Norway’s child-protection agency, the Barnevernet, is an institution vested with unlimited powers and extra-legal authority that enable it to carry out forced confiscations and frame innocent parents.

 

If I have to talk about Norway’s child protection services, Barnevernet, I admit that I have exchanged my favourite quote: “Believe in victory, and victory will believe in you” for a different one: “A blind person is not the one who cannot see, but the one who does not want to see.”

The case foremost in my mind is of a Czech mother Eva Michalakova, whose two sons were taken by Barnevernet. This was the first case of the state-sponsored snatching of children in which I got involved. Before this I was mostly fighting for the rights of fathers for access to their children after divorce. These fathers had been unfairly deprived of a full relationship with their children, but the case of Eva was far worse. Her boys had been taken on allegations of child abuse that were proven to be false and yet the children had not been returned. Even three years after the allegations were found to be false, Barnevernet refused to return the children.

The unfortunate brothers are till today being brought up separately in two different foster families. Barnevernet claims they are allowed to see each other once a month for a short time. Initially Eva was permitted to see them individually for two hours twice a year. Such visits that took place were under strict supervision and very harsh rules; no physical contact was allowed and use of the boys’ mother tongue—Czech—was prohibited. If she reminded the boys of their nice moments together in the past, the visitation would be immediately terminated.

Later even this meagre visitation was cancelled on the ground that the mother had “harmed” the children by going public with the story of their removal. The boys’ grandfather was deprived, even on his deathbed, of the chance to speak to them once before dying. He was not even permitted to contact them via Skype on the grounds that he had shared one of the boys’ illustrations on Facebook, which was said to be “uncomfortable” for the boy. It turned out that even this silly claim was false, as in reality the grandfather had no Facebook account. And there was also no way for him to get an illustration.

The case of Eva’s children shows us that the current system of child protection in Norway is dysfunctional. Under the mask of protection of the rights of children, we are violating their rights, the rights of their parents and absolutely deleting grandparents from the lives of the children. Instead of protecting the real victims of child abuse, Barnevernet artificially constructs cases against innocent parents.

When I personally met Eva Michalakova for the first time in January 2015, I was impressed by her persistence and strength. An ordinary and modest woman, she was fighting valiantly against a hostile and opaque system where everything you said was used against you and no parent was given a second chance to fix even small mistakes.

After learning of Eva’s case, I began investigating further and found that many others were accusing Norway’s Barnevernet of wrongly snatching children. Immigrant families were targeted, even when they came from as close as the neighbouring country of Sweden. In Sweden there are dozens of reports and articles, and thousands of blogs warning “poorer” Swedes against working in Norway for fear of being targetted by Barnevernet.

Even native Norwegians complain of abuse by Barnevernet. One of the parents not afraid to talk openly about the situation in Norway, is Monika. Her daughter was repeatedly beaten up and raped in an institution where she was placed because she reported that her stepfather molested her. All evident signs of the violence were denied by the institution and described as “self-harm” in reaction to the “bad influence” of her family.

The institution and Barnevernet even threatened to bar the mother from seeing her daughter if she persisted in these allegations.

Another mother during a visit secretly took photos of her teenage daughter, who had been institutionalised, to prove that she had been brutally strangled while there. The daughter said she had been repeatedly physically punished and even molested by a 16-year old fellow inmate. Barnevernet dismissed the allegations saying the bruises on the daughter’s neck were an allergic reaction and that she had made up the claim about the sexual assault.

When I first heard about the cases of beaten and raped children in Norwegian institutions and foster homes I did not want to believe them. I set out to verify all claims and spent many hours reading the cases and looking at the photos. I met with the abused children and their parents. At the end of these investigations I was convinced that many of those cases were true.

When I asked Norwegian politicians about those cases, they mostly kept silent or said that nothing like that could be possibly true. Some responded that it was all “Russian propaganda” against Norway, because with Norwegian crude oil and gas, Europe was not dependent on Russia. These asserations usually faded away when I presented them with photos of victims and records of cases. Then they fell silent or said that it had to be an isolated malpractice.

