The child welfare services must sometimes take children into care against their parents' will. This applies in cases where children lack adult caregivers, or when the child welfare services assess the situation in the home to be so difficult and harmful that it is necessary to remove the child indefinitely. This is far more intrusive than in the case of voluntary placements outside of the home.

Main points

1665 children were subject to a care order in 2014. This figure remains unchanged from 2013.

It is primarily young people who are under the care of the child welfare services, but most care orders are first issued when children are small.

8892

8892 children were under the care of the child welfare services in 2014, an increase of 6 % from 2013.

About care orders

A care order is only issued if the child’s situation is serious and cannot be remedied through the use of voluntary measures. The basis of the Child Welfare Act is that children should grow up under the care of their biological parents. Strict conditions must be met before the child welfare services take children into care against their parents’ will. Applicable situations include if a child is subjected to serious neglect, assault or other serious abuse in the home.

Only County Social Welfare Boards may issue care orders. Cases are investigated and prepared by the municipal child welfare service. When the County Social Welfare Board undertakes such a measure, the issue of contact between the child and its parents is always to be taken into account. Children who are subject to a care order may be placed in a foster home or in an institution. Care orders may be revoked, and parents may regain the care responsibility for their child. The child welfare services will not assume care responsibility for young people above 18 years old, but some individuals may remain subject to aftercare measures even after a care order has expired on their 18th birthday.

A number of children are removed from the home on the basis of emergency care orders and are temporarily placed elsewhere while awaiting decisions on whether a care order should be made. 

Distinguishing the difference between all children and new children under the care of the child welfare services

In this article we consider both the total number of children under the care of the child welfare services and the number of children who are made subjects of a care order during the course of the year. While the former indicates the total volume of children under the care of the child welfare services over time, the latter indicates the number of new children that have been taken into care each year.

Care orders are regularly used as a long term measure. For this reason the number of children who are under the care of the child welfare services, at any given time, is larger than the number of children who are being taken into care during the given year. Since these figures are gathered from two different sources and are not directly comparable, they will be presented in two distinct parts.

Number of children under the care of the child welfare services

Children under the care of the child welfare services

The number of children aged 0-17 years old under the care of child welfare services, by sex. During the course of the year

Kilde: Statistics Norway Child Welfare

Number of children under the care of child welfare services per 1000 children aged 0-17 years old, by county. During the course of the year

Kilde: Statistics Norway Child Welfare

The percentage of children aged 0-17 years old under the care of child welfare services, by sex. During the course of the year

The number of children aged 0-17 years old that the child welfare services are responsible for caring for, by sex. During the course of the year

Number of children under the care of child welfare services per 1000 children aged 0-17 years old, by county. During the course of the year

Number of children under the care of child welfare services per 1000 children aged 0-17 years old, by county. During the course of the year

Kilde: Statistics Norway Child Welfare

8892 children under the care of child welfare services

In 2014, 9982 children aged 0-17 years old were under the care of child welfare services. These represented 19 % of children in receipt of assistance from child welfare services in this age category. They were placed in either foster homes or institutions. This is the total number of children that child welfare services have care responsibility for, regardless of when a care order was issued. In relation to the general population in the age category 0-17 years old, there is an equivalent of 7.9 children per 1000 people who are under the care of the child welfare services.

At the end of 2014, the number of children under the care of child welfare services was somewhat lower, comprising 8569 people in the age category 0-17 years old. This group represented 74 % of all children aged 0–17 years old who were placed by the child welfare services as of the end of 2014. 

 Increased number of children under the care of child welfare services

The number of children aged 0-17 years old who are under the care of child welfare services has, with the exception of a plateau from 2012 to 2013, increased throughout the period from 2003 to 2014. During the period from 2003 to 2014 there was an increase of 44 %. From 2013 to 2014, there was 6 % growth - the equivalent of 478 more children.

More boys than girls under the care of child welfare services

Boys represent a majority amongst the children under the care of child welfare services. In 2014, boys represented 53 % of children, while 47 % were girls. The distribution of sex has remained relatively stable over time. The majority of boys is, however, somewhat lower than it is amongst all children in receipt of services from child welfare services.

Significant differences between counties

Compared to the general population, the number of children under the care of child welfare services varies significantly between counties - with Finnmark and Akershus representing the extremes. In Finnmark, 13 children per 1000 in the age category of 0-17 years old were under the care of child welfare services in 2014, while the equivalent figure for Akershus was 5 per 1000.

