Exploring Juridification in the Norwegian Barnahus Model

Open Access


This chapter explores whether and how juridification manifests in the Norwegian Barnahus model using empirical results concerning juridification in the Swedish Barnahus model as a point of reference. Factors that may stimulate or constrain processes of juridification are discussed. The analyses are based on data from the evaluation of Norwegian Barnahus in 2012 and Barnahus data from 2015 to 2016. The analyses of Swedish Barnahus found that child welfare workers were influenced the most by the penal perspective. Evaluation of the Norwegian model indicated that role conflicts were not a problem for the professionals involved. Differences in the construction and implementation of the Barnahus models may explain differences in juridification; however, recent changes in Norwegian legislation regarding child investigative interviews and policy processes suggest that juridification is also present in the Norwegian Barnahus model.


Juridification Criminal justice system Collaboration Inter-agency Multi-disciplinary 


Improving services through inter-agency collaboration in cases of child abuse has been a challenge since violence and abuse against children were set on the national agenda in Norway in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Improving collaboration has been an aim in every strategy or action plan the Norwegian government has made in the last two decades (Jonassen 2013). In their latest action plan, the government states: “Good preventive work and comprehensive services regarding help and treatment depends on services collaborating well across boundaries” (Ministry of Justice and Public Security 2014, 27) 1 .

The Barnahus model may be seen as an answer to these challenges, as an inter-agency approach to children being victims of crime with a double aim of facilitating the legal process and ensuring that the child and family receive the necessary help to cope with the child’s experiences, but this presupposes that both aims are fulfilled. The double aim of the model risks tension between competing aims instead of having aims of equal significance. Results from a study of the Swedish Barnahus model (Johansson 2011a) suggest that “the penal perspective” in some respects has been prioritised at the expense of securing necessary help and treatment for the child and family. Johansson interprets this as a case of juridification. In this chapter, I will focus on analysing juridification tendencies within the Norwegian Barnahus model 2 . My aim is to explore whether and how juridification manifests in the Norwegian Barnahus model using empirical results from juridification from the Swedish Barnahus model as a point of reference. A second aim is to discuss factors that may stimulate or constrain processes of juridification, as well as possible implications. 3

As noted, the double aim in Barnahus creates potential tensions. How do these relate to the extensive national and international research-based knowledge that already exists about important conditions for successful inter-agency collaboration? We know that good communication and a clear understanding of professional roles and responsibilities are important prerequisites, as well as mutual trust and an understanding of each other’s duties and responsibilities (Darlington et al. 2004). Formal agreements regulating collaboration are also important, in addition to having enough resources in terms of time and financing to be able to collaborate successfully (Darlington et al. 2005; Katz and Hetherington 2006).

There is also extensive knowledge about the conditions that inhibit successful collaboration. Conflicting professional aims and mandates cause tensions and challenges (Darlington et al. 2005). In the Barnahus context, it is especially the tension between the criminal case and a need to ensure the child’s well-being and psychological treatment that represents a challenge. The Norwegian and Swedish Barnahus models (as well as all the Nordic Barnahus models) have the double aim of facilitating the legal process and ensuring that the child and family receive the necessary help in order to cope with the child’s experiences. By including different perspectives and interests that may conflict each other, the double aim implies potential tension. At the same time, the basic idea of Barnahus is that a child will receive help from different agencies “under one roof” which avoids having to repeat their story over and over again to different agencies. This means that tensions between professional aims and mandates within the model may be a potential threat to the model itself.


“Juridification” is an ambiguous concept defined in various ways among researchers and within different disciplines. It is, for instance, used about new legislation being implemented in new areas (Debaenst 2013; Aasen et al. 2014), or to suggest that law as a profession is given too much influence in society (Norwegian Official Report 2003), that social problems are redefined as legal problems, or that legal regulation limits professional discretion and may imply a bureaucratisation of welfare services (Aasen et al. 2014; Bærøe and Bringedal 2014). Blichners and Molanders (2008) have deconstructed juridification to include five dimensions that cover many of the above meanings: “…constitutive juridification, juridification as law’s expansion and differentiation, as increased conflict solving with reference to law, as increased judicial power and as legal framing”.