Some time ago, Norwegian politicians even made strong promises that they will stop Barnevernet from stealing children. This was after a series of scandals of unjustified child confiscations from the Indian case of the Bhattacharya children, to Eva’s case which I have already mentioned, and the case of a Romanian-Norwegian family, the Bodnariu’s, whose children were taken on allegations of “Christian indoctrination”.

But nothing seems to have changed. Recently, another horrifying case of child abduction in Norway has emerged involving an African family. The parents had come to Norway as refugees. On various occasions they encountered hostility from Norwegian social workers, facing prejudice owing to their African background. In 2013, their two children were removed on the finding of an inexperienced social worker that one of them, a little girl of three, had been playing in a “sexually-styled way” with her doll.

The father was detained and both parents accused of abuse. But the suspicion was proven to be completely unjustified—the father was released in a few days and both children were returned from foster care after two months. Two years later, in December 2015, the children were again removed, this time on suspicion of violence against the children. Again, the suspicions were found to be unjustified and the children were returned.

But in January 2016, while the case was ongoing, the mother who was pregnant with their third child, gave birth, and the baby was removed just one hour after delivery. The older children were returned in March 2017, but the baby was not returned on the ground that he was now bonded with his foster carers! This was despite the court’s having found in the case regarding the older children (the pendency of which was the only reason for the baby’s removal in the first place) that there was no evidence of any circumstances to justify removal of the children and that Barnevernet had failed to conform to the basic requirements for a proper hearing of the case.

Norway is gaining an increasingly bad reputation in Europe for child snatching. Over the last three years, eight child removal cases have been filed against Norway before the European Court of Human Rights. My colleague, Julia Pitera, the Polish Member of the European Parliament, was able to have this issue raised last February during the inter-parlieamentary meeting between the European Parliament and Norwegian representatives. We even have a case of a native Norwegian, Silje Gram, whose father was a long-time Member of Parliament in Norway, fleeing Barnevernet with her baby to Poland and officialy applying for asylum there. Her father, who was once a defender of

Barnervernet, has changed his opinion after seeing the persecution of his own family.

The Norwegian image of having the best child protection system in the world is breaking down because the real behaviour of Barnevernet officials is totally different from what they are theoretically supposed to be doing. The difficulty lies primarily in the unlimited power of Barnevernet. Virtually nobody has effective control over this state organisation. Another great hindrance to reform is that Norwegian society is typically non-critical of the state. People consider the state to be a “friend” who wants the best for them, and critcism is viewed with suspicion.

The evidence is mounting that there is something seriously wrong with Norway’s child portection system. The question is when it will be changed. In the meantime, countries like the Czech Republic and India should beware of attempts by child protection lobbies to bring this Orwellian system in our countries.

Tomáš Zdechovský is a Member of the European Parliament from the Czech Republic. He is the third Member of Parliament from Europe to write for this series

This article is published in collaboration with www.saveyourchildren.in, lawyer Suranya Aiyar’s website critiquing the role of governments and NGOs in child-related policy.

Replies to “Norway’s Orwellian system of child protection and care”

