Child Welfare from a Minority Perspective


The study programme, Child Welfare from a Minority Perspective, has been established as an aspect of the Ministry of Children and Equality’s investment in a child-welfare system based on knowledge. Since the 1980s, the Ministry has backed various initiatives to improve understanding of the multicultural aspects of educational programmes for social work, and in 2005 it launched a programme to increase knowledge about multicultural work in the child welfare services. The Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research was assigned this task. Children and adolescents with immigrant backgrounds are a prioritised area of interest for the Ministry of Children and Equality and the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs. The results of the research were published in August, 2007 in the report Multicultural Child Welfare – A Survey of Knowledge (Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research - report 2007:10).
The survey from the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research sums up the results with the following observations:

  • Interventions which work well for ethnic Norwegian children and families appear in large to work with children, adolescents and families with minority backgrounds.
  • Adaptation or the development of special initiatives for minorities might be necessary when special problems occur with obviously higher frequency in particular groups, for example traumatic experiences of flight.
  • Similarly, specialised adaptations might be important in situations where existing initiatives are insufficient.
  • The direct encounters between child welfare services and clients are crucial for the effectiveness of the interventions. When initiatives are less effective among immigrants than others, mutual communication problems seem to be responsible.
  • Good interpretation skills are a decisive element for successful child welfare work in the immigrant population, but the challenges for the interpreter as both objective translator and cultural mediator (“broker”) are complicated.
  • Different types of link work seem to have the potential for enhancing the quality of the direct meetings between childcare workers and clients.
  • A crucial component of good childcare, also among non-western immigrants, is that the childcare workers have a solid understanding of the family’s situation.
  • A multi-ethnic child welfare personnel group will help to increase the breadth of experience and legitimacy of the child welfare services. However, research does not show that ethnic matching of welfare worker and client ensures the necessary analytical approach and cultural sensitivity. “Ethnic matching” means that the welfare worker and the client share the same ethnic background.

The study programme, Child Welfare from a Minority Perspective, is a direct follow-up to the NIBR report mentioned above. The purpose of the study programme is both to increase the multicultural skills used in practical child welfare work and to contribute to the development of culturally sensitive child welfare services. The study programme is workplace-related, and based on students’ own professional experience. Increasing multicultural understanding and skills is an overarching goal, and will provide child welfare workers with positive results in working with minority families, while also enhancing the legitimacy of child welfare services within minority groups. Effective facilitation by employers is essential in order to achieve the best results in relation to both students and the workplace.

Target Group and Admission Requirements

The target group is employees of the municipal childcare services, but the study programme is also relevant for employees of child welfare institutions and the national child welfare services at a regional level.
The admission requirement is a BA in Health and Social Studies or equivalent. If it becomes necessary to rank applicants, the following criteria will be used:
Grades from students’ foundation education, additional relevant education: 0.5 points per 30 credits.
Maximum 2 points. Relevant work experience in addition to admission requirements: 0.5 points per half-year for up to 2 years. In the case of applicants having the same number of points, the under-represented gender will be ranked first.

Aim of the Programme

The study programme will contribute to increased skills in child welfare work amongst minorities, as well as helping to enhance the legitimacy of the child welfare services among minority groups.
After completion of training, students will have acquired:

  • Basic understanding of principal concepts with regard to the child welfare services’ work within ethnic communities.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the diversity of family and parenting patterns.
  • Awareness of their own attitudes and professional roles with regard to majority and minority perspectives.
  • Knowledge, understanding and skills in intercultural communication and interaction in child welfare efforts.
  • Knowledge, understanding and skills in the critical use of different methods in professional welfare work with children and families with minority backgrounds.

The study programme emphasises relevant research and provides an introduction to applicable knowledge and methods. It will contribute to the development of professional practices by strengthening skills in working with children and families from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The teaching will take as its starting point an ethnic minority perspective, i.e., awareness and knowledge of the relationship between minority and majority groups and the various challenges and problems this may entail for the child welfare services.

There will be a particular focus on how cultural sensitivity is a prerequisite for communication and interaction.
Various approaches and methods will be discussed in the study programme with regard to the key concepts, for instance as presented in the NIBR report.
On the basis of established research, assessment and implementation methods and working strategies in today's child welfare services (such as MST, ART and PMTO), the study programme will focus on plans and strategies aimed at families with minority backgrounds.