Johansson (2011a, b) has specifically used the term “juridification” in a Barnahus context, as part of an analysis of how institutional power between different professions is negotiated in Barnahus 4 . One of the tendencies she identifies is the influence of “criminal law-oriented” logic on professionals with duties other than those related to the criminal case. This may include influences on professional attitudes as well as work practices, but not necessarily both. She found that child welfare services adapted their practice to the tasks of the police and the prosecutor. According to Johansson, this shows that criminal law-oriented logic dominates “the treatment-oriented logic”. She also found that professions that traditionally have belonged to the treatment-oriented logic are influenced to a greater degree by the criminal law-oriented logic in their practice than vice versa. She therefore concludes that this may be seen as a general process of juridification representing an institutional change as a result of participating in inter-agency collaboration within Barnahus.

Johansson develops her analysis of the process of juridification further in an article where she looks closer at the relationship between the criminal law- and the treatment-oriented logic. Johansson argues that differences in the power of criminal law-oriented logic and treatment-oriented logic are related to differences in power between laws regulating these areas. The criminal code is based on a normative rationality that limits the space for discretion, while social law targets specific goals and thus leaves more room for discretion. Tensions between these create conflicts of norms which again have consequences for organisation, negotiations and practices of collaboration (2011b). Johansson sees this change as part of a process of juridification.

The term “juridification” may thus be used about a situation where the criminal law-oriented perspective is given priority at the expense of other perspectives; however, it may be argued that the term “juridification” is imprecise, since it refers to jura and thus laws in general. It is important to stress that it is the process of the criminal case and the influence this has on the professions in Barnahus with other primary responsibilities than those related to the criminal case that is subject for analysis here. In this chapter, the term “juridification” will therefore be used about the situation where the penal way of reasoning influences the way of thinking and practice of professionals with other primary tasks in Barnahus than those involving the criminal case. The penal way of reasoning reflects considerations and assessments related to the criminal case and I will refer to this as “the penal perspective”.

Juridification in the Swedish Barnahus Model

Johansson’s (2011a) empirical results concerning juridification in the Swedish Barnahus model will be used as a point of reference for the analysis of the Norwegian model. Since my intension is not to scrutinise juridification processes as such, but to explore whether and how juridification manifests in the Norwegian Barnahus model, I will not draw on her theoretical framework (institutional theory of organisations and power theory, see Chap.  12) but only refer to her empirical results regarding juridification. I will therefore elaborate on some of her findings. In her study, she found that representatives of all the different professions had been influenced by each other; however, she also found that there were differences in the extent of the influence between the different professions. Representatives from the child welfare services were influenced the most by the others. Representatives from the police and forensic medicine were also influenced, but to a smaller degree than the child welfare workers. Representatives from the prosecuting agency were influenced the least.

The influence that the child welfare workers experienced resulted in changes to their work practice. The sequence of tasks was organised in a way that gave the criminal case priority at the expense of the responsibilities of the child welfare workers in the child welfare case. Johansson found that the changes made were justified by means of a reasoning that reflected the criminal case and was not in line with the professional mandate of the work of the child welfare workers.

An example of a change of practice concerned the notification of the child’s parents. From a child welfare perspective, it is important for child welfare professionals to notify parents quickly, because it is important in child welfare cases that the caseworkers establish a good relation with the family at an early stage; however, the criminal investigation and the criminal case require that the parents are not notified so as to avoid the risk of reducing the evidential value of witness statements or tampering with evidence. Johansson found that the child welfare caseworkers postponed notification of the parents to avoid this risk, and her interpretation is that the interests of the criminal case were given priority at the expense of the child welfare case.

Different Contexts for Analysing Juridification

Using the Swedish Barnahus model as a point of reference for an analysis of manifestations of juridification in the Norwegian model is not without problems. There are important differences between the models. First, practice in Barnahus in Sweden seems to vary to a greater extent than Norwegian practice due to differences in implementation processes (see Chap.  1) and makes it more difficult to write about a unified Swedish practice. This means that when I write about how the model generally functions in Sweden, there will be local variations that, to some degree, differ in practice from the general model described here.

