A little more
Jan Simonsen, former Member of Parliament
The article was published
in Norwegian by the newspaper Bergens
Tidende on 14 March
It is published here with the author's generous consent.
Translation: Marianne Haslev Skåland
I have followed the fight against Norwegian Barnevernet
(the child protection service – CPS) at close range this
last year, and have myself been interviewed by several
Czech media which have wanted me to explain how it works.
In Bergens Tidende Magasinet on 11 February, we read that
Romanians in Norway have sent their children back to their
home country because they fear that Barnevernet will take
the children. The background lies in the child protection
case in Naustdal, in which a Norwegian-Romanian family had
all their five children taken from them in November. The
case has attracted enormous attention in Romania and has
triggered protests the world over.
But who is responsible for that? The Romanian politicians
and the thousands of idealistic individuals in countries
all over Europe who have demonstrated against a Norwegian
child protection which they hold to act inhumanely, or the
Norwegian Barnevern which has developed into a system many
find to behave unnecessarily brutally towards parents who
could instead be helped through guidance and support?
The protests have also caused problems for Norwegian
embassies. "We have tried to come out with factual
information stating how Norwegian CPS functions and under
which rules. That is no easy task, as long as the campaign
is based on an argumentation twisting facts on purpose",
says communications officer Frode Andersen in the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs to the newspaper VG.
Maybe a more humble attitude on the part of Norwegian
authorities would have been appropriate, rather than to
accuse Romanian and Czech politicians and Christian leaders
of "twisting facts on purpose". An allegation like that
will hardly improve the strained relations between Norway
and these countries, both of them fighting for their own
citizens to have their children returned to them.
A month ago the Czech president suggested that the Czech
ambassador should be pulled out from Norway in protest.
Instead of thinking seriously about whether something might
in fact be wrong with our system – when foreign politicians
raise the question of Norwegian CPS practice both in the
European Parliament and in the Council of Europe –
Norwegian politicians and bureaucrats choose to insist that
Norway is best.
Protests against Norway started to get serious in the Czech
Republic in the autumn of 2014. The cause was media reports
which spread quickly through the social media, about a
Czech mother who lost her two children. The reason was a
baseless suspicion by an employee in a kindergarten about
the father having "messed" with his young boys. It led to a
police investigation, which concluded that the allegation
and rumour were unwarranted.
Here in Prague, where I stay a lot, it was impossible for
people to understand that the mother, who divorced the
father, did not get the children back after the police
investigation having acquitted the parents. It also caused
strong reactions that the mother was not allowed to speak
Czech to her Czech children on the two visitations she was
allowed to have with them. The grandfather came forward in
Czech media and got a lot of sympathy.
Czech media tried to unravel the case, but the only answer
they got when phoning Barnevernet was the statement that
the CPS only takes children from their parents as an
absolutely last resort and when the case involves violence,
abuse or grave care failure. The Czech media remained
sceptical about that, since the police investigation in
this case had shown that the children were neither victims
of violence nor had they been sexually abused.
Gradually, Czech media and politicians gained thorough
insight into the whole Norwegian system, and they concluded
that Norway has a system which destroys children and
parents and violates human rights. Czech EU politicians
from different parties have taken the case to the European
Parliament, where they cooperate with politicians from
other countries whose citizens have experienced the same
The Naustdal case, which Bergens Tidende has written rather
thoroughly about, has confirmed the problems in the
practice of Norwegian Barnevern. It has added new fuel to
the protests which today are on their way to becoming
coordinated, not only through the world-wide Christian
group which the the couple in Naustdal belongs to, but
equally from politicians in the EU Parliament in Brussels.
In May of last year, six months before Barnevernet took the
children in Naustdal, more than 500 people demonstrated
against Norwegian CPS here in Prague. At that time, the
Czech case in Norway had already been raised in the Czech
Parliament. In January, 700 took part in a similar
demonstration. In January and February over 70,000 people
demonstrated against Barnevernet in close to 40 cities all
over the world. And even if the demonstrations have two
concrete cases as their starting points, they have by now
come to be directed against the practice of Barnevernet as
Barnevernet has become an international term of abuse. Both
Czechs and Romanians have ceased translating the word into
their own languages or English. They simply use the word
"Barnevernet" both in demonstrations and in newspaper
If Norwegian Barnevern does not change its practice of
tearing apart families and placing the children away on
relatively feeble grounds, the protests will continue and
Norway will be a despised laughing stock in international
fora. The image of Norway as a humane nation is in the
process of being torn down.