New project puts children first

- We strive to give children the best possible start for mastering everyday life and adulthood, says municipal director in Gausdal, Rannveig Mogren.

Good collaboration partners are a key factor for success. The project Kids first! can help strengthen the cross-sectoral work in Gausdal. They are one of three municipalities that are taking steps to strengthen the overall work with children and adolescents.


Boy jumping from rock on mountain.

Although the Nordic countries are known globally for their well-functioning welfare states, social inequalities are increasing. The number of children and adolescents who drop out of school and leisure activities in Norway is high.

At the same time, referrals to the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Service (BUP) are increasing. Now, the Kavli Trust and the Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI) wants to put children first, by renewing and improving efforts in three communities.

It is not about access to good services, but the need for prioritization and systematization of the efforts around the children. BUP leader in Bryne, Jarle Klippen, and director of CEI Nordic, Arild Bjørndal, agree on this.

This thought is also shared by Gausdal municipality, where their main goal is to prepare the children for dealing with life's ups and downs.

- During childhood and adolescence, the development of a positive self-image and a safe identity is particularly crucial. It is therefore important that children and adolescents experience joy, mastery, develop a positive self-esteem and learn how to cope with both negative and positive events in everyday life, says Rannveig Mogren.

Trær i skogslandskap.

Kids first! is led by the non-profit and global knowledge organization, CEI. Their vision is to improve local efforts in an applicable, systematic, and long-term manner. Kids first! is based on children's needs and builds on the entire local community as a resource. The municipalities are essential, but the voluntary sector and the local business community are also important stakeholders. Local efforts around children will be mapped out, analyzed and compared. The work is anchored in national and global research. This forms the basis for prioritizing suitable ways of working with children in the future. The intention is to improve all children's upbringing.

- A good childhood is the best foundation for a good life. This is much more important than the number of weekly runs or normal body weight, says Bjørndal about some of the background of the project.

The project is based on the idea that no service or initiative can repair a difficult childhood. Rather than sending children unnecessarily into the specialist health service, the project will put the children first. This is done by giving the local community tools to detect and deal with challenges earlier.

In collaboration with various actors in the local community, CEI will assist the municipalities with systematization and evaluation of efforts around the children. The project is currently one year, but CEI hopes for further funding so that more local communities can join the project.

Barn på sandstrand med refleksvest.
Foto: Morten Brun

"It is essential to highlight the important role of the municipality and the local communities. No one lives in our specialist services. It's in the community our children live, and that's where they're formed and where it can get better."

- CEI-professor Arild Bjørndal


Aims to improve children's upbringing

- The municipalities we work with were interested in having a point of view from the outside, says Bjørndal.

The partner municipalities so far are Hå, Gjesdal and Gausdal. A systematic, holistic and long-term perspective are central to the work, while adaptation of local conditions is taken into account. For the project to succeed, it is crucial to map out the current situation and needs in the various communities. Collaboration is a key word for this. For the CEI director, the meetings with the municipalities have been positive.

- Traveling and meeting these dedicated and talented people helps strengthen our collaboration. It is incredibly inspirational to get out there and observe what the municipalities achieve, and how interested they are in doing better," says Bjørndal.

In Gausdal municipality, work aimed at strengthening children and young people is already a priority. Although the work is targeted, municipal director Mogren acknowledges the need for systematization and improvement.

- We have been dedicated to an innovation strategy, innovation culture and innovation management for some time, and are ready to try new things and break patterns. We have some ideas, and we hope that the Kids first! project can empower us in the further development of these, she says.

Portrett av Arild Bjørndal, Atle Straume og Jarle Klippen på en sandstrand.

Looking for systematic

Jarle Klippen, leader of BUP at Bryne, has a dream that Kids first! should result in a one-third reduction in enquiries. Since the pandemic, there has been a rising number of kids at BUP, and the degree of severity among some of the children is increasing.

- The numbers are too high. In the other end of the spectrum we see too many referrals for problems that would be better handled in the local community. This means that those who actually need specialist services are not detected early enough, says Klippen.

Along with the dream of a decline in referrals, Klippen also focuses on discovering the children's needs, supporting their parents and improving their family situation earlier. Leisure activities, volunteering and other activities locally are also important for promoting joy of life, meaning and coping.

Klippen believes that a third of the resources in BUP rather should be spent on prevention locally. He strongly believes that the project will work, because it is on the terms of the children, families and the local communities. Collaboration between stakeholders is a key to reversing the growing trend of exclusion.

Gutt på en stein i naturlandskap.

The project's ambition is to strengthen the role of parents, the child and the system around them. Parenting is demanding, and one should not be afraid to ask for help. But often people wait until problems are overwhelming, or hope that the specialist health service can correct a safe and good upbringing. 

Repair is more expensive and far less effective than early intervention. Today, however, more people turn to medical attention instead of getting to the actual cause of the problem. Some are afraid of having a hard time, and seek professional help more quickly.

- It is economically very expensive to continue like this. Resources are not used wisely, and we cannot help those who need it the most, says Jarle Klippen. He thinks Kids first! can help strengthen local communities by promoting earlier intervention.

To barn og to voksne i kano
Inger Elise - daglig leder Kavlifondet
Foto: Anne Elisabeth Næss/Kavlifondet

The project will be funded in 2023 by the Kavli Trust. The general manager, Inger Elise Iversen, believes that the project will contribute to strengthening efforts for children and adolescents in the communities.

If things go according to plan, this project will help make Norway an even better country to grow up in. She hopes the project – alongside the three participating municipalities – can develop good solutions that can be scaled and spread to other communities.

- With this grant we support a project where the goal is to create positive change and improvement at a systems-level. The grant is part of our work to help ensure a good everyday life for children and adolescents where they live, says Iversen.

The Kavli Trust owns and distributes all profits from the Kavli Group to good causes. The foundation currently supports initiatives that strengthen the mental health of children and young people.

Like CEI professor Arild Bjørndal and head of BUP Jarle Klippen, director Inger Elise Iversen also sees the need for a change in the actual work with children and adolescents. The results from the project will be studied, and the goal is to crack the code on how to work better together for the children who need it.


Kids first! will improve, renew and strengthen the team around the children

Photo: Haagen Lunde/Gausdal kommune
Photo: Tord Paulsen/Hå kommune
Photo: CEI Nordic

Landskapsbilde av Gausdal kommune