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Last edited: December 2005


Summary and Analysis


Since ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) without reservation in June 1990, Sweden has been at work to enact legislation incorporating – and bringing effect to – its principles.[2]  An explicit child perspective was, for example, imparted to the Social Services Act in 1998.[3]  Under the new provisions, measures affecting children should be taken with due consideration for their best interests and children are entitled to be heard in matters which concern them.[4]  Child's views in the matter are to be determined without placing the child in a position where he or she necessarily has to make a choice of options, and the child must never be coerced into taking a stand or expressing his or her views.[5]  The child's wishes are to be taken into account with due regard to his or her age and maturity, and there is no such thing as a minimum age.[6] 


When introducing the amendment to the Social Services Act, the Government entrusted the National Board of Health and Welfare with the task of following up the changes in legislation.  The National Board conducted a survey of six county administrative boards, looking at 455 child welfare cases in 17 municipalities.  The survey showed that conversations with children occur to a much greater extent today than was shown by the surveys conducted in the mid-1990s.  Documentation of the conversations and of the children's attitudes towards the matters raised in the inquiries, however, only occurred in about half of these cases.  There was little evidence on record of the child's attitude having influenced the final decision.[7]


In March 1999, the Swedish Riksdag (parliament) unanimously approved a government-proposed national strategy for the implementation of the CRC.  A cross-party parliamentary Committee on the Rights of the Child was instructed to ascertain to what extent Swedish legislation and practice accorded with the intentions and provisions of the Convention.  The strategy is based on the premise that the spirit and the intentions of the Convention must be observed in all decision-making affecting children.  The Office of the Children's Ombudsman was established by act of parliament; legislation has further clarified the role of the Office as inter alia a representative of the interests and guardian of the rights of children and young people on the basis of Sweden's commitments under the Convention.[8]


Currently, under the Care of Young Persons Act, Swedish law provides that the child, in most cases, shall have a legal representative or assistant in child protection proceedings.  A child's point of view shall be made clear as far as possible and account shall be taken of the will of the young person in child protection proceedings, with due consideration of his or her age and maturity.  If the young person is aged 15 or over, he or she is entitled to speak on his or her own behalf; a child under the age of 15 will be heard if doing so can benefit the investigation and if it may be presumed that he or she will not suffer harm from being questioned.  Moreover, regulations mandate that social services account for the views of the child when requesting the approval of the court for the removal of the child from its family due to abuse and neglect.


Overall, the laws generally permit youth to be heard, but leave a fairly wide margin of discretion to judges to make the final determination; recent and current case studies are rendering a clearer picture about how and to what extent children's voices are heard – and how this varies by age – in practice.[9]



Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)


Original Text



Socialtjänstlag (2001:453)(2001-06-07)[10]

1 kap. Socialtjänstens mål

2 § När åtgärder rör barn skall det särskilt beaktas vad

hänsynen till barnets bästa kräver. Med barn avses varje

människa under 18 år.


3 kap. Socialnämndens uppgifter


5 § Socialnämndens insatser för den enskilde skall utformas och

genomföras tillsammans med honom eller henne och vid behov i

samverkan med andra samhällsorgan och med organisationer och

andra föreningar.

När en åtgärd rör ett barn skall barnets inställning så långt

det är möjligt klarläggas. Hänsyn skall tas till barnets vilja

med beaktande av dess ålder och mognad.



Lag (1990:52) med särskilda bestämmelser om vård av unga (1990-03-08)[11]


Inledande bestämmelse


1 § Insatser inom socialtjänsten för barn och ungdom skall göras i samförstånd med den unge och hans eller hennes
vårdnadshavare enligt bestämmelserna i socialtjänstlagen

(2001:453). Insatserna skall präglas av respekt för den unges människovärde och integritet…


Den som är under 18 år skall dock beredas vård enligt denna lag, om någon av de situationer som anges i 2…
föreligger och det kan antas att behövlig vård inte kan ges den unge med samtycke av den eller dem som
har vårdnaden om honom eller henne och, när den unge har fyllt 15 år, av honom eller henne själv…


Vissa andra åtgärder får vidtas utan samtycke enligt 22 och 24 §§.


Vid beslut enligt denna lag skall vad som är bäst för den unge vara avgörande.


