Norway’s child protection agency in the dock in strabburg

norway's child protection agency in the dock in strobburg

Plaintiffs object to interference with Verfang’s protected right to family life

Politicians from three opposition parties in Norway on Friday attacked the Minister for Children and Families Kjell I. Ropstod in Oslo is called upon to act with regard to the state-run children’s aid organization. The minister sees the "serious challenges that exist in the field of child welfare, not with the necessary seriousness". He said in the open letter.

The reason for the initiative is the news that the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will deal with nine more lawsuits against the authority, which are in Norwegian "Barnevernet" heibt. Critics accuse the authorities of withdrawing custody from parents at the slightest suspicion and giving children up for adoption. Two years ago, 170 lawyers, psychologists and social pedagogues complained in an open letter about the practices of the authority (Children’s Brain Protection in Norwegian).

The court in Strasbourg has recently taken up several cases on the Barnevernet, in two of which Norway was convicted of human rights violations, and in two of which it was acquitted; 31 complaints are still being examined.

As a result of these complaints about child custody, Norway ranks ninth out of 47 European countries at the Court of Justice in Strasbourg in terms of complaints against human rights violations. Against Sweden, for example, there are only two complaints.

What all the new cases have in common is that the complainants allege a violation of Article 8 on the right to family life. Some cases also involved Article 6, the right to a fair trial, writes the Norwegian newspaper "Dagbladet".

These practices have repeatedly caused an international stir. In 2016, for example, a Norwegian-Romanian family was deprived of five children because of alleged mistreatment, after which they organized protests in several European countries and got the children back.

Stronger focus on prevention

Since an amendment to the law in 2000, there has been a greater focus on preventive measures to protect children from potential abuse at an early age. Parents are generally placed under suspicion.

In the Oslo region, for example, a so-called child brain protection project has been running since 2016, in which children in kindergarten are asked precise questions about the behavior of their parents, in order to be able to intervene immediately in the event of harm.

The Barnevernet has in the past year more than 55.000 interventions, with over 15.000 cases, there was a temporary or long-term change of location for the child or young person in question.

Opposition politicians have now called on the minister responsible to face a debate in the Norwegian parliament. The liberal Senterpartiet is calling for a comprehensive reform of the institution, which is also criticized for lacking qualified personnel.

Especially foreign and poorer families are affected

Especially families from abroad or mixed marriages are affected, because they bring a different attitude to children’s rights due to their cultural background. But probably also less well-off parents who cannot afford the lawyers who now specialize in Barnevernet traps. Victims can contact domestic and international organizations, or post on Facebook pages that speak out against the authorities.

That is why there are voices in Norway that see a social problem in the anger of parents and their supporters, such as law professor Elisabeth Gording Stang, who sees a collective agitation at work against the authorities and also against the adoptive parents who have taken in children. In one case in particular, where the court in Strasbourg has condemned child abduction and adoption as a violation of human rights, those affected and critics are now demanding the return of the child to the birth parents. Also, there are comments in the newspapers that advocate for greater competence of the authorities to really avert any possible suffering of the children.

According to Marius Reikeras, the best-known Norwegian activist against the Barnevernet, in the other Scandinavian countries the withdrawal of custody is mainly temporary, whereas in Norway for a long time there was no chance of getting the child back if it was taken away. Only through public and international prere, especially after the Trude Lobben case, something had changed.

The former lawyer, whose license was revoked, explained on request that Norway pumps a lot of money into the social sector, "to provide work for many people, but at the same time there is an arrogance in Norwegian policy towards European institutions". In his opinion, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will be able to force Norway to implement the Strasbourg judgments.

Astrid Lindgren and children’s rights

The idea of children’s rights is stronger in Scandinavia than in other countries. This is also due to the Swedish author Ellen Key, who in the then very popular book "The century of the child" (published in Sweden in 1900, in Germany in 1902) , vehemently opposed corporal punishment because it raised the child to be a slave.

The parents, however, had to be under a selection "Survival of the fittest" she directly refers to Darwin and Nietzsche’s idea of the ubermensch. Only truly suitable parents should be able to educate, it says in the chapter "The right of the child to choose his parents". The author Astrid Lindgren, a great fan of the theorist, illustrated her ideas with her children’s books, in which parents mostly play only supporting roles and the children solve their problems themselves and are usually superior to the adults.

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