vinterlek

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child contains provisions that state the rights of all children. It was passed in 1989 and signed by Norway in 1991. This law applies to children and young people up to the age of 18 and describes the responsibilities of parents concerning children and children’s rights with regard to their parents.

Some important points in the Children Act:

  • When a child is born, the doctor or midwife must report the birth to the National Population Register. The names of the mother and father of the child must be provided and whether or not they live together. If the child is born without a doctor being present or when the mother is abroad, the mother is required to report the birth.
  • Generally speaking, the parents have primary responsibility for their children and the children have the right to parental care and concern.
  • It is the responsibility of the parents to provide for their children. This means that they must make sure that the child receives food, clothing and other matters necessary for a good life. This obligation to provide support continues until the child reaches the age of 18. As a result, parents are also required to support their children until the children complete upper secondary school, even after they have turned 18.
  • Parents are required to provide their children with a good upbringing and always act in the interest and needs of the child. The Children and Parents Act forbids the use of violence in child raising. Using violence or other forms of abusive behaviour is a criminal offence.
  • Parents have the right and obligation to make decisions regarding their child in personal matters when the child is unable to make his or her own decision. An important principle of the Children and Parents Act is that parents should attach more and more importance on the child’s opinion as the child grows older. The child is to have an increasingly greater right to self-determination as the child matures. A seven-year-old child has the right to give his or her opinion before the parents may take decisions regarding personal matters that involve the child. The law prescribes that, once a child has reached the age of 12, more importance is to be attached to the child’s opinion.
  • A fifteen-year-old child even has the right to make decisions regarding education and to join and resign from organisations. This means, for example, that the young person may decide in which type of upper secondary education they enrol. The parents and young person may discuss this and the parents often provide the child with advice. But it is the young person who makes the final decision. Young people can also decide whether or not to join political organisations, religious communities and other associations.
  • Parents are required to ensure that the child attends (compulsory) primary and secondary school and to make sure that the child receives an education that suits their abilities and interests.
  • Children have the right to spend time with both parents, even when the parents live apart.
  • The age of majority in Norway is 18 years.This means that you are now old enough to enter into legal agreements and have control over your own money. It is no longer the parents who are responsible.

The Norwegian Child Welfare Service

The history of the Child Welfare Service goes back to the 19th century. Norway was the first country in the world to establish a public child welfare service to help vulnerable children in need of extra help and protection.

There is a Child Welfare Service in every municipality. The Child Welfare Service’s work is regulated by the Child Welfare Act. This act
applies to all children and young people in Norway, regardless of their background, nationality or citizenship.

Caring for and bringing up a child is primarily the responsibility of the parents. Some parents need help for short or long periods, for example because they are in a difficult life situation etc. The Child Welfare Service can help children and families in such situations.

The best interests of the child
The role of the Child Welfare Service is to provide help that is in the best interests of the child. This is in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is also part of Norwegian law. The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children are independent individuals with special needs and fundamental rights to life, development, protection and participation. In line with Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Child Welfare Service must listen to the child’s opinions and give them due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. For this reason, the Child Welfare Service will usually want to talk to both the parents and the children in families they are in contact with.

The Child Welfare Service’s most important tasks are:

  • Providing help and support:
    The Child Welfare Service helps children and families when a difficult life situation or other reasons makes such help necessary. The Child Welfare Service wishes to cooperate with parents to ensure that children are happy at home. This help can take the form of advice and guidance or help to participate in leisure activities, kindergarten or an after-school programme (SFO/AKS). In most child welfare cases, the family receives help and support in the home. Sometimes, help in the home is not enough, and the Child Welfare Service may agree with the parents that a child needs to move out of the home for a short or longer period.
  • Responsibility to protect children:
    It is usually best for a child to grow up in its own home, but the Child Welfare Service has a responsibility to protect children if help and support in cooperation with the parents (assistance measures) are not enough to meet a child’s needs. The Child Welfare Service must try assistance measures before considering taking a child into care. Very weighty grounds are required for the Child Welfare Service to take a child into care. Examples of such grounds are if the child is severely neglected – that is, if the parents inflict physical or mental harm or neglect the child so badly that the child’s physical or mental health and development is jeopardised. If the parents use violence against a child, for example hitting the child, that can be defined as neglect. To place a child outside the home without the consent of his or her parents requires a decision by the County Social Welfare Board, which is a court-like public body. In such cases, parents are entitled to free legal aid (a lawyer).

The procedure in child welfare cases
Many child welfare cases begin with the parents or the child contacting the Child Welfare Service themselves to ask for help. The Child Welfare Service is also contacted by health clinics, hospitals, schools, kindergartens, neighbours and other people who are concerned about a child. Everyone who works in the public sector, for example in schools, kindergartens and health clinics, has a statutory duty to notify the Child Welfare Service if they have serious concerns about a child. All reports received by the Child Welfare Service are given consideration. If the Child Welfare Service finds reason to do so, they will contact the child and parents to find out more about the child’s situation. In such cases, the Child Welfare Service may want to speak to the child alone. Parents and children are entitled to an interpreter if they need one. It is normal for the Child Welfare Service to contact others who know the family and the child, for example the school or kindergarten. If the Child Welfare Service finds that there is no reason for concern, the case will be dropped. Otherwise, they may suggest measures to help the child and family.

How can children and adults contact the Child Welfare Service?
All municipalities have a Child Welfare Service that is open during office hours. Both children and adults can contact this office. In the evening or at night, children or people who are concerned about a child can call the emergency phone service for children and young people, phone number: 116 111.

Facts

Child benefit
The child benefit is intended as financial aid for all children under the age of 18 living in Norway. It is to be used to pay child-related expenses. More information: NAV Barnetrygd.

Cash-for-care benefit
The cash-for-care benefit is financial aid that is given for all children between the ages of one and two who do not attend a kindergarten. The cash-for-care benefit is for children between the ages of 13 and 23 months. Attending kindergarten part-time results in a lower cash benefit.
More information: NAV Kontantstøtte.