  1. Thankyou for your article. For telling the public about these violations of human rights in Norway.
    I can confirm it. Norway is no role model for child welfare. It is very sad that the state that was the first in the world with barnevern (CPS) also is one who abuses children and parents through that system. There have been many scandals in barnevernet (CPS) in the past. I believed that belonged to the pastt since the King and government has apologized for atrocities. But the problem continues since there is virtually no control with them like you say in the article. And so it became a terrible experience which should never have been
    It is very important that politicians and experts abroad confront Norwegian politicians and inform the public. Sadly it does not help much to contact the government and parliament with complaints about the CPS. They often do not answer or seem evasive (just one clear positive answer) so this serious problem continues to exist. I can confirm that.
    I can confirm that they treat people in ways that should not take place in a system for assisting families. Their communication and actions were harsh and they seemed to overhear completely the family members. There was no atmosphere or impression of a system that wanted to offer support or help. This created frustration and there was no chance of cooperation. They seemed mostly not to want to cooperate. It was damaging to the health and the feeling was that the state was against the family. They seemed focused on investigating and criticizing rather than being supportive. All good was overlooked and the focus was on whatever negative could be found, it was overwhelming and shocking. It created problems only and was a great mental pressure which also damaged physical health and was damaging to family life.
    The officials seemed ignorant about the damage they do by acting like this. I do not kniow if they went home after work and believed they had done a good job for people. If they did it is not to be believed. They created unhappiness, frustration, insecurity and fear. Also traumas. Nothing else.
    There are also many Noerwegian experts and families and also a few politicians who have criticised CPS seriously. Still the child minister Helleland said to parliament in April that she is proud of barnevernet. That is an offense to people. There is too much that does not function. Helleland overlooks this completely with her statements. There is a great need for politicians and experts abroad to look into this. The Norwegian government seems unable to deal with it alone.
    The feeling of being unprotected and unable to protect the child – from the state and its abuses – is the most painful experience. When I read about Eva and the other parents and children who have suffered because of CPS there is just 1 question: How can some people manage to create so much pain and why are they never arrested or punished in any way when they are found guilty?
    The CPS seems immune to criticism of its disorders.
    They did not manage their double role as helper and ‘judge’. That takes enough compassion and respect to handle and that seemed almost non-existant. The role as ‘judges’ seemed to be the most important. It seemed like a family police more than anything else.
    The most important aim is not to take children by force from their homes but to be supportive. The CPS seemed unable to do that, on the contrary created problems. And then they take children by force without justice being served.
    Also, Psychologists have confirmed that when CPS removes children by force from their homes they do it in inhuman ways that create traumas in children and parents.
    It is an inhuman and ignorant system. Why, if they are really committed to helping people does this too happen? Norwegian people need to be informed. Because it is also true that this problem exists because Norwegian people do not easily accept criticism of the state. I also believe there is a serious lack of tolerance in the CPS. A lack respect of families and individuals. Of the natural differences in people which also means that people have different needs and must be heard.
    The CPS was not able at all to handle the power society has allowed them. The alarm goes off when people report. Anyone can report and also anonymously and just by a phone call and without even meeting any officials. The CPS machinery then starts to work and the experience was that the state via CPS was against the family not supportive. That is overwhelming. And turned out not to be supportive of children either.
    CPS needs to be set out of function and replaced by other systems that are able to cooperate with people and act according to human rights and laws.
    Families do not get help or support from officials who act like offenders. And criminal in that they seriously violate human rights. The disrespect for laws seemed as if it was daily routine and not the exception. Serious complaints were overlooked and overheard. Answered as if the main aim was to cover themselves not to help the people they work for. This has nothing to do with child protection or family protection. This is damaging.
    Please keep up the work to uncover and inform about the abuses of children and parents by CPS barnevernet.

  2. I am an activist in Australia, exposing the child protection system here, the UK, Canada, the US and yes I will post a blog on my site about this story from Norway.
    It is the same in all of these countries, the Child Protection Services (CPS) have unlimited powers and no watch dog. Complaints made about these departments go to the departments where they act as an early warning system that someone is onto them so the shredders go into overtime, if they even care at all.

    I started campaigning against CPS nine years ago after my son was taken and killed in foster care after being placed with a 74 year old foster carer who already had five foster children. More of the story can be found here…

    http://www.lukesarmy.com/content/walk-mile-lukes-shoes-and-tell-me-how-perfect-your-child-protection-system

    I have read reports where children are 17 times more likely to die in foster care than in the family homes, another report read 5 times more likely and there have been others in between. The average age of children who are dying in foster care is four years and under like my little boy, who was two years old.

