3 December 2016
• • •
was published in Arizona Telegraph, in Miorita USA, on Pastor Ciprian Barsan - Blog
Crestin, Mariana Gurza –
Blog, Wings of the Wind, Chris Reimers'
and Life Mission, all on 3 December 2016. It
is republished here with the author's kind consent.
• • •
Norway from Iraq. Here, her 5 children are taken away
«Forgive them, because they
don’t know what they do». I peek into the hallway of the
woman who lost all her kids to the Norwegian Child
Protection Service, called “Barnevernet”, just before our
national day 17th of May last year. Their shoes are still
there, labels with their names ironed on the inside. “She
probably can’t bear to remove them”, I’m thinking. Silently
I ask myself how much too small those shoes will be, when –
or if – the children are allowed to come home.
One after one, the children
have stood alone in court, courtcase after courtcase, and
asked to come home. This mother is the last trace of family
they’ve got here, as she is a widow who has escaped from
Iraq. All of the siblings, except two, were put in
different locations. All the time since they were removed,
they have cried and pled. They have offered Barnevernet
money. They have drawn faces covered with tears.
Barnevernet reports that the children are «crying, but
mostly when they see their mother».
And the mother loves her
children. That is even confirmed by Barnevernet, and by the
judges in court. However, they express doubt whether she is
able to give her children “emotional support”. A
professional term which is accepted without question by the
judges, and which bends them towards their tragical
conclusion: the mother is not fit. Nobody seems to think
that “love” and “emotional support” are related in some
way. Love is obviously not given much credit.
Standard, abbreviated NS
There’s a new documentary about
Barnevernet in the making, called «Norwegian Standard». The
abbreviated is NS – which was also the name that the
Norwegian Nazi party during the war, "Nasjonal Samling",
went under. So I’m tempted to search for similarities
between the Norwegian system and the Nazi regime. What I
find is the lack of love. Love means nothing. Intellectual
and professional constructions legitimize brutal violations
by the bureaucrats, who are merely “doing their job”. Is it
unpleasant to remove children from their families? Sure. At
least until you get used to it.
«I understand that you miss
your children», the employee from Barnevernet purrs to the
devastated mother, “but the children are very well taken
care of. Two of them are living together in a huge, modern
house. They are successful at school. Their new parents are
not working, so they can take care of the children all the
What a poor relief to the
mother, that the new parents don’t need to work for a
living, and that they have such a nice, big house.
Barnevernet seems to have a
preference for people with high socio-economic status when
it comes to choosing who are suited as parents for the
children of the Norwegian state. This mother, like so many
others, has been accused of being too poor.
Another alternative favoured
by Barnevernet is to select foster parents for whom they
create good economic conditions by paying them rather
generously. To aspiring foster parents, Barnevernet is a
most lucrative opportunity. In several cases, foster
parents have been paid for their new «needs» such as an
extra car, or renovation of their house, with the new child
as leverage. They’re also granted the use of extra,
temporary step-in foster parents, who take care of the
child during holidays.
More tempting still is the
offer of the equivalent of a full salary, so that one
foster parent can stay home and ensure good care of the
The economic advantages of
being a foster parent are heavily advertised by the state,
regardless of the fact that it may attract people with
other motives than to love a child like their own. The
state is in desperate need of foster homes. On average, the
state removes 5 children from their parents every day – in
one of the smallest countries in the world.
The Norwegian professor Tove
Stang-Dahl has done research on the history of Barnevernet.
Her conclusion is this: “In an uninterrupted line from the
end of the 18th century and right until this day, the
explicit goal of Barnevernet has been to weaken the power
and freedom of the family. The premise has been the same
the whole time: to exert social control over the groups in
society who are, at any point in time, seen as a threat
against social order.”
dark depths of our human mind
Last year, the mother had hoped
to celebrate Christmas with her children. Barnevernet
refused, and told her to deliver her gifts at their office,
for professional distribution to each child. This
Christmas, she has lost any hope of seeing her children.
Barnevernet won’t give her more than what the judges said:
4 times a year, 1.5 hour each time, supervised. That means
there has to be an observer from Barnevernet, who can’t
leave the mother and child alone at any moment – not even
in the bathroom. An interpreter is also there, to translate
everything they say to each other.