Second, there are differences between the Norwegian and Swedish models that relate especially to the role of the child welfare services. This touches upon an important point of reference, since Johansson (2011a), as previously noted, found that child welfare workers were the profession in Barnahus most affected by the penal perspective. A core question in my analysis is whether there is a similar tendency in the Norwegian model, despite the differences between the models, regarding the role of child welfare services?

In the Swedish model, the child welfare investigation and the criminal investigation follow parallel paths in Barnahus. This is not the case in the Norwegian model, where the child welfare investigation is not formally a part of the Barnahus model. In Norway, a case in Norwegian Barnahus implies that the alleged abuse has been reported to the police. It is the police who contact the Barnahus and make an appointment for the child investigative interview. In this sense, the case is police-initiated and the focus is primarily on the child investigative interview and thus the criminal case. This organisational difference implies a stronger presence of the child welfare case in the Swedish Barnahus compared to the Norwegian model and a stronger focus on the criminal case in the Norwegian model.

A third difference concerns the professional background of the Barnahus staff. This relates to the question of who is influenced by the penal perspective in the two models. In the Swedish model, it is primarily child welfare workers who are functioning specifically as permanent Barnahus staff and coordinators, while in Norway the Barnahus staff consists of employees with different professional backgrounds, for example, within pedagogics, psychology and child welfare 5 . The Norwegian Barnahus staff thus represent a more diverse group of professionals than in the Swedish model. This means that we compare models that involve different conditions for being influenced by the penal perspective. Diversity in professional backgrounds may be a factor of significance for how susceptible they are to influence from the penal perspective, since it may imply that assessments and decisions are based on a broader professional basis, and may thus represent a stronger resistance to influence.

Systemic differences could also imply an expectation that the child welfare perspective is more pronounced in the Swedish model due to the stronger involvement of both the child welfare services and the child welfare case. We might also expect the penal perspective to be stronger in the Norwegian model due to the case being police-initiated, or even police-focused or driven. Based on this, we might expect to see more traces of juridification in the Norwegian model compared to the Swedish. I will now go on to explore whether and how juridification manifests in the Norwegian Barnahus model.

Juridification in the Norwegian Barnahus Model


The analysis of the Norwegian model is based on data from an electronic survey conducted in 2011 with professionals in Barnahus who participated in child investigative interviews, and which included data from legal personnel (police, lawyers and judges). The number of respondents was 273 in total, with a response rate of 53% of the professionals who were invited to participate in the survey. Our study did not include an in-depth analysis of juridification, but we did include a question about how they assessed the balance between the interests of the child’s well-being and the penal perspective. This question may give information to suggest whether such an effect is present in Norwegian Barnahus; however, due to limited data and the relatively low response rate, we have to be careful not to draw overly strong conclusions from these results.

The analysis is also based on interviews with leaders and other employees at six Norwegian Barnahus from 2011. These interviews were conducted as individual interviews (leaders) and focus group interviews (employees) using open-ended questions. The interviews included questions about the Barnahus concept, activities and organisation (i.e. professional background of the staff, the staff tasks in the different phases of the case, the number of child investigative interviews and medical examinations, collaboration with other agencies and organisational affiliations). A sample of these interviews, involving three randomly selected Barnahus, has been reanalysed for this chapter. The specific aim of this analysis has been to look for descriptions of practices and assessments that inform us about the relationship between the criminal case and the other activities in Barnahus. Special attention has been given to identify reflections among professionals that inform us about how they prioritise the interests of the criminal case in relation to other aspects of the case, such as treatment or safe-guarding well-being of the child and family.

Finally, I have included new data, based on the analyses of interviews conducted in 2015–2016 with Barnahus staff at five Barnahus in different parts of Norway. These interviews concerned inter-agency collaboration between four different services (crisis shelters, Barnahus, family therapeutic services and child welfare services). In these interviews, we included a question to the Barnahus staff about the relationship between the penal perspective and offering treatment and support for the child. All quotations from the interviews have been translated into English by the author.

