8 February 2016
protection employees –
do they deserve criticism?
by Jan Simonsen
Jan Simonsen has been a member of the Norwegian parliament
for Fremskrittspartiet (The Progress Party). He was a
parliamentary member for 16 years, and has also been a
member of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of
Europe for 4 years, serving on The Committe for Human
Rights and Legal Affairs. Simonsen was for two years
vice-chairman of Fremskrittspartiet, and is today a member
of the central committee of a smaller party, Demokratene
(The Democrats). He has published four books on different
themes, and runs several web sites.
The present article was originally published in Norwegian
on 1 February 2016 as
De barnevernansatte - fortjener de
Firda, which is a
local newspaper covering Naustdal and other districts in
the western part of Norway.
The translation is published here with the kind consent of
Translation: Marianne Haslev Skånland
Five children in
Naustdal municipality were in mid November moved from their
parents and were placed in three different foster homes.
The basis was an emergency decision due to a message of
concern from the school to the local child protection
service (CPS) saying that the parents made use of Christian
discipline in their child rearing. The case has led several
tens of thousands of people to demonstrate against the
Norwegian CPS – Barnevernet – in more than 20 cities all
over the world, as far away from Naustdal as Ottawa,
Melbourne, Washington DC and New Delhi.
In Naustdal, the CPS are holding matters close to their
chest. The employees are obliged to obey a rule of
confidentiality. This is also the major reason why there is so
little debate about the CPS in Norway, and why the media do
not dare to direct a properly critical light to
Barnevernet's practice. Their opinion is that they lack
sufficient insight for a properly objective picture. It is
a closed system.
The answer given to international media by Norwegian CPS
and by Norwegian authorities, both in this case and in
corresponding cases which have caused a stir abroad, is
that Barnevernet only takes children away from their
parents in the absolutely last resort, when absolutely
necessary, in connection with grave care failure, violence
or abuse. Such an answer of course contributes to throwing
serious suspicion on parents who lose their children.
When the press in addition relates that the parents in
Naustdal are reported to the police accused of violence
against the children, many people will believe that these
are bad parents. But is this so? Or does Barnevernet have a
practice out of every reasonable proportion to the facts?
Is Barnevernet causing more harm to the children than they
are helping the children?
to the police lawyer Sissel Kleiven in the police district
of Sogn og Fjordane County, the parents have admitted "the
use of violence as a means of child raising". But she
explicitly says that it is not a case of the violence
having led to physical harm. The parents said the same in
an interview by Romanian TV. They had used light physical
punishment, they admitted openly. Would they have said that
if it had been more serious than light slaps on the bottom
and holding the children's ears? Certainly not. The danger
of a collapse to their case if they had lied about it,
would have been too great.
Smacks on the bottom and light twisting of an ear were
completely normal in child raising in Norway just a few
years ago, and in my own childhood, and is common in many
countries. But punishable in our country now. Should it
not, then, be punished with a fine, or at worst with a
suspended prison sentence? Is it reasonable in addition to
remove the children, the most beloved of all that a mother
and a father have? And not least: Is it reasonable to
punish the children, who most likely experience being torn
apart from their parents as far more traumatic than being
spanked on their bottom? Besides, that practice could have
been stopped by the CPS having a serious talk with the
parents, taking them to task.
Around in Europe, Norway has previously been considered a
humane nation fighting for human rights. Now a picture
emerges of a brutal nation with a system called
Barnevernet, which is cold, cruel and inhumane, a system
destroying families instead of helping them. "Barnevernet"
has become a term of abuse. Rightly so.
CPS employees in Naustdal get angry mails and telephones.
They should put up with this. The decision is after all of
their doing. But they are not to be a lone target of
criticism. They have probably just followed rules and
ordinary practice, based on the education and training they
have received. Common sense is long gone from this closed
system, not only in Naustdal.
Strangely enough, few Norwegian media have written about
that which should be sensational news: That within the same
month, there are demonstrations against Norway in Tallinn,
Vilnius, London, Dublin, Madrid, Rome, Copenhagen, Prague,
Washington, Ottawa, Melbourne, and New Delhi, as well as in
Bucharest and several other cities in Romania. The largest
demonstration in Romania drew 9000 participants. In Prague,
where I myself took part and held an appeal, 700 people
took part, few of them Evangelical Christians.
child protection seen from abroad
picture, then, that has been drawn up by the few media in
Norway to mention the case, viz that it is just a Christian
group protesting, a group spread out in several countries
and to which the Bodnarius belong, and that it is a
question that concerns only this one family in Naustdal, is
The demonstrations against Norwegian CPS started in the
Czech Republic in connection with the case of a Czech
mother. It was raised by politicians both in their national
parliament and in the EU parliament, and by the country's
Since then the concern has been spreading. The media in
Czechia as well as in Romania have by and by gone fairly
thoroughly into how child protection generally works in
Norway. They have been shocked at discovering how easily
and on what grounds Barnevernet takes parents away from
children and children from parents.
Humanism seems more prevalent in Europe than in our own
country. One of the leaders of the demonstration in Prague
said to me: "It was a good thing that you were here and
held an appeal, because even a lot of Czechs do not believe
it can be true."
The world is in the process of discovering that Norway has
a system which in a brutal way destroys families and
individuals, which creates tragedies, and increases the
suicide rate both of children and parents. The picture
revealed to the world is not a pretty one. And the CPS
workers in Naustdal are not alone in being responsible for