Establishing New Permanent Family Relationships in United States and Nordic Child Protection Systems

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Book Chapter

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This chapter focuses on the comparative creation of new parent and parent-like relationships across U.S. and Nordic child protection systems when authorities determine that parents and children cannot reunify. Creating new families and permanently ending others can represent the most drastic and emotionally fraught elements of state intervention in families, and one would expect the historic differences between the two nations to impact this area. Indeed, U.S. systems continue to use terminations of parental rights and involuntary adoptions far more frequently than Nordic countries. But the overall legal trends, and potential future developments, are more complex. In the United States, terminations of parental rights remain common, but other forms of permanency, especially guardianship, have grown in usage. In Nordic nations, terminations and adoptions remain rare, but nations have begun to question the number of placement disruptions in long-term foster care. U.S. law may provide a model for Nordic nations’ increasing focus on permanency: U.S. law has developed a spectrum of permanency options, providing alternatives to terminations of parental rights. Nordic countries' historic focus on maintaining relationships between children in out-of-home care and their parents should lead to openness to permanency options that challenge the exclusivity of parenthood, such as guardianship, as well as post-adoption contact agreements. This option is evident in Sweden, which has no statutory mechanism for adoption but does provide for the equivalent of guardianship. The option is not prevalent in other Nordic countries – but developing it could provide an appropriate balance for their child protection systems’ historic commitment to respecting family bonds and newer focus on providing permanency.


Family Law | Juvenile Law | Law

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