    I started Luke’s Army after my son Luke died, and I was Luke’s Army because I thought I was the only one this had happened to but there are hundreds of kids dying in foster care a year in Australia alone.

    Please if you are a victim of the child protection “Industry”, join Luke’s Army on facebook. http://facebook.com/groups/wearelukesarmy

  3. I hope this gets out to everyone, in every country. It is so important. The Norwegian Barnevernet needs to be broken down and re-build.

    They havent taken my kids yet, but they did try taking my oldest right after my second was born. We ended up in a family-center where we had to learn how to be parents. How to talk to our kids, how to have the routine in a way that suited them. We learned a lot, but still. The daily routine they set up, does not fit us. We don’t eat dinner at four, we dressed the kids in the livingroom (bathroom was usually to cold in the mornings) and I let my kids pick their noses. What a terrible mom I must be!

    It’s been six years, and they still wont let is go. We have Barnevernet over our heads at all times. It is torture! When can we be a family? When can we start living without looking over our shoulders? I want to move, but it really dosent seem any safer in the other cities…

    And the worst part of it, is that I ASKED THEM FOR HELP. Thats the reason we’re in this mess! If only I could turn back time… If I knew what i know today…

  4. It is comforting to hear that europeens ar awere of wat is gooing on in Norway and that sombody adresses this big damaging failiur of BARNEVÆRNET. They tok my granddougter two houers after she så the first ligt of day at the hospital KRISTIANSAND SYKEHUS, they had the day before started the prosess of delivery with cemicals on the mother but stopt it again since the documents they had failed to produce was redy,and the day after all ower again but no they had the selfmade konclusjons ritthen on a pice of paper so they started the prossess all ower again and two houers later the little prinsess was taken by force af the Norwegian BARNEVÆRNET. This was SØGNE og SOGNDALEN BARNEVÆRN. wile writing this i am crying. The Norwegian BARNEVÆRNET produced aligasions agains me as a grandfather an made sure that i couldent see the child, the reeson was that i was dangerus. I hawe never offended ore beaten any of my 5 cildren ore somthing like that. The peopel of Norway seems to close theyr eys and belive blind in the false propaganda from the goverment of Norway. It is time after time proven that BARNEVÆRNET has broken the human rigths law, the Norwegiwn constitusion, an all the laws that are obligated to follow made by theyr own department and gouverment of Norway with no koncekvences at all. If somone look into this tey will soon see that wen all become clear for them that is money hwo is the reeson for all this evil acts. EROPEENS PLEAS HELP US TO SPRED THIS INFORMATIONE ALLOVER TH WORLD. Br a crying grandfather.

  5. This is true and it reflects the real crulity and harish systematic abused work, where the rest of the world is silent

  6. UNFORTUNATELY – this is all true !

    And what’s the worst – this is just one field that Norway is breaking the Human Rights.
    Believe it or not – but Norway breaks the Human Rights in several fields.

    The Norwegian Government loves to tell the Norwegian people and the rest of the world that Norway is the best country in the world to live in, the Norwegian people are the most happy ones in the whole world, Norway is the richest country in the world etc. etc.

    BUT this is NOT true for a lot of Norwegians.

    The life in Norway is very similar to the bull race in Pamplona.
    Everything is very funny until you of some reason stumble and fall – nobody got time to help you up on your feet again and Government system breaks you.

    The absolutely worst is that the court system is not working properly.
    A thick book could be written about the court system alone and in a ask survey the result was that every 25th case was corrupt.
    We believe that the correct number is much higher.

    In CPS cases the court follow the CPS as a “blind man”.

    Please help us Norwegian to share this article through the hole world.
    The Norwegian people needs help!

    Please feel free to contact me or the organization: Human Rights in Norway
    miw@humanrightsinnorway.org or mail@humanrightsinnorway.org if you have a story to tell about Norway or want further information.

