Would you like to have your children´s and your own destiny settled by a social worker? She can be a good person, but has no tools to investigate. The use of ”she” is explained by the fact that among the Swedish social workers 87 % are women.
In Sweden there are no psychologists appointed by courts, no professionals involved in doing forensic evaluations, no forensic psychologists, no facilitators, only to name some of the experts involved in complicated family cases handled in by the court system in many other countries. In Sweden there are only social workers involved in family court cases. They are called social secretaries and have 3.5 years of what can be summarized as a ”generalist education”: they know a little from many fields.
These cases are handled by the ordinary court system, there are no juvenile courts, no family courts.
It rarely happens that a Swedish court appoint a mediator; when so doing they do not have, as far as I know, any national recommendations regarding what background, competence or qualification needed to accomplish a task as an independent mediator. Also in this field you can find social workers.
The social secretaries in the communities have multiple roles in family cases; they are responsible for investigations, recommendations/decisions and to carry out the decisions. It happens that children are taken from a parent to stay with the other parent in high conflict cases, or to stay in foster care, without any investigation. Very rarely an examination of the factual situation and the family history is made. The social secretaries can – if they wish – ask a medical doctor, a psychiatrist or a psychologist to investigate what they, the social workers in charge, ask them to do.
After that they have the legal authority to decide whether they want to include what these experts have said or to not include it in their reports, conclusions and recommendations to the courts.
There are no national guidelines for these responsible social workers about how to do investigations, except for a formula to fill in called the child´s best interest in centre (BBIC). My main criticism against this is that the child´s most fundamental need for the child´s own well-being and healthy development is not included, that is the child´s need to have love and acceptance from the parents, or those adults who are in the child´s life over time as parents.
The social secretaries have no standardized instruments to find out about the child´s well-being and experiences (although such instruments exist and are used internationally, as for example KIDSCAN, developed by WHO, and PARQ (Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire), developed by Ronald Rohner for now six decades, see http://www.isipar.uconn.edu ). They have not learned about how to avoid suggestible influences when interviewing children, family members or others like for example teachers. The social workers have no national guidelines about how to document as reliably as possible (for example by authentic recording when talking to the children involved), or about how to check their sources. Thus this lack of tools and knowledge often results in taking sides, reporting hearsay, also sometimes mixed with their own thoughts/feelings, more than evident facts.
It is extremely unusual that any Swedish court does NOT follow the recommendations made by the social secretaries.
Formally it is the local politicians in charge for child welfare in the community who decide the
recommendations, but they do mostly know nothing about the matter, but follow the recommendations from
the social secretaries in charge.
Since already in the beginning of the 90s the Swedish courts have decided NOT to appoint psychologists to do investigations in family court cases or family cases with criminal accusations or accusations of personality disorders or psychological problems. Only social secretaries are asked and appointed to do investigations, although they, as mentioned, have no standardized methods or training for doing this.
There are good persons in the system, but it doesn´t help so much if the system is bad.
About my work as a forensic psychologist, officially a non existing professional role in Sweden:
For 25 years I have investigated complicated family cases with and with out criminal accusations. I have during these years, based on my empirical findings and research done by me and others, tried to tell about the harm done to children when they are separated from a loving and loved
parent and influenced to reject that parent – not unusually based on false accusations. I go on trying. Sometimes I am listened to and my written reports, after having analyzed as many documents as possible from as long time as possible and thereby have had the possibility to make a reliable reconstruction of the family history, are taken into consideration. Sometimes this is not the case.
I was appointed in the beginning of the 90s by some courts but since then I work privately and therefore mostly have to explain that my obligation is to be as true as I can to what I find and let the documents talk. Therefore, sometimes when my conclusions after having studied the documents is not in favor of the private part who has asked me to investigate, our contact ends, and no one will know about the outcome of my work in these particular cases.