Further Education opportunities

  • Successful candidates may use the qualification as part of a Master’s degree on application.

Curriculum and structure

On the basis of the NIBR report: “Multicultural child welfare - an overview of knowledge” (2007), the study programme is structured around three main themes:

  • Migration, minorities and the multicultural society.
  • Relationships between child welfare professionals and children and families from minority backgrounds.
  • Methods and models for child welfare work with children and families from minority backgrounds.

The three main themes are further described below with regard to content and learning goals.

Migration, minorities and the multicultural society

Migration may result in instability, but it may also lead to flexibility and opportunities for new orientation. Migration is a dynamic process, and can provide a transnational perspective on life. It may contribute to changes in family sizes and family culture, kinship relations, family ties, social status and class. This may result in cross-pressures within families, which may be further reinforced if family members are in different phases of the migration process, for instance, in the case of family reunification.

In particular, children and families with a background in a collective-oriented way of life may face challenges in their confrontation with the majority group’s individual-oriented way of life. Different life-views and life-orientations, and different goals and methods of child upbringing, may create conflicts within the family and between family members and society.

Minority families in Norway score lower on key variables of living conditions than the majority population, and are subjected to a greater degree of various forms of exclusion, and discrimination and racism.

Learning aims:

After completing the study programme students will have acquired:

  • Knowledge of key concepts related to the multicultural society.
  • Understanding of the various aspects of migration in a global perspective, and how migration can lead to changes in patterns of family life.
  • Knowledge of international conventions and national immigration policies and the ability to apply this in work with children and families with minority backgrounds.
  • Understanding of how collective versus individualistic life patterns affect family life and children’s upbringing.
  • Understanding of minority children’s identity development.
  • Knowledge of how the understanding of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class and caste have significance for interactions at different levels of society.
  • Knowledge of the success and risk factors in minority children's upbringing, both internal factors within the family and external social factors.
  • Knowledge related to discovering and working with family conflicts and so-called “honour-based” violence, cases of genital mutilation and forced marriages.
  • Knowledge of minority children and families in relation to employment, education, upbringing and living conditions, marginalisation, racism and discrimination.

Relationships between the child welfare services and minorities

Cultural sensitivity in communication processes and methodological work are critical to doing a good job and achieving mutual trust and understanding between the child welfare services and users. The study programme will focus on minority perspectives in the meeting between the child welfare services and minority groups, including how different perspectives on how power / powerlessness in the relationships between minority families and the child welfare services emerge.

Professional child welfare work requires awareness of professional standards, values and traditions that the child welfare services employ in their assessment of each child’s care situation.

Research shows there aren’t special reasons as to why ethnic minority families take contact with the child welfare services (cf. the NIBR report). There is reason to believe that minority families in general experience the same types of problems as other families with children, which form the basis for their contact with welfare services. However, children and families from minority backgrounds may also be said to be faced with additional factors that result in many and difficult challenges for them and the public care services, such as poverty, discrimination and racism, exclusion, marginalisation, and migration.

Intercultural competence concerns the ability to communicate appropriately in a given situation in relation to people with different frames of reference than one’s own. This is especially important when operating in a professional capacity. This involves the ability to observe and reflect upon one’s own culture, value preferences and behaviour, and simultaneously deal with different perspectives in an open and tolerant way. Communication through interpreters will be central to the programme.

Learning aims:

After completing the study programme students will have acquired:

  • The ability to apply an analytical perspective to the child welfare service’s knowledge-base and power of definition.
  • Skills in intercultural communication, with emphasis on the importance of language.
  • Skills in cooperating with an interpreter and an understanding of the interpreter’s role in facilitating communication.
  • Insights into and practice in how cultural sensitivity can be practiced in working with children and families with minority backgrounds.
  • Insight into how their own norms, values and theoretical foundation affect professional perception and understanding of others.
  • Special expertise in handling the challenges associated with working with unaccompanied minor refugees.

Methods and models for child welfare work with children and families from minority backgrounds

Students will gain insight into how the methods that prove to be effective in child welfare work can also be applied in work with children and families from minority backgrounds. The programme emphasises a critical approach to the selection of methods and models. A critical perspective in methodological work means being inquisitive with regard to the fundamental values which underpin methods, and to the conflict of interests or other conditions that determine why specific knowledge and methods are used. Students should be able to critically evaluate a method’s theoretical and research-based foundation. The effect of established methods and theories applied to children and families from minority backgrounds will be assessed throughout the whole of the study programme.