Empirical Results Regarding Juridification in the Norwegian Barnahus Model

When Barnahus was implemented in Norway, there was concern among public authorities that the inter-agency model would result in role conflicts; however, when Norwegian Barnahus was evaluated in 2012, the results suggested that this was not a problem. Legal professionals were, for example, asked how they assessed the balance between the interests of the child well-being and the penal perspective. Seven out of ten lawyers and police representatives reported that they experienced the child and the penal perspectives as well balanced. Nine out of ten also reported that the Barnahus staff had a good understanding of their role (Stefansen et al. 2012).

The Barnahus leaders and staff also reported in the interviews that they found it very important to have a clear understanding of their role. A major impression after reanalysing the interviews was also that the Barnahus staff were very much focused on describing their specific role within the Barnahus as being facilitators for the other professionals. They also emphasised the clarity of roles when they described how they relate to welfare services outside the Barnahus model. A good balance between the different perspectives and a clear understanding of professional roles, at least as the professionals themselves experienced them, may imply that juridification is less widespread in the Norwegian Barnahus model.

Our results about this point were surprising because the double aim in the Norwegian and Swedish model should imply that the tensions between taking care of the well-being of the child and the penal perspective would be the same in both models. It is therefore necessary to look closer at this result. I will start with possible explanations for why we may find fewer traces of juridification in the Norwegian model compared to the Swedish, and then discuss some factors that in contrast may suggest a juridification effect in the Norwegian model as well.

Factors that May Suggest Less Influence from the Penal Perspective in the Norwegian Model

One factor that may imply less influence from the penal perspective on child welfare caseworkers in the Norwegian model may be that they are not formally a part of the Norwegian Barnahus model. As noted earlier, the child welfare case and child welfare professionals are more strongly involved in the Swedish Barnahus model compared to the Norwegian model. This implies that representatives from child welfare services are less exposed to the influence of the penal perspective in the Norwegian, compared to the Swedish model and may imply a stronger potential to maintain their professional autonomy. This may make it less likely that the penal perspective influences assessments in the child welfare case.

Another factor of significance for juridification is the clarity of roles within the Barnahus model. Clarity of roles may be a barrier to juridification and, as noted earlier, was also emphasised as important in the interviews by several of the leaders of the Barnahus. There are some factors that may suggest that a clarity of roles is more distinctive in the Norwegian than the Swedish model. This is due to differences regarding the implementation of Barnahus in the two countries.

The Barnahus model in Sweden was introduced as a new service, but as part of the pilot project, partly implemented in existing services for abused children and their families. This implied that the Barnahus model was implemented into services with variations in organisation and practice, including in existing practices of collaboration. As in Sweden, Norwegian Barnahus was introduced as a new measure, but was not implemented into existing services. Instead, the Barnahus was built from scratch, as part of the Norwegian pilot project. Building the model from scratch may have resulted in more unified practice and facilitated a clarity of roles in the Norwegian Barnahus.

Another factor that may affect the clarity of roles is the resistance many of the Barnahus experienced during the implementation process. Implementation of Barnahus in Norway meant that the child investigative interview of the children was to be conducted in Barnahus instead of at the police stations or the courthouses where these interviews were conducted prior to the establishment of Barnahus. In the initial phase, there was resistance to this change of practice, especially from members of the justice system. Some judges and leaders in the police were against having the interviews conducted at Barnahus partly because they found it unnecessarily time-consuming to travel to the Barnahus (Bakketeig et al. 2012). There was also scepticism about the role of the Barnahus staff and their presence during the child investigative interview. The interviews with representatives from the Barnahus staff showed that they found some lawyers and judges to be hostile in the early days after the implementation (Stefansen et al. 2012); however, this gradually changed when the legal personnel understood the benefits of conducting the interviews in Barnahus 6 . The Barnahus staff was also very aware of this resistance and worked systematically to reduce it. They succeeded in overcoming this resistance partly because they were very clear about defining their own role in relation to the other professional roles in Barnahus. They stressed that they would not take over any of the other profession’s tasks in these cases, and that their primary role was to facilitate the child investigative interview and the medical examination, and to make sure that the child and their families received necessary help in order to cope with their experiences, including psychological counselling. Thus, the initial resistance in Norway may have contributed to a clarity of roles in the model, which may again have constrained juridification.

