A Crisis in Swedish Child Welfare? On Risk, Control and Trust


  • Tommy Lundström Stockholm University
  • Marie Sallnäs Stockholm University
  • David Pålsson Stockholm University
  • Emelie Shanks Stockholm University


Child welfare, out-of-home care, child welfare policy, privatisation, residential care, foster care


In recent decades, Swedish out-of-home care has been criticised for a number of reasons. In this article, based on research and public debate, we discuss this criticism as well as the institutional responses that have been evoked. We use the concepts of risk, control and trust to structure the analysis, which outlines three core issues portrayed as problematic: a) certain principles of the Swedish child welfare system with relevance for the placement of children and adolescence, b) the quality of out-of-home care and c) the privatisation of out-of-home care and the possibility of generating profits on such services. The institutional response to the criticism has mainly been increased control measures, but the development is not uniform - trust and control-oriented responses are often combined. We conclude the article by relating Swedish out-of-home care to international child welfare trends, discussing the institutional responses and the implications for social work practice.