    Magnar Inge Wisnes
    Vice President
    Human Rights in Norway

    1. Hi! Thank you for the article! I am witnessing my friend’s separation from her on the basis of her ex husband statement. He claimed that the children are too bound to her and she tunes them from her, which is nothing close to the truth! Her ex husband is a very cold reserved unpleasant guy who I have seen few times and i see that the children are scared of him and they dont like him at all. According to the courts decision they must have been 50;50 with both parents but they resisted to go the the dad. So he claimed that the mother wants to kidnap him to Bulgaria – they are double citizens of Norway and Bulgaria. Cvetelina Oland never thought of kidnapping her own children from Norway and every time they go to visit grandparents in Bulgaria – they come back. She has a house and job, she is very intelligent young sober individual with big heart, loving her children and dedication herself to them. She has no bad habits, moreover she is very sporty and the children are too. They love to perform cicrcus with their mother and it was harmonic family, but bernevognet separated them all! They banned any communication between the mother and cthe hildrend and between the children too! It is cruel and against childrens’ interests. My daughter is a friend of both Children and we also cant see them anymore! I dont see how that act protect children rights and makes their life better in Norway! I consider that as kidnapping children from their comfortable environment and loving mother absolutely cruel and ridiculous. Something must be done to stop breaking good healthy families!

  7. And The truth about Norway… Children and adults are also exposed to both abuse and plain torture from government.
    Just to obey ideas from individuals in the system.

  8. Thank you, Tomáš Zdechovský, for this important piece of writing. I am in a similar situation now. Barnevernet claims that our case is closed, but their style of writing and choice of words leave no doubt that if we ever return to Norway our children will be taken and put in foster care, just because I teach my children what Barnevernet and my oldest daughters teacher consider “unacceptable” about homosexuality.

    1. I’ve been watching stories coming out of Norway since the attempt to completely split the Bodnariu family. My interest originated because I thought that the Christianity of the Bodnariu family might have something to do with how they were “selected” for “care.” Since then, I have found that this is not necessarily the case as people from all religions and all walks of life have had their children stolen by the Barnevernet. My interest has only increased as this is such a severe human rights infringement happening in a country that is looked upon by many to be one of the best places on Earth to live.

      “In the meantime, countries like the Czech Republic and India should beware of attempts by child protection lobbies to bring this Orwellian system in our countries.”

      I completely agree, Tomas Zdechovsky, and thank you for being so active in researching this topic and for trying to help the defenseless. Here, in the U.S.A, we are not immune to these same situations. All nations must be on guard against these systemic failures which seem to have an evil agenda at times. I’m currently following cases in the U.K., Norway, the U.S., and Finland. I understand that there are problems in Denmark and Sweden as well, and I think I am only scratching the surface.

      I appreciate this series in the Sunday Guardian. I would like to thank each writer for trying to expose “child protection” authorities who continually make careless and damaging decisions. They need to be held accountable. The strange philosophies of some of these government sponsored “care” groups is questionable to say the least. Consider this from last week’s article:

      “Professor Marianne Skanland of Norway has written about how in 2012 the Raundalen Committee, a committee appointed by the Norwegian Parliament to examine “attachment” in children, made the recommendation that “the biological principle” should be excluded and replaced by a “development-enhancing principle” for selecting “on a scientific principle” where children should be raised. The committee was headed by psychologist Magne Raundalen who, less than a generation ago argued that it was favourable to let children use expletives and obscenities, and not to correct them.

      This has created the situation in Norway today where children are considered the property of the state, on “loan”, so to speak, to parents who may keep them only as long as they do not teach the children something that is not pre-approved by the state, or a minor elite of people who consider themselves the sole authority on what is best for the children.”

      God has gifted children to parents ahead of any claim governments may think they have to them. For any government entity to think otherwise is immoral, vile, and corrupt.

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