hidden motive for wanting municipality mergers and larger
child protection units
of the arguments presented by our Norwegian authorities for
municipality mergers are of a rational, often economic
kind. Now that modern communications have radically
shortened travel time, it is no longer necessary to have
all administrative services as close by as it was when
major effort was necessary to make a journey of some miles.
But one argument in the continued propaganda in favour of
merging municipalities does not hold water: With larger
municipalities the population will allegedly have a better,
a more professional child protection service (CPS). The
child protection unit in small municipalities, it is
claimed, is too small to be able to 'offer their users'
Formulations like these are of the same kind as another
propaganda drive we often see, the one claiming that so
many children are stuck in a queue waiting for 'help' in
the shape of foster homes. The real situation regarding
this is that a considerable number of children live under
heavy strain because they fear
that they will be
deprived of their parents and family.
It has already
been put into practice
Back to the
announced advantages of larger CPS units said to come with
larger municipalities: Many municipalities have already
practiced something of the kind for several years – they
cooperate in child protection cases across municipal
Such cooperation is always portrayed by the authorities as
positive: larger professional milieus, therefore higher
qualifications, better services, increased efficiency,
better economic results. If there is trouble with protests
against the CPS in some municipality, it sometimes happens
that the central authorities try to calm the criticism down
by offering temptation to the local community, saying that
if they just drop their protests, they will 'get'
inter-municipal CPS cooperation and added psychological
services at their disposal. This kind of 'tempting promise'
was apparently tried by Hordaland County to Samnanger
municipality when people there took to the streets in a
large demonstration with torches and posters against the
CPS having forcibly taken two children (some photos from
the demo here and here).
different from improvement
important truth often slips out. CPS employees say it
themselves, and it is naïvely repeated by others – such as
the press – probably because they take this motive to be
both legitimate and decent:
It is so
difficult and unpleasant for child protection workers and
their helpers to 'interfere' against families in little,
local communities where everybody knows everybody and
everybody knows them.
Therefore, they use the cooperating municipalities' CPS
workers, who live and work far away, when removals of
children from home are carried out. In this way the social
workers who effect the deportations can remain anonymous
and protected from a shocked and appalled local community.
Such deportations are often very upsetting, so social
workers make sure that they are several colleagues
together, and they bring a number of police officers with
them to take by force children who are desperate and who
scream and fight against being taken from their parents.
There have been cases in which policemen have 'had to have
psycho-therapy' (read as: psychological sweet-talk assuring
them that yes yes, what they did was quite right, although
it was unpleasant) after having taken part in such forcible
And we can read it – once more – quite openly, this time
from cabinet minister Solveig Horne, the minister of
Children, Equality and Social Inclusion,
an article in VG from 19
March 2015 about added responsibilities and tasks for
viser til at 100 norske kommuner har tre eller færre
ansatte i barnevernet. I små samfunn er det vanskeligere å
gripe inn, derfor har mange kommuner allerede samlet
barnevernstjenestene med nabokommunene. Etter hvert vil de
også få ansvaret for fosterhjem og institusjoner."
("Horne points to 100 Norwegian
municipalities having a maximum of three employees in the
CPS. In small communities it is more difficult to take
action, which is why many municipalities have already
joined their child protection services with neighbouring
municipalities. By and by they will also be given the
responsibility for foster homes and institutions."
In the title of this article I have characterised this
motive as hidden. It will be clear, however, that it really
isn't hidden, although it is often hidden away better than
by Solveig Horne. What is more covert is perhaps how strong
this motive is, although CPS workers and their helpers
quite often make it fairly clear. Larger CPS units will not
mean that they will stop the horrible forcible deportations
they are engaged in already. They will continue in just the
same way, and with added staff and power and prestige will
be less troubled by protests and attempts to escape.
Bureaucrats in local administration and politicians want
peace and quiet, no upset around CPS actions. This they
hope to get through making each CPS unit larger and more
powerful and the employees correspondingly more anonymous.
With such a development, it will be increasingly more
difficult for affected families and for a frightened,
uncertain and ignorant community to stand up effectively
against what takes place.
It is hidden behind the advertisement portraying it as
service. Unfortunately that is a fantasy.
Probably it will be best to leave off hoping that
administrative reorganisation will put right that which is
wrong in today's child protection. Experience has shown
that such reorganisings rarely do. Not too infrequently
they make matters worse. People exhaust their energy to no
use searching for possible improvements of a purely formal