Factors that May Imply a Juridification Effect in the Norwegian Model

I have suggested some factors that may explain why we find less traces of juridification in the Norwegian model compared to the Swedish model; however, there are factors that may suggest a juridification effect in the Norwegian model as well, although expressed in other circumstances, and partly due to changes in the institutional, organisational and legal framework for Norwegian Barnahus.

First, the affiliation of Barnahus with the police system (see Chap.  1) could imply a strong influence from the penal perspective, resulting in a reduced focus on treatment and securing the child and family’s well-being. This risk of bias was also underlined in the evaluation of the Norwegian model, where the authors pointed out the need for a stronger involvement from the ministries with political responsibilities for treatment and securing the child and family’s well-being, in this case the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services and the Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion. The authors state: “A steering model that makes the relevant ministries accountable will also secure the balance between the different elements in the Barnahus model: The criminal track, the treatment track and the comprehensive principle of the child´s best interest” (Stefansen et al. 2012, 156.) 7 .

Our interviews, however, showed that the Barnahus staff was aware of the implications of being employed by the police organisation, and found it important to be clear that Barnahus was an independent unit and different from the police. Being employed by the police organisation also naturally affects how they see their responsibilities, however, partly because of organisational demands, but perhaps also due to a closer identification of the Barnahus staff with the aims of the police organisation over time as a result of being affiliated with the police system. The following statement from a member of the Barnahus staff in 2016 illustrates the significance of the affiliation when comparing her own role to the police interviewers:

Also I am employed in the police organisation(…), so I am also concerned about the child’s involvement in the criminal case, but my primary concern is the child’s well-being. To balance these two elements can be a bit challenging.

Finally, affiliation with the police system may imply that issues relevant to the penal process may receive more attention in the political and administrative system than issues for which other ministries are responsible, and may therefore promote juridification.

I have emphasised that a clarity of roles may inhibit juridification; however, clarity of roles does not exclude juridification. It is possible to have clarity of roles within an organisation, but for one perspective to still be given priority at the expense of others. A reanalysis of our interviews with employees at the Barnahus may illustrate this point, as we found several examples of similar statements. A leader underlines that the Barnahus staff:

always confers with the police to make sure that they can continue to follow up the child, because sometimes, if they are going to do another police interview (…), then we (…) can´t go in and do anything. Therefore, we have a very open dialogue with the police, so we don´t ruin the penal case.

Another employee says:

we never talk to the child and family before we have asked the investigator if it is ok. (…) so we make sure that we do not go in and ruin the investigation.

On the one hand, this reflects a clear definition of roles, but on the other hand it is also clear that the criminal case is prioritised and that the immediate follow-up and treatment of the child have to wait. This implies that in the Norwegian model too, the penal perspective influences the sequence of tasks, as Johansson found in the Swedish model (2011a). This may be necessary for the Barnahus model to function according to its aims, but it also shows that the penal perspective is given priority at the expense of other perspectives in the Norwegian Barnahus. This may also imply that there is a mismatch between the conception among the professions in the Barnahus that the different perspectives are well balanced on the one hand and their work practice on the other hand. It may be that it has become so common in the Barnahus to be careful not to interfere with the criminal case that they are not aware of the fact that one perspective is given priority at the expense of others (cf. Johanssons’s discussion of three-dimensional power in Chap.  12 in this volume).

The Norwegian legal framework is also of relevance, because Barnahus is undergoing changes. New regulations about child investigative interviews have been adopted and came into force in October 2015. 8 The amendments mean that child investigative interviews will now be led by the police and no longer by a judge. One of the consequences of the changes in legislation is that the defendant no longer has to be notified prior to the first interview of the child. The obligation to notify the perpetrator has formerly suggested challenges, which are referred to in the preparatory works of the amendments (Prop 112 L). To avoid notification of the alleged perpetrator, child welfare caseworkers sometimes postponed reporting suspected abuse to the police in consideration of the child welfare case (to be able to maintain good relations with the parents). When the case was later reported to the police, the value of the evidence of the child’s statement was impaired because there was a risk that it had been influenced by the child welfare investigation. The ministry therefore argues that the amendment about not having to notify the perpetrator before the first interview of the child will improve collaboration between the police and child welfare services and avoid delays in reporting cases to the police. The ministry also emphasises the importance that the procedures are followed in the correct sequence to avoid destruction of evidence. If we turn back to the example of juridification that Johansson (2011a) identified in her study, where the child welfare caseworkers postponed notifying the child’s parents in consideration of the criminal case, the legal changes in the Norwegian code of criminal procedure actually suggest a similar juridification effect. On the other hand, not having to notify the alleged perpetrator may mean that the first interview of the child is taken more rapidly after the case is reported to the police and may in fact reduce the potential conflict of interests between the criminal and the child welfare case.

