Inquiry Utredningen om Vanvård i den Sociala Barnavården

Alternative Names
  • Swedish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and Neglect in Institutions and Foster Homes
  • Vanvårdsutredningen
Inquiry Type
Governmental commission

Key Dates

1922 - 2003
Period of investigation
21 June 2006
Announcement date
21 June 2006 - 30 September 2011
Period of operation
14 January 2010
Interim Report
29 September 2011
Final Report


The inquiry was commissioned to examine archival records and write a report on the findings, which could address how abuse and neglect could be avoided in the future. A summary of the inquiry in English is available here.

The Process
Private session interviews, archival research

Governing Legislation
Terms of reference: Dir. 2006:75 (established June 21 2006); Dir 2007:167 (established December 6 2007); Dir. 2010:4 (established January 14 2010).

Inquiry Locations
Sweden, Stockholm

Private Sessions
All interviews were conducted in private. The interviews were mostly held at the inquiry's office in Stockholm, but the team also travelled around Sweden, visiting people in their homes and setting up temporary inquiry offices at hotels so informants wouldn't have to travel very far. The informant met two commissioners, and the informant was allowed to bring with him/her a person of support. The interviews lasted for 1-3 hours and was recorded. After the interview the team sent a written summary of the interview to the informant for reading and correction. The collected information from the interview was put into a database only after the informant had signed the written summary and agreed to the content of it. After the interview the team also assisted with archival research if the informant gave his/her consent and was interested to get assistance in order to find out more about his/her childhood in care.

Written Submissions
Written submissions were occasionally posted to the commission. However, most written submissions concerned people that also were interviewed, adding extra information to the summary of the interview.

A number of studies conducted by the inquiry team were published in the reports.
In SOU 2009:99: 1. Legal provisions of Child Welfare 1902-1990; 2. Inquiries internationally - an overview; 3. Child abuse and neglect from a historical perspective 1864-2005; 4. The definition of abuse; 5. Abuse and neglect - results from interviews (quantitative presentation); 6. Supervision and other regulative activities by the state and the municipalities; 7. Informants' comments 8. Source criticism and memory - a discussion.

In SOU 2011:61: 1. Archival records as a source to the history of child welfare; 2. Abuse and neglect - numbers and narratives - results from interviews (quantitative and qualitative presentation); 3. Many have told about abuse from the same location; 4. Perspectives on child welfare through case records and narratives; 5. How has it been later in life?; 6. The significance of being interviewed - the results from a survey to informants; 7. How could it happen? Children's safety in child welfare.

866 care leavers witnessing about abuse. In total 902 people were interviewed: 6 staff; 7 people that didn't matched the target group; 6 adoptees; 12 former residents that didn't witness about abuse; 5 others (disrupted interview due to sickness, people that chose to withdraw) and 866 care leavers witnessing about abuse.

Only 12 per cent (102 persons) of those interviewed were not exposed to physical violence or sexual abuse, but to other forms of abuse such as neglect, harmful exploitation in work, coercive rules and penalties etc. In total the 866 informants told of the following categories of abuse: Physical violence with a weapon 44%; Physical violence without weapon 72 %; Harmful exploitation in work 52%; Sexual abuse 55%; Violation of integrity 85%; Threats 45%; Coercive rules and penalties 71%; Neglect 97%. Despite the inquiry's focus on individual stories it was found that several informants told about abuse from the same placement: in total, the inquiry received stories of abuse and neglect from at least two people at 119 institutions. Abuse and neglect were described by at least two people in 35 foster homes. By comparing accounts from interviews and case records the inquiry concluded that it is limited possibility of using files to verify or prove false allegations of abuse and neglect; that notes on maltreatment were often missing in case files; and that many case files were missing or incomplete.

The 2009 and 2011 reports each made three recommendations.

In 2009: 1) The government should in cooperation with municipalities and county councils take action for offering an apology both in public and in private (through a personal letter); 2) The government should take action for offering redress to victims; 3) The government should enact the recommendations of a previous inquiry entitled Child Protection Inquiry (Barnskyddsutredningen) in order to safeguard future children in care.

In 2011: 1) Include everyone who has been exposed to abuse and serious neglect in the various proposals for redress presented by the Inquiry on Redress for Past Abuse - not only those who were exposed to abuse before 1980; 2)The government should assign the National Archives with the task of establishing a national helpdesk to support archive administrators in municipalities and people who have been placed in care by those responsible for institutions and foster homes; 3) In its supervision of the municipalities, the National Board of Health and Welfare should particularly examine whether they have a quality system for following up children's and young people's placement in foster-homes and homes for care or residence and the way in which follow-up is conducted in the municipalities.

Further Action
Recommendation 1 and 2 (regarding apology and redress) in SOU 2009:99 lead to the establishment of the Inquiry on Redress for Past Abuse.


Final Reports


Acknowledgement: this summary was prepared by Johanna Sköld, Linköping University