Representation of children’s views in court hearings about custody and parental visitations – a comparison between what children wanted and what the courts ruled
This is the accepted manuscript version. Published version available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2013.10.015 (PDF)
Purpose: Following the UN convention on the rights of children, a shift in policy towards greater emphasis on child participation in child protection case processing has occurred. A growing body of research has emerged concerning participation processes in child protection cases and the experiences of children in child protection cases. Very few studies have looked into if and when children get what they want, however. The aim of this study is to assess children's views about living arrangements and visitations in dependency court hearings and to compare these views with the rulings of courts. Method: The study uses a retrospective cohort design. Cases where child welfare board rulings are in line with the wishes of children are compared to cases where rulings differ from the wishes of children. Data were collected from regional social welfare board archives. The study included 151 cases that were randomly drawn from a total population of 2481 cases. Simple and multivariate logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with the rulings being in accord with the child's wishes in each sample case. Results: A child advocate was appointed in almost 95% of the cases (n = 142). Fifty-nine percent of the children did not want a change in care. Rulings about care were in line with the wishes of the child in 39% of the cases. Rulings about care were most likely to be what the child wanted, if the child was presently living in public care and did not want to move. Children wanted more visitations with their mothers in 60.5% of the cases and with their fathers in 39.8% of the cases. Whether children wanted more visitations with their mothers was asso- ciated with more visitations being granted. What a child wanted was not associated with the ruling on visitations with the child's father. Conclusion: The impact of children's views on visitations on dependency court rulings depends on what a child wants and how these desires coincide with what is proposed by child protection services. Children's views can be quite effective in blocking certain decisions but are less effective if the child requested a specific change. If a child does not want to stay with his or her birth parents, then the odds that the birth parents will be granted custody is minimal.
This article is part of Svein Arild Vis' phd dissertation, which is available in Munin at http://hdl.handle.net/10037/7042
SiteringChildren and youth services review 35(2013) s. 2101-2109
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