To the victims, it may seem
like Barnevernet, with its unlimited power to destroy the
lives of individuals, experiences a subtle joy in doing
exactly that. Unfortunately, I believe it’s a human trait:
The famous Stanford
experiment illustrates this. 21 mentally healthy persons
were randomly given roles as «prisoners» or «guards», and
placed in a prison-like locale. The guards were instructed
to «keep order», nothing else - and psychologists were to
observe what happened. The experiment was meant to last 2
weeks, but had to be stopped after 6 days, because of how
the guards abused the prisoners, harassing them
psychologically and forcing them to do humiliating things.
By the end of the 6 days, a third of the guards were
believed to have developed sadistic traits.
In our human minds, the same
psychological mechanisms are latent. And they will flourish
if the power structure allows them to.
Norwegian law on children – breeding ground for
It heads the wrong way.
Before, the law said that children should live with their
biological parents, if possible. In 2012, this law was
reformulated. Now, they have the «right» to grow up with
people who can provide the best conditions materially and
mentally. The children are to be «good and productive
citizens, for the nation's best», the law says.
This sentence reminds me of
Nazi perfectionism. It can justify almost any abduction
from parents with lower socio-economic status. We have to
ask which values are the most important. The love of the
parents, or the development of «productive citizens»?
«Forgive them, for they don’t
know what they do.» I’m writing Christmas cards. Thinking
of my friends, and my enemies, and of the ones whom it
might be time to forgive.
And I think of my new friend
from abroad, who’s sticking to me as if clutching at a
straw. Because I’m Norwegian, probably. But who am I
against Barnevernet? The people there have developed a very
thick shell. In a system where cruel decisions are a part
of their everyday job, they will not bend to any appeal for
empathy. They don’t listen to anybody – not even doctors,
nurses, or psychologists who sometimes very openly disagree
with their decisions to separate a family, based on their
own observations of that family. I'm really nothing more
than a straw in this field, a field ravaged by storms of
prejudices and by a past most of us are ignorant
Can one really forgive, without
the other party admitting and changing anything? It seems
that for politicians and for Barnevernet, it is difficult
to admit that something has gone wrong. They seldom talk
about the pain inflicted upon children and parents. I’ve
rarely seen anything coming close to a real debate, without
all the justifications for Barnevernet being brought up
again and again. When in reality, no one disagrees that in
some serious cases, children should be taken away and be
given another home.
This is being used to
overshadow all those children who maybe needed some help,
but absolutely not of that kind. Now, they’re being
traumatized for life – for absolutely no other good reason
than to protect the one who made the wrong decision in the
first place. What about all their calls and crying for
their true home and parents, without anybody paying
attention to it? The brutality of these acts – and the
numbers of them - are rarely mentioned. Some lawyers have
estimated those cases to represent around 80% of all the
children being forcibly displaced.
So, I’m not ready to forgive
Barnevernet yet. The snow that fell last year, is still
falling down – and nothing seems to change things, as long
as we have a trust-based system where the employees from
Barnevernet can do what they want. They can command the
police to take a child any time. Even if they make a wrong
decision, it still can take months and years before the
children are returned to their family – if ever.
Instead of forgiveness, I
have a Christmas wish. I wish that people would open their
eyes to what’s happening. The actions of the Norwegian
Barnevernet will forever be remembered by the rest of the
world, as our acts, my acts. Every Norwegian should
understand how easily one can lose a child to the Norwegian
state – and try to care a little bit about how they want
this country to be.
This is my Christmas wish, so
that I might regain some pride in my country. All the time
since the 17th of May celebration last year, I have only
been ashamed. During the celebration at our school, my
daughter told me the news about the girl in her class being
removed. I went to look for the mother in the crowd, while
two girls talked in the microphone of how lucky we are in
Norway. «Not many countries have as fair and humane laws as
Norway», they said. But I know of no country where the
mother has less of a right to express love and to care for
what comes from her own womb.
I have a life which the
immigrant woman would have done anything to get: I’ll
celebrate Christmas, happy to be with my children. As it is
for any other parent, there have been incidents or errors
that could have separated us forever, had they been judged
by the wrong person.
But my red-coloured tablecloth,
delicious food, my decorations and Christmas-red curtains
can’t match the memory of the pale red shoes in the home of
a woman who is not taking part in our celebration. The red
shoes will always be lying there, in my consciousness,
empty of children's feet.