The choice of different approaches and methods will be discussed with reference to analytical concepts. In this context, the focus will be on understanding equality and principles of equality in child welfare work with families from minority and majority backgrounds.

Learning aims:

After completing the study programme students will have acquired:

  • Knowledge of and skills in cultural sensitivity and methodological child welfare work related to the various phases of a child welfare case (inquiry, assessment and documentation, measures and assessment work and implementation of measures).
  • Skills in handling the central dilemmas in multicultural childcare – from the universal to the unique.
  • The ability to develop good practice in applying established and recommended (NIBR report) professional childcare methods in an appropriate manner that is tailored to individual needs.
  • The ability to apply methods that can be particularly effective in working with minority groups and supporting the remediation and development of children and parents from minority backgrounds.
  • Critical understanding of how the dominant society can be perceived as the architect behind methods and models used in child welfare work.


Child Welfare from a Minority Perspective is organised as a continuing education programme and comprises 15 ECTS credits, which corresponds to half a semester in a full-time course of studies.
The programme is taught over one semester, and is organised into 3 seminars, each lasting three days. In addition, students will work on programme-related studies between the seminars. The individual university colleges are responsible for specifying the location and dates of the seminars.

The study programme builds on a Bachelor’s degree. The study programme may not automatically be included in a Master’s degree programme, but successful candidates can apply to individual university colleges to allow inclusion of the study programme in a relevant Master’s degree.
The programme is a continuing education programme and should be linked to the student’s workplace. Two students will be prioritised from each workplace.

Teaching and Learning Methods

Instruction is provided through lectures, casework using various methods, seminars, skills training and self-study. The programme is based on active use of participants’ professional practice and experience. Analysis and use of professional childcare methods in a minority perspective will be focused on. Active contribution from the students is expected, and active student learning methods such as independent study, group work and student presentations will be included. Students will be given different assignments during the seminars, which they will work on between the seminars. These assignments will also be used as a source for discussions in the teaching.

Exchange of information between seminars will mainly be carried out via the Internet, e-mail and by phone. Feedback on coursework will be given in the seminar groups.

It is expected that students participate in the seminars, and that the employer provides the necessary support and facilitates the smooth running of the study programme. In other words, employees should be given the time off to attend seminars and sit the examination, as well as have the available time to work on the course material and assignments between seminars. The employer should also facilitate the use and maintenance of the students’ skills and abilities in the workplace.

Assessment Methods

Programme and coursework requirements

Students may only take the examination after the following two requirements have been fulfilled:
1. Mandatory attendance
75% attendance of the seminars. If the student is absent for more than one day, written work must be submitted that covers the theme that was covered by the teaching. If the absence exceeds 3 days teaching, the student loses the right to take the examination.
2. Written work requirements
Two written assignments that students will work on between the seminars must be approved before the student may be allowed to take the examination. If they are not approved, the student can submit a new and improved version within a specified deadline. If a student does not submit or have the assignments approved, that student will not be allowed to take the examination.

The examination is a written individual one-week take-home assignment. The examination assignment will be set by the university college. The grade scale A to F is used, in which E is the lowest passing mark, and F represents a fail. Internal examiners will be used, and an external examiner will be used to comment on the formulation of the assignment and to prepare the assessment criteria.
Any new / deferred examination will have the same layout as the ordinary examination, but a new examination assignment will be formulated.
The guidelines for conducting examinations are stipulated in the Act relating to Universities and University Colleges no. 15, 1 April 2005.

Take-home assignment requirements
The length of the assignment should be 15 pages + / - 10%. Title Page, TOC, literature list and an optional preface, are in addition to this. The assignment must be typewritten using 12 point Times New Roman, line spacing 1.5 and 2.5 cm in the top, bottom, right and left margins (equivalent to the preset standard margins for Word). All pages except the title page should have page numbers, and all pages should include the candidate’s number. The title page should also provide necessary information concerning the examination. The candidate number will be made known to students at least one week before the deadline for submission. In addition, any additional guidelines for written work of the respective university college must also be followed (for example, with regard to references and design of the literature list). The examination answer must be submitted in four copies.

Minor adjustments may occur during the academic year, subject to the decision of the Dean

Publisert av / forfatter Ian Harkness <>, last modified Ian Hector Harkness - 26/05/2009