Den unges inställning skall så långt möjligt klarläggas. Hänsyn skall tas till den unges vilja med beaktande
av hans eller hennes ålder och mognad. Lag (2003:406).


Beredande av vård


2 § Vård skall beslutas om det på grund av fysisk eller psykisk misshandel, otillbörligt utnyttjande, brister i
omsorgen eller något annat förhållande i hemmet finns en påtaglig risk för att den unges hälsa eller
utveckling skadas. Lag (2003:406).


4 § Beslut om vård med stöd av denna lag meddelas av länsrätten efter ansökan av socialnämnden.


Omedelbart omhändertagande


6 § Socialnämnden får besluta att den som är under 20 år omedelbart

skall omhändertas, om

1. det är sannolikt att den unge behöver beredas vård med stöd av denna lag, och

2. rättens beslut om vård inte kan avvaktas med hänsyn till risken för den unges hälsa eller
utveckling eller till att den fortsatta utredningen allvarligt kan försvåras eller vidare åtgärder hindras…

När socialnämnden har ansökt om vård med stöd av lagen, får även rätten besluta att den unge
omedelbart skall omhändertas.


Bestämmelser om handläggningen


36 § Om den unge har fyllt 15 år, har han eller hon rätt att själv föra sin talan i mål och ärenden enligt
denna lag.

Den som är förordnad som offentligt biträde enligt 39 § för någon som är under 15 år, utan att
samtidigt vara biträde för vårdnadshavaren, är utan särskilt förordnande den unges ställföreträdare i
det mål eller ärende som förordnandet avser.

Barn som är yngre än 15 år bör höras, om det kan vara till nytta för utredningen och det kan
antas att han eller hon inte tar skada av att höras. Lag (2003:406).


39 § I mål och ärenden angående beredande av vård enligt 2 eller 3 §, omedelbart omhändertagande
enligt 6 §, upphörande av vård enligt 21 §, flyttningsförbud enligt 24 § eller upphörande av flyttningsförbud
enligt 26 § eller vid överklagande enligt 41 § första stycket 1 skall offentligt biträde förordnas för den som
åtgärden avser samt för dennes vårdnadshavare, om det inte måste antas att behov av biträde saknas.

Behövs offentligt biträde både för den unge och för dennes vårdnadshavare, förordnas gemensamt
biträde, om det inte finns motstridiga intressen mellan dem.

Offentligt biträde förordnas av den domstol som handlägger målet. I ärenden hos socialnämnd
eller social distriktsnämnd förordnas offentligt biträde av länsrätten. Lag (1996:1648).







The Social Services Act (SFS 2001:453)(June 7, 2001)[12]


Chapter 1. The objectives of social services


Section 2

When measures affect children, the requirements of consideration for the best interests of the child shall be specially observed.  A child is any person aged under 18 years.


Chapter 3. Tasks of the municipal social welfare committee


Section 5

The measures taken by the social welfare committee on behalf of the individual shall be framed and conducted together with him, and if necessary, conjointly with other public bodies and with organizations and other associations.

When a measure affects a child, the child's attitude shall be clarified as far as possible.  Allowance shall be made for the child's wishes, having regard to its age and maturity.



The Care of Young Persons Act (SFS 1990:52)(March 8, 1990)[13]


Introductory provisions


Section 1

Measures for children and young persons within the social services are to be undertaken on a basis of agreement with the young person concerned and his or her custodian, as provided in the Social Services Act (2001:453).  All measures should be characterised by respect for the human dignity and integrity of the young person…

Care pursuant to this Act is, however, to be provided for a person under 18 years of age if any of the situations referred to in Section 2… prevails and the necessary care presumably cannot be given to the young person with the consent of the person or persons having custody of him or her and, if the young person is aged 15 or over, with his or her own consent…

Certain other measures may be taken without consent under Sections 22 and 24.

The best interest of the young person shall be of vital concern in decisions under this Act.

The young person's point of view shall be made clear as far as possible.  Account shall be taken of the will of the young person, with due consideration of his or her age and maturity.  The Act (2003:406).


Provision of care


Section 2

A care order is to be issued if, due to physical or mental abuse, exploitation, neglect or some other circumstance in the home, there is a palpable risk of detriment to the young person's health or development. The Act (2003:406).


