A cross-country comparison of child welfare systems and workers' responses to children appearing to be at risk or in need of help

Jill Berrick, Jonathan Dickens, Tarja Pösö, Marit Skivenes

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This paper compares how frontline staff in four national child welfare systems and policy contexts – Finland, Norway, England and the USA (specifically, California) – respond to questions about a scenario of possible harm to children. The countries have different child welfare systems that we anticipated would be reflected in the workers' responses (n = 1027). The analysis shows differences and similarities between the systems, although often not in line with system expectations. There is also variation within the country samples. The study shows the complex interactions of individual and agency characteristics in addition to the role of proceduralised decision-making systems and professional discretion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305–319
Number of pages15
JournalChild Abuse Review
Issue number4
Early online date28 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Child welfare systems
  • decision-making
  • eligibility assessment
  • service provision

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