Finally, the Norwegian Barnahus reports of 2016 show that they are cutting back on the psychological treatment of children and their families due to an increased number of police interviews at the Barnahus. For instance, the Barnahus in Stavanger treated 167 children and families in 2014, and only 55 in 2015. The interviews with Barnahus employees in 2015–2016 showed that four out of five Barnahus were currently very pressed for time and resources because of the increased number of interviews. The consequence is that they have to cut back on the treatment of children and their families. The strong increase in child investigative interviews is a result of the amendments in the Norwegian criminal procedure legislation. Moving from interviews led by a judge to police interviews may have lowered the threshold for conducting child investigative interviews but also led to an increased number of interviews due to the fact that supplemental interviews may be required by the defence attorney if the first police interview has substantiated the concerns about the abuse of the child. The time limit for undertaking interviews has also been reduced. In some cases, the interview has to be taken within one week of the case being reported to the police (Norwegian Code of Criminal Procedure §239 e). Compliance with these limits is a target within the police organisation. Overall, this creates strong pressure on the Barnahus, forcing them to prioritise the child investigative interviews and reduce treatment as a consequence of limited resources. It may seem as if the Barnahus ends up in a “crossfire” of competing expectations. Since the Barnahus staff are employed by the police, they feel that the Barnahus has to serve the police in order to fulfil the demands of new time limits. On the other hand, the Barnahus are very conscious of the fact that treatment and support of the child and family are just as important. In an interview from 2016, a Barnahus employee describes the pressure of crossing expectations:

yes, we have been very accommodating [towards the police]. Now we are more explicit that we have two tasks: the interrogation of the child and the follow up afterwards. Both are equally important.

The Barnahus employees describe this as a struggle about resources within the police organisation. A member of the Barnahus staff says that when the police require them to set up a second interview room which demands extra financial resources, they make sure to ask for the financial means to employ more therapists to be sure to increase their capacity for offering treatment at the same time.

The reduction in treatment due to the increase in the numbers of child investigative interviews is thus a strong indication that the interests of the criminal case are also being prioritised at the expense of securing the necessary treatment for the children and their families in Norway, but it also suggests that Barnahus is making a strong effort to secure treatment and the well-being of children and families.


In this chapter, I have explored whether and how juridification manifests in the Norwegian Barnahus model using empirical results regarding juridification from the Swedish Barnahus model as a point of reference. I have also discussed factors that may promote or inhibit penal perspective being given priority within the model. Factors that may suggest less juridification in the Norwegian model include the experience of roles as well balanced between the Barnahus staff and the majority of the judicial respondents in our study. Well-balanced roles may be due to a clarity about roles. This clarity of roles may have developed as a result of implementing Barnahus as a service built from scratch and not, as in Sweden, partly implemented within existing services. A clarity of roles may also have developed as a response to the resistance initially expressed in parts of the legal community to the establishment of Barnahus in Norway. Clarity of roles may inhibit juridification. Even more important, however, is that the lower formal involvement of child welfare services in the Norwegian model, compared to the Swedish model, may suggest a stronger potential to maintain their professional autonomy.

I have also discussed factors that may suggest a juridification effect in the Norwegian model. A closer look at the data through reanalyses of the interviews with Barnahus leaders and employees gave examples where the criminal case influenced the sequence of tasks. The effect of the organisational affiliation of Barnahus in the police organisation and recent developments after the Norwegian model was evaluated also strongly suggest a juridification effect. This is related to the effect of Barnahus staff being organised as part of the police organisation, of changes in the Norwegian criminal procedure legislation and the implications of these changes for the Barnahus.