Section 4

Orders for placing young persons under care pursuant to this Act are issued by the county administrative court at the instance of the social welfare committee…


Immediate Care


Section 6

The social welfare committee may order a young person under 20 years of age to be taken into immediate care

1. if the young person probably needs to be provided with care under this Act and

2. a court decision concerning care cannot be awaited owing to the risk to the young person's health or development or because the continuing inquiry can be seriously impeded or further measures prevented….

After the social welfare committee has applied for care pursuant to the Act, the Court may also make an order for the immediate taking of the young person into care.



Provisions on handling procedure


Section 36

If the young person is aged 15 or over, he is entitled to speak on his or her own behalf in judicial and other proceedings under this Act. 

A person appointed public counsel under Section 39 for a person under aged 15 and who is not at the same time representing the custodian, is without further appointment, the young person's representative in the case or matter to which the appointment refers.

A child under the age of 15 should be heard if this can benefit the investigation and if it may be presumed that he or she will not suffer harm from being questioned. The Act (2003:406).


Section 39

In judicial and other proceedings concerning provision of care under Section 2…, immediate custody under Section 6, termination of care under Section 21, a removal prohibition under Section 24 or termination of a removal prohibition under Section 26, or in connection with appeal as provided in Section 41, subsection one, public counsel is to be appointed for the person whom the measure concerns and for that person's custodian, except where it must be presumed that there is no need for counsel.

If public counsel is needed both for the young person and for his custodian, joint counsel is to be appointed unless there is a conflict of interest between them.

Public counsel is appointed by the court trying the case.  In proceedings before a municipal social welfare committee or district social welfare committee, public counsel is appointed by the county administrative court. The Act (2003:406).


International Law


United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)(1989)[14]

Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.


Local Contact Information


Lena Nyberg, The Children's Ombudsman [HAS NOT YET CONSENTED]
Box 22106
104 22 Stockholm
Telephone: +46 (0)8-692 29 50
Fax: +46 (0)8-654 62 77
E-mail: barnombudsmannen@bo.se



[1] This document is available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[2] Committee on the Rights of the Child, Third periodic report of States parties due in 2002: Sweden, ¶ 77-79, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/125/Add.1 (July 12, 2004), available at http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/898586b1dc7b4043c1256a450044f331/4f97132d06942126c1256f33003a53e4/$FILE/G0442577.pdf, and also as .pdf DocumentInternational treaties do not automatically become part of Swedish law; instead, they must be transformed or formally incorporated into the Swedish statutes, usually by the enactment of equivalent provisions in an existing or a new Swedish statute.  Once incorporated or transformed into Swedish law, the material content of international treaties is enforceable in Swedish courts of law.

[3] National report on Follow-up to the World Summit for Children: Sweden, 2001, available at http://www2.social.regeringen.se/pressinfo/pdf/barn/national_report_worldsummit_2001.pdf, and also as .pdf Document.

[4] Id.

[5] Committee on the Rights of the Child, supra note 1, para. 224.

[6] Id.

[7] Id., para. 225.

[8] Id., para. 27.

[9] Email from Charlotte Lenman, Senior Legal Officer, Office of the Children's Ombudsman to Theresa Sgobba, law student, Yale Law School (July 1, 2005, 11:15:00 EST)(on file at Yale Law School).

[11] Lag (1990:52) med särskilda bestämmelser om vård av unga [The Care of Young Persons Act], Mar. 8, 1990, available at http://rixlex.riksdagen.se/htbin/thw?${HTML}=SFST_LST&${OOHTML}=SFST_DOK&${SNHTML}=SFST_ERR&${MAXPAGE}=26&${TRIPSHOW}


[12] Socialtjänstlag (2001:453) [The Social Services Act], translated by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, Sweden (March 2005) (unofficial translation), available at http://www.sweden.gov.se/content/1/c6/04/34/02/9d488738.pdf, and also as .pdf Document.

[13] Lag (1990:52) med särskilda bestämmelser om vård av unga [The Care of Young Persons Act], translated by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, Sweden (March 2005) (unofficial translation), available at http://www.sweden.gov.se/content/1/c6/04/34/03/c9fbde59.pdf, and also as .pdf Document.

[14] United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, A/RES/44/25 (1989), entered into force Sept. 2, 1990, available at http://www.unicef.org/crc/crc.htm.


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