Norwegian version

Book Project: Child Welfare Systems and Migrant Families

Eds. R. Barn, K. Križ, T. Pösö, and M. Skivenes

This book project compares the work of child welfare systems with migrant families in eleven countries with different child welfare philosophies, histories and migration contexts. The countries we compare are: Austria, Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the UK and the United States.

By comparing policies and practices in child welfare systems, especially in terms of how child welfare systems conceptualize and deal with migrant children and children of migrant parents, we address an immensely important issue in modern, globalizing societies.
Migrant families in the child welfare system are a critical issue and seem to face serious challenges that are evident across countries. These are challenges related to language proficiency, knowledge about cultural and social aspects and about the public systems of the destination country. 

Immigrant child Photo: Istock.

Project description

The challenges among migrant families in the child welfare systems may include collisions of ideas and beliefs about how to raise children, about children’s place in the family and society, and about children’s rights

The aim of this research study is to examine where, why and to what extent migrant children are represented in the child welfare system in eleven different countries. The countries compared all have different child welfare philosophies and systems as well as histories and practices in relation to migration.

Research questions

Each individual chapter of the book will address the following topics and questions:

  1. Law and policy: To what degree are migrant children a focus of governmental policies? What critical issues do law and public policy outline in terms of migrant children?  How do law and policy define problems and solutions? 
  2. Organization: How are child welfare agencies organized to practice with migrant families?  For instance, are there specific units working with migrant families?
  3. Training: How are frontline child welfare workers trained in working with migrant service users?  Are they trained in culturally sensitive and/or anti-oppressive practice?
  4. Representation of migrant children: Are migrant children overrepresented or underrepresented in the child welfare system compared to non-migrant children?  Who exactly are the migrant children who are represented in the child welfare system (ie in terms of ethnicity, country of origin, first or second-generation status, etc.)?  What are the types of risks and problems of the children of migrant families who have entered the child welfare system?
  5. Practice: How do child welfare workers actually practice with migrants in different systems? 


In each country, we aim at surveying about 100 child welfare workers who have experience working with migrant families. By employing case vignettes, we are seeking to explore child welfare workers’ perceptions of problems and possible solutions in cases involving children of migrant families.

The same survey will be undertaken in all eleven countries. This will provide unique comparative data giving us first-hand feedback from the frontline child welfare workers who are in the midst of handling dilemmas and challenges raised by migration. The survey will be distributed through the on-line survey tool Questback. The survey answers are anonymous.

The survey is reported to the Privacy Ombudsman of the Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD) with the title: Immigrant Families in the Child Welfare System. The Privacy Ombudsman has considered that the treatment of data meets the requirements of the Personal Data Act, and that the processing of personal data can be started.

Project period

January 2011 – May, 2014


Dr. Marit Skivenes
Bergen University College, Norway / Phone +47 959 24 979

Marit Skivenes has in her research been concerned with theoretical and normative issues as well as the legitimacy challenges facing the child welfare system’s responsibility of children at risk. Using argumentation theory, she has contributed to the development of a framework for analysing and evaluating political programmes and decision-making processes. Skivenes has published numerous works on child welfare and broader welfare issues, as well as the impact of communication and publicity in theory and practice. She has conducted several comparative projects.

Professor Ravinder Barn, PhD                                                 
Centre for Criminology and Sociology
Royal Holloway, University of London, UK / Phone: +44(0)1784-443678

Ravinder Barn is Professor of Social Policy in the Centre for Criminology and Sociology at Royal Holloway, University of London.  She has over 70 publications, which includes six books. She is an experienced empirical mixed-methods researcher with a particular interest in migration, multiculturalism and social justice. As Principal Investigator, she has successfully led a number of externally funded research studies for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the former Commission for Racial Equality, The Canadian High Commission, and the Department of Health.

Assistant Professor Katrin Križ, PhD
Director of the College Honors Program
Emmanuel College, USA / Phone: +1 (617) 735 9833

Katrin Križ, who earned a Masters degree in International Development and Social Change at Clark University, USA, and a Ph.D. degree in Sociology at Brandeis University, USA, is assistant professor in the department of Sociology at Emmanuel College. Križ’s research focuses on the areas of Public Policy, Sociology of Families, and the Sociology of Gender, Class and Race/Ethnicity.  Her research is comparative and international and analyzes the effects of public policies, including family policies, child protection policies and immigration policies, on the lives of children and their families in the United States and Western Europe. 

Professor Tarja Pösö
School of Social Sciences and Humanities
University of Tampere, Finland / Phone: +358 50 4336258

Tarja Pösö is Professor at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tampere. Pösö’s research focuses on social work and human services with children, young people and families. Her research on child protection covers such themes as residential care for young people, inter-country adoptions and follow-up studies of children in care.  She is the editor of the Nordic Journal for Social Work Research.

Country contributors

Professor Ilan Katz

Social Policy Research Centre
The University of New South Wales

Dr. Sarah Maiter, PhD
Associate Professo
Liberal Arts and Professional Studies
School of Social Work
York University, Toronto

Professor Ravinder Barn
Centre for Criminology and Sociology
Royal Holloway, University of London

Associate Professor Judit Strömpl
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Tartu

Professor Tarja Pösö
School of Social Sciences and Humanities
University of Tampere

Dr. Roberta T. Di Rosa
Department of Cultural Heritage S.A.S.A.G.
Area of Sociology
University of Palermo

The Netherlands
Professor Hans Grietens

Centre for Special Needs Education & Youth Care
Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences
University of Groningen

Dr. Marit Skivenes
Senior Researcher
Bergen University College

Professor Antonio López Peláez
Dr. Sagrario Segado
Department of Social Work
Faculty of Law
National University of Distance Education (UNED)

Assistant Professor Katrin Križ, PhD
Director of the College Honors Program
Emmanuel College
Associate Professor Ilze Earner
School of Social Work
Hunter College, New York

Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Christoph Reinprecht
Director of the Studies Programme Sociology
Department of Sociology
The University of Vienna


The Research project “Norwegian Child Welfare Systems in a Comparative Perspective” funded by the Research Council of Norway (Program: FRISAM), contributes with funding for facilitating the online survey to child welfare workers.

The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs has kindly provided funding for a book meeting in Bergen in September 2012.  


Sist endret: 03.01.2014