As of today, we have limited research-based information about the level of juridification in the Norwegian Barnahus. It is therefore necessary to initiate research in Norway to scrutinise the degree to which such an effect is present and to obtain a deeper insight into the implications of juridification. It would, for instance, be interesting to compare the degree and implications of juridification on child welfare services in Norway compared to other countries with a stronger formal involvement of child welfare services in the Barnahus model, as in Sweden and Denmark (see Chap.  1).

It may be argued that organising the tasks in Barnahus in a way that does not reduce the value of evidence from the child’s statement does not necessarily imply that the different aims of the model are not fulfilled. On the contrary, it may be necessary to organise the sequence of tasks in order for the different professional aims to be accomplished. It is when the Barnahus model is put under pressure to prioritise the child investigative interview at the expense of treatment and taking care of the well-being of the child and family that it becomes a problem, but problems may also occur if professional aims are incompatible, for instance, when the child is in need of immediate treatment. If the interests of the criminal case are prioritised at the expense of immediate treatment of the child, it could put the child at risk. Even though an important part of the Barnahus obligation is to facilitate the child’s best interest in the criminal case, it is important to remember that the official aim of the criminal case is primarily based on the public interest of pursuing a criminal offence and is not primarily based on the interests of the child. Prioritising the interests of the criminal case at the expense of treatment can also challenge the basic presumptions for the Barnahus model. Ensuring the necessary help and treatment for a child and their family based on the child’s individual needs is an independent and important aim in Barnahus. Putting less emphasis on these perspectives, due to considerations of the criminal case, could imply a reduced quality in services offered to children and families in Barnahus.

It is also necessary, however, to recognise that tensions between the different perspectives in Barnahus are unavoidable, and this is a situation that professionals in Barnahus will have to live and cope with. This is a natural consequence of working within an inter-agency model that operates at the intersection of the criminal justice system, treatment and securing the well-being of children and their families. Competence, good communication skills, mutual understanding and respect between the professionals, as well as clarity of roles when working with the individual child and their families, are important conditions under which to manage the balance between the different professional aims and perspectives. As Johansson concludes in her analysis of power dynamics in Swedish Barnahus collaboration, the balance of power will also be subject to continuous negotiations. Finding a balance that fulfils the separate aims of the model is necessary in order to secure good services for children and their families.


  1. 1.

    Author translation.

  2. 2.

    This chapter relates to a project about inter-agency collaboration between welfare services in cases of domestic violence conducted within the framework of the Domestic Violence Research Programme (2014–2019) at NOVA, funded by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security.

  3. 3.

    I would like to thank my co-editors and especially Susanna Johansson and Kari Stefansen for very constructive comments.

  4. 4.

    Johansson’s reanalysis of collaboration in Swedish Barnahus (2011a) builds on her evaluation of collaboration in the Swedish national trial project of the Swedish Barnahus model (2008). Also, see Johansson’s chapter (12), Power dynamics in Barnahus collaboration.

  5. 5.

    In some Barnahus, in Sweden there are also police and/or psychologists employed as part of the permanent Barnahus staff, for instance, at Stockholm Barnahus; however, as far as we know, it is also practice within these Barnahus that mainly child welfare workers work as coordinators. These child welfare workers are not the same as the child welfare workers visiting Barnahus in relation to their work with specific child welfare cases (case workers). Both groups of child welfare workers are formally employed by social services, but only the first group works as part of the permanent staff at the Barnahus.

  6. 6.

    In 2011, 69% of the child investigative interviews were conducted in Barnahus.

  7. 7.

    Translated by the author of this chapter.

  8. 8.

    Amendments have been made to the Code of Criminal Procedure 4. September 2005 no 91. Ref. also Regulations concerning interviews of children and other vulnerable aggrieved parts and witnesses (facilitated interviews) of 24. September 2015 no. 1098.

  9. 9.

    According to the Code of Criminal Procedure §239 b, section three and four, if facilitated interviews are conducted without notifying the alleged perpetrator, the assessment of whether to charge them shall be made as soon as possible. If charged, the alleged perpetrator and their attorney shall have the opportunity to see the documents and the video-recording of the interview. They shall also be informed about the right to ask for a supplementary interview of the child.



