Social Inclusion Ministry Will Privatize Child Welfare in Norway

Horne believes the previous government went too far in downsizing of institutions without being able to recruit enough foster homes. Now she will have a change of course, writes Aftenposten. 

– There are too many children in care that the state has been responsible for, and we are unable to provide a good enough serivce, Horne told the newspaper. 

Therefore, she wants more commercial players in the child welfare. 

A Growing Industry Open to Corruption

However, Professor of linguistics at the University of Bergen, Marianne Haslev Skånland points out the idea might be problematic. According to Skånland, child care is already turning into an industry, which pays incredible amounts, especially to psychologists, for “reports” and to foster “parents”. They advertise for people to be foster parents and announce a yearly pay of, say, NOK 430.000 (€ 30.000) plus paid holidays and regular “time off” from the foster children plus allowances for building their house or buying an extra car plus pension entitlement. The business also, of course, provides extra income and extra jobs for social workers, writes Skånland. She also notes that child care cases often rely on information from anonymous sources. She thinks one never knows who the sources are, and whether the sources are reliable. Or whether the sources possess first hand information, or are pure rumors.

Another disputed issue is multicultural knowledge and skills in the child welfare service. Numbers from Statistics Norway show that children with minority background are more frequently in contact with child welfare service than children with majority background.

Large increase in the use of foster homes From 2009 to 2010, the use of national supported foster homes increased by 16 per cent. During this period, the total number of children registered in the national Child Welfare Service saw a rise of 7 per cent, and reached a total of 5 700 children in 2010. More children in foster homes and fewer in children’s institutions At the end of 2010, approximately 5 700 children were registered in the national Child Welfare Service. Since 2009, this figure has increased by more than 7 per cent. 

On average there are 4.6 children per thousand (age 0-19) registered in the Child Welfare Service in 2010; a climb of 15 per cent since 2006. Of the 5 700 children registered in the national Child Welfare Service, 59 per cent stayed in foster homes, 23 per cent stayed in children’s institutions and 19 per cent received assistance while living at home. The number of children in the national supported foster homes increased by 16 per cent from 2009 to 2010. In a longer time perspective, this increase is even bigger; from 2006 to 2010 the number of children in national supported foster homes increased by almost 51 per cent, from nearly 2 200 to 3 300 children. During the same period, the number of children in children’s institutions decreased by 16 per cent, and totalled 1 300 children in 2010. More than one million treatment days in Child Welfare Service The total number of treatment days in the national Child Welfare Service was approximately 1.1 million, and this has only changed marginally since 2009. 

In 2010, the foster homes and children’s institutions together had approximately 900 000 treatment days, while children receiving assistance while living at home had 190 000 treatment days. The latter has seen a marked increase of 21 per cent since 2009. Expensive bed-day prices in child welfare institutions The total expenditure for the national Child Welfare Service was almost NOK 5.6 billion in 2010; a rise of more than 3 per cent from the year before. Prices per bed-day in foster homes have climbed 7 per cent from 2009 to 2010. One bed-day in foster homes cost NOK 2 700 in 2010. This is less than half of what a bed-day costs in child welfare institutions, where the price was almost NOK 7 000. 

One third of the national Child Welfare Service is not public 

In 2010, approximately NOK 1.8 billon was spent on buying child welfare services from the private sector. This is about one third of the total budget for the national Child Welfare Service, and this share has been quite stable for the last 5 years. Almost NOK 3 billion in wages In total, there were 4 400 contracted man-year in the national Child Welfare Service in 2010. The total expenditure on salaries in 2010 was a bit more than NOK 2.8 billion; an increase of approximately 6 per cent since 2009. 

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