Age distribution

Children under the care of child welfare services, by age

Children under the care of child welfare services per 1000 children in each age group. During the course of the year

The category “18-22 years old” shows young adults who were previously subject to care orders who continue to receive aftercare measures even though their care order expired upon their 18th birthday.
Kilde: Source: Statistics Norway Child Welfare and Statistics Norway Population

Children under the care of child welfare services per 1000 children in each age group. During the course of the year

Children under the care of child welfare services, by age group During the course of the year

Kilde: Source: Statistics Norway Child Welfare and Statistics Norway Population

Increased risk for 13-17 years age group

Compared to the general population in each age group, the probability of being under the care of child welfare services increases in line with the age of the child. This means that in 2014, the largest group under the care of child welfare services was 13-17 year olds at a rate of 11.8 per 1000, followed by primary school children (6-12 years old) at 8.4 per 1000. The numbers are 5 and 3 per 1000 children for 3-5 year olds and 0-2 year olds respectively.

Young adults in receipt of after care measures

In 2014, 719 young adults aged 18-22 years old were registered as being under the care of child welfare services by Statistics Norway’s child welfare statistics. Since only children younger than 18 years of age may be under the care of child welfare services, this is because the legal basis for a placement has not been amended to aftercare measures.

Greatest increase among primary school age children

Between 2003 and 2014 there has been an increase in the number of children under the care of child welfare services in all age categories in comparison with the general populations of 0-17 year olds. The increase has been greatest among children aged 6-12 years old, from 5.7 per 1000 in 2003 to 8.4 per 1000 in 2014. The lowest growth levels have been among the youngest children aged 0-2 years old, where the figure has increased from 1.7 per 1000 in 2003 to 3.0 in 2014.

Immigrant background

Immigrant background is not included in Statistics Norway’s annual publication of child welfare statistics, but is published at regular intervals in separate publications. The figures discussed here are from 2012, which are the most recent figures available.

Children that child welfare services have care responsibility for by immigrant background

Number of children and young people that child welfare services are responsible for caring for per 1000 0-17 years olds by immigrant background. At the end of the year.

Kilde: Source: Statistics Norway (2015)

Number of children and young people that child welfare services are responsible for caring for per 1000 0-17 years olds by immigrant background. At the end of the year.

The number of children aged 0-17 years old under the care of child welfare services, by immigrant background. At the end of the year.

Kilde: Source: Statistics Norway (2015)

More immigrants under the care of child welfare services.

At the end of 2012, 8.8 per 1000 immigrant children aged 0–17 years old were under the care of child welfare services. This figure is higher than the equivalent figure for children with no immigrant background and children born in Norway to immigrant parents, for which the rates are 6.9 and 5.5 per 1000 in this age group, respectively.

Greatest increase among children born in Norway to immigrant parents

Compared with 2009, there has been an increase in the number of children under the care of child welfare services in all groups. The highest increase was among children born in Norway to immigrant parents, which increased from 4.3 per 1000 0-17 year olds in 2009 to 5.5 per 1000 in 2012.

New children taken into care

New children who came under the care of child welfare services during the course of the year are in this case children who are subject to a care order issued by a county social welfare board. They may also have been subject to a previous care order that has expired at an earlier date, but in most cases these are children who have not previously been subject to a care order in their lives.

Children subject to a care order

Number of children aged 0-17 years old who are subject to care orders during the course of year, by sex.

Kilde: Source: County Social Welfare Board, Statistics Norway Population

Children subject to a care order, by county

Kilde: Source: County Social Welfare Board, Statistics Norway Population

Number of children subject to a care order during the course of the year per 1,000 0-17 year olds, by sex.

Number of children aged 0-17 years old who are subject to care orders during the course of year, by sex.

Number of children subject to a care order during the course of the year, by county. Per 1,000 0-17 year olds

Number of children aged 0-17 years old who are subject to care orders during the course of year, by county.

Kilde: Source: County Social Welfare Board, Statistics Norway Population

1665 children were subject to a care order in 2014

The number of new children under the care of child welfare services during the course of the year is significantly lower than the total number of children under the care of child welfare services. During the course of 2014, 1665 children were made subject to a care order issued by a county social welfare board. This is equivalent to 1.5 children per 1000 0-17 year olds.