  1. Aasen, Henriette Sinding, Siri Gloppen, Anne-Mette Magnussen and Even Nilssen. 2014. “Introduction.” In Juridification and Social Citizenship in the Welfare State, eds. Henriette Sinding Aasen, Siri Gloppen, Anne-Mette Magnussen and Even Nilssen, 1–20. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.Inc.Google Scholar
  2. Bakketeig, Elisiv, Mette Berg, Trond Myklebust and Kari Stefansen. 2012. Barnehusevalueringen 2012. Delrapport 1. Barnehusmodellens implikasjoner for politiets arbeid med fokus på dommeravhør og rettsmedisinsk undersøkelse. Oslo: Politihøgskolen.Google Scholar
  3. Bærøe, Kristine, and Berit Bringedal. 2014. “Professionalism, discretion and juridification: social inequality in health and social citizenship.” In Juridification and Social Citizenship in the Welfare State, eds. Henriette Sinding Aasen, Siri Gloppen, Anne-Mette Magnussen and Even Nilssen, 146–161. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Inc.Google Scholar
  4. Blichner, Lars Christian and Anders Molander. 2008. “Mapping juridification.” European Law Journal 14 (1): 36–54.Google Scholar
  5. Darlington, Yvonne, Judith.A. Feeney, and Kylie Rixton. 2004. Complexity, conflict and uncertainty: Issues in collaboration between child protection and mental health services. Children and Youth Services Review 26 (12): 1175–1192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Darlington, Yvonne, Judith A. Feeney, and Kylie Rixton. 2005. Practice challenges at the intersection of child protection and mental health. Child and Family Social Work 10 (3): 239–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Debaenst, Bruno. 2013. “A study on juridification. The case of industrial accidents in nineteenth century Belgium.” The Legal History Review 81 (1–2): 247–273.Google Scholar
  8. Johansson, Susanna. 2008. Myndighetssamverkan i barnahus – organisering, innehåll och process. Delrapport 4 i utvärderingen av nationell försöksverksamhet med barnahus 2006–2007. Research Report 2008:4. Lund: Universitetet i Lund.Google Scholar
  9. Johansson, Susanna. 2011a. Rätt, makt och institutionell forändring. En kritisk analys av myndigheters samverkan i barnahus. Lund studies in sociology of law. Lund: Lunds universitet.Google Scholar
  10. Johansson, Susanna. 2011b. “Juridifiering som institutionell förändring. Om mötet mellan straffrätt och socialrätt vid interorganisatorisk samverkan.” Retfærd. Nordic Journal of Law and Justice 34:4(135): 38–59.Google Scholar
  11. Jonassen, Wenche. 2013. «Fra kvinnemishandling til vold i nære relasjoner. Regjeringens handlingsplaner mot vold.» Tidsskrift for kjønnsforskning 37 (1): 46–62.Google Scholar
  12. Katz, Ilan and Rachael Hetherington. 2006: “Co-Operating and Communicating: A European Perspective on Integrating Services for Children.” Child Abuse Review 15 (6): 429–439.Google Scholar
  13. Ministry of Justice and Public Security. 2014. Et liv uten vold. Handlingsplan mot vold i nære relasjoner 2014–2017. Oslo: Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet.Google Scholar
  14. Norwegian Official Report. 2003. Makt og demokrati. NOU 2003:19. Oslo: Arbeids- og administrasjonsdepartementet.Google Scholar
  15. Prop.112 L. (2014–2015). Endringer i straffeprosessloven (avhør av barn og andre særlige sårbare fornærmede og vitner). Oslo: Justis-og beredskapsdepartementet.Google Scholar
  16. Stefansen, Kari, Tonje Gundersen and Elisiv Bakketeig. 2012: Barnehusevalueringen 2012. Delrapport 2. En undersøkelse blant barn og pårørende, jurister og politifolk, samt ledere og ansatte. Oslo: NOVA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Norwegian Social ResearchOslo and Akershus University College of Applied SciencesOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations