24 March 2019

Yes, Mari Hagve, we have failed as a society

By Jane-Mette Kile,
chairman of the board,
Fokus på Barnevernet (Focus on Barnevernet [the child protection service])

• • •
This article was published in Norwegian in the newspaper Aftenposten on 23 March 2019. It is a comment to an article by Mari Hagve, the leader of Barnevernet in Bærum, a neighbouring municipality to Oslo:
Foreldre må ikke skremmes fra å søke hjelp –
Debatten om barnevernet skaper mer alvorlige trusler og sjikane enn felles løft og retning

(Parents must not be frightened away from seeking help – 
The debate about Barnevernet creates more serious threats and harassment than joint lifting and direction)

A setence in Hagve's article is the basis for the title of Jane-Mette Kile's reply: "If the debate in itself prevents children who need help from obtaining contact with the child protection service because their parents do not dare to, we have failed as a society." (My translation, MHS)

The present article is printed here with the author's kind consent.
Translation: Marianne Haslev Skånland
• • •

Yes, Mari Hagve, we have failed as a society.

In your article in Aftenposten on 21 February, you say: "Every day, my colleagues meet childen who have been subject to the most terrible things." If so, you must have had tremendously many meetings with very few children.

According to SSB [Statistics Norway, the official statistical bureau], in 2017 a demand to take a child into care based on physical abuse in the home was made in 12 cases. In one case the stated reason was mental abuse. 6 cases concerned sexual abuse. In 46 cases, the reason given was violence in the home or in close relationships.

If we divide this between the number of Barnevern offices, we can see that years must pass between each time a particular office, statistically, has a case in which a child has been the victim of "the most terrible tings". If children have not been subject to physical abuse, mental abuse, or sexual abuse, then what has happened does not belong to the category of "the most terrible things".

This is not to say that these children do not need protection or help, but your labelling of the seriousness of cases must be said to be exaggerated. I agree that the debate has not led to joint lifting and direction, but whose fault is that? Can one manage to obtain elevation and direction based on common efforts before we agree on the description of reality?