During the course of 2014, 1318 care orders were issued. This figure is lower than the number of children subject to care orders because a care order may encompass several children - generally siblings.

Number of new children plateaus after several years of growth

The number of new children in receipt of care from child welfare services increased by 52 % from 2008 to 2012, followed by a reduction of 4 % to 2013 and stability in 2014.

There are varying trends for the total number of children that child welfare services have care responsibility for and new children, with increases and apparent stability observed respectively. The number of children under the care of child welfare services may increase even if the number of new children stabilises because child welfare services has in recent years largely assumed responsibility for caring for younger children (see section below), who remain under the care of child welfare services for several years. This means that there are fewer children leaving the care of child welfare services than there are entering.

More boys than girls subject to care orders

In 2014, 53 % of children subject to care orders were boys, while 47 % were girls. This is an equivalent distribution of sex to that among the total number of children under the care of child welfare services. There has been a majority of boys since 2008, with the exception of 2011 when 51 % of children were girls and 49 % boys.

Greatest number of children subject to a care order, in Finnmark

There are major variations between counties as to how many children are subject to care orders. In 2014, 3 children per 1000 0-17 year olds in Finnmark were under the care of child welfare services, while in Sogn og Fjordane and Oslo the equivalent figure was just under 1 per 1000.

Age distribution among new children

Children subject to a care order, by age

Number of children subject to a care order during the course of the year. Per 1,000 in each age group

Kilde: Source: County Social Welfare Board, Statistics Norway Population

Number of children subject to a care order during the course of the year. Per 1,000 in each age group.

Number of children subject to a care order during the course of the year, by age group.

Kilde: Source: County Social Welfare Board, Statistics Norway Population

Care orders most common among young children aged 0-2 years old

According to the age category, the highest proportion of children subject to care orders in 2014 were in the 0-2 years age category, with a rate of 1.8 per 1000. The equivalent figure for 6-12 year olds was 1.5 per 1000. The equivalent figure for both 3-5 year olds and 13-17 year olds was 1.3 per 1000.

Teenagers under the care of child welfare services consist of teenagers with new care orders as well as those who have been in care since they were much younger. This is why the number of children under the care of child welfare services is larger for youths than for the younger children.

Reduction in number of young children subject to care orders

The number of new children subject to care orders during the course of the year has increased in all age categories since 2008, but the extent of the increase has varied. The increase has been greatest among the youngest children aged 0-2 years old, where it almost doubled from 1.1 per 1000 in 2008 to 2 per 1000 in 2012. The figure has since reduced to 1.8 per 1000 in 2014. It is therefore primarily in this age group that the reduction from 2012 has taken place. The number of youths aged 13-17 years old taken under the care of child welfare services has changed the least, from 1.1 per 1000 in 2008 to 1.3 in 2014.

Country of origin among new children

Children subject to a care order, by region of the world in which their mother was born

Percentage of children aged 0-17 years old subject to a care order, by region of the world in which their mother was born. During 2014

Kilde: Source: County Social Welfare Boards

Percentage of children aged 0-17 years old subject to a care order, by region of the world in which their mother was born. During 2014

Kilde: Source: County Social Welfare Boards

Percentage of children aged 0-17 years old subject to a care order, by region of the world in which their mother was born

Number of children aged 0-17 years old subject to a care order, by region of the world in which their mother was born.

Kilde: Source: County Social Welfare Boards

74 % of children subject to care orders have a mother born in Norway

The majority of children (74 %) subject to care orders in 2014 had a mother born in Norway. The largest other groups subject to care orders were children with mothers born in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, with percentages of 10 %, 6 % and 4 % respectively.

Increase in care orders among children with mothers born in Asia

From 2012 to 2014 there has been a reduction in the number of new children and young people under the care of child welfare services, but this varies somewhat depending on which region the mother is born in. The number of children of Norwegian origin was reduced by 102, while the number of children from non-Norwegian origins was more stable or increased. There has been a particular increase in care orders among children with mothers born in Asia, from 130 children in 2013 to 163 children in 2014.

Challenges relating to recording country of origin

There is no data available relating to the country of birth of the mothers of children aged 0-17 years old. It is therefore challenging to compare the prevalence of care orders according to country of origin.

Sources

County social welfare boards. Extracts from the County social welfare boards’ task system Sakarias. Source is not publicly available.

Statistics Norway. The Child Welfare Service of Norway.

Statistics Norway. Population.