When crisis strikes

- Changes in work and professional identity among social workers in Norwegian Child Welfare Protection services during COVID-19


  • Jeanette Pedersen
  • Guro Øydgard




Child Welfare Protection, Covid-19 , Child Welfare Workers, professional identity


When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Norway in March 2020, comprehensive action was taken by the government, leading to the lockdown of welfare institutions, schools and kindergartens, and strict restrictions on physical meetings. This had severe consequences for Child Welfare Protection services (CWP). The restrictions stopped child welfare protection home visits and professionals in other welfare institutions, which usually observe children and notify child welfare protection services, were no longer able to identify children at risk. This article, drawing on interviews with 10 social workers, explores their experience during COVID-19. Applying Lipsky’s concept of street-level bureaucrats and theories of professional identity, the article documents how COVID-19 not only restricted, but also modified social workers jobs, and led to self-reflection on their professional identity. In turn, the findings suggest the potential for beneficial changes in practices in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Author Biographies

Jeanette Pedersen

Doctoral Research Fellow
Faculty of Social Sciences, Nord University
E-mail: jeanette.i.pedersen@nord.no

Guro Øydgard

Associate Professor
Faculty of Social Sciences, Nord University
E-mail: guro.oydgard@nord.no


Almås, S., Vasset, F. & Ødegård, A. (2018). Tverrprofesjonell samarbeidslæring [Interprofessional collaboration]. Fagbokforlaget.

Barnevernloven. (1992). Lov om barneverntjenester [Child Welfare Act] (LOV-1992-07-17-100). Lovdata. https://lovdata.no/dokument/NL/lov/1992-07-17-100

Berrick, J., Dickens, J. Pösö, T. & Skivenes, M. (2016). A Cross-Country Comparation of Child Welfare Systems and Workers’ Responses to Children Appearing to be at Risk or in Need of Help. Child Abuse Review, 26(4), 305-319. https://doi.org/10.1002/car.2485

Breimo, J., Sandvin, J. T., Lo, C., & Anvik, C.H. (2021). Concerned or not concerned – is that the question? An analysis of the role of the ‘note of concern’ in the collaboration between the Child Welfare and Protection Services and other service providers. (Bekymret eller ikke bekymret – er det spørsmålet? En analyse av bekymringsmeldingens betydning for samarbeidet mellom barnevernet og andre tjenesteytende instanser). Tidsskrift for samfunnsforskning, 62(2), 192-202. https://doi.org/10.18261/issn.1504-291X-2021-02-04

Bufdir (2020). Statusrapport, Utsatte barn og unges tjenestetilbud under COVID-19-pandemien [Status report. Services for children at risk during the covid 19 pandemic]. Barne-, ungdoms- og familiedirektoratet. https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/utsatte-barn-og-unges-tjenestetilbud-under-covid-19-pandemien/id2831843/

Bufdir.no (n.d). Bekymringsmeldinger til barnevernet [Notifications of concern for children]. https://www.bufdir.no/statistikk_og_analyse/barnevern/bekymringsmeldinger/

Bunkholdt, V. & Kvaran, I. (2015). Kunnskap og kompetanse i barnevernsarbeid [Knowledge and competence in child welfare work]. Gyldendal Akademisk.

Directorate for Children, Youth and Families (2020). Den kommunale barneverntjenestens prioriterte oppgaver – i en tid i krise og beredskap [The municipal child welfare service’s priority tasks – in a time of crisis and alert]. https://bufdir.no/aktuelt/temaside_koronavirus/profesjonelle/informasjonsskriv/den_kommunale_barneverntjenestens_prioriterte_oppgaver__i_en_tid_i_krise_og_beredskap/

FN (1989). FNs konvensjon om barnets rettigheter [Norwegian translation of The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child]. Barne- of familiedepartmentet. https://www.regjeringen.no/globalassets/upload/kilde/bfd/bro/2004/0004/ddd/pdfv/178931-fns_barnekonvensjon.pdf

Government.no (n.d). Timeline:. News from Norwegian Ministries about the Coronavirus disease Covid-19. https://www.regjeringen.no/en/topics/koronavirus-covid-19/timeline-for-news-from-norwegian-ministries-about-the-coronavirus-disease-covid-19/id2692402/

Government.no. (2020, 24th March) Press Release 55/20. Coronavirus measures. The Office of the Prime Minister- https://www.regjeringen.no/en/historical-archive/solbergs-government/Ministries/smk/Press-releases/2020/coronavirus-measures-to-continue/id2694682/

Heggen, K. (2008). Profesjon og identitet [Profession and Identity]. In: A. Molander & L. I. Terum (Ed.), Profesjonsstudier [Study of Professions]. Universitetsforlaget.

Hollekim, R., Anderssen, N. & Daniel, M. (2016). Contemporary discourses on children and parenting in Norway. Norwegian Child Welfare Services meets immigrant Families. Children and Youth Service Review. 60, 52-60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.11.004

Kojan, B. H. (2011). Norwegian Child Welfare Services: A Successful Program for Protecting and Supporting Vulnerable Children and Parents? Australian Social Work, 64(4), 443-458, https://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2010.538069

Lipsky, M. (2010). Street-level bureaucracy – dilemmas of the individual in public services, 30th anniversary expanded ed. Russell Sage Foundation.

Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M. & Saldana, J. (2014). Qualitative Data Analysis: A Methods Sourcebook. SAGE Publications.

Molander, A., & Terum, L. I. (Ed.) (2008). Profesjonsstudier [Study of Professions]. Universitetsforlaget.

Mollenhauser, K. (1996). Glemte sammenhenger- om kultur og oppdragelse [Forgotten aspects – about culture and upbringing]. Gyldendal.

Nilssen, V. (2014). Analyse i kvalitative studier - Den skrivende forskeren [Analysis in Qualitative Studies – The Writing Researcher]. Universitetsforlaget.

Regjeringen (2020). Lokale regler må ikke hindre samfunnsfunksjoner [Local rules must not prevent societal functions] Helse- og omsorgsdepartementet. https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/lokale-regler-ma-ikke-hindresamfunnsfunksjoner/id2693804/

Thagaard, T. (2018). Systematikk og innlevelse – En innføring i kvalitative metoder [Systematic and empathy: An introduction to Qualitative Methods]. Fagbokforlaget.

Tveito, S. B. (2021). Barnevern i krisetid. Barneverntjenestens arbeid med vold og overgrep under koronapandemiens første fase [CWP in times of crisis. CWP’s work with domestic violence during the pandemic]. Oslo Metropolitan University. (NOVA, Note 1/21).

Unicef (2021). Child Protection and Covid 19. https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/COVID-19/

University of Oslo. (n.d.). Nettskjema-dictaphone. https://www.uio.no/english/services/it/adm-services/nettskjema/help/nettskjema-dictaphone.html

Wackerhausen, S. (2002). Humanisme, professionsidentitet og uddannelse i sundhedsområdet. Hans Reitzels Forlag.

Welch, M. & Haskins, R. (2020). What COVID-19 means for America’s child welfare system. The Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-covid-19-means-for-americas-child-welfare-system/




How to Cite

Pedersen, J., & Øydgard, G. (2022). When crisis strikes: - Changes in work and professional identity among social workers in Norwegian Child Welfare Protection services during COVID-19. Journal of Comparative Social Work, 17(1), 153–175. https://doi.org/10.31265/jcsw.v17i1.392