am a fanatic
Speech at the
demonstration outside the Norwegian parliament on 16 April
Jørgen Stueland is a lawyer
and has worked with child protection cases over several
years. He is engaged, through articles and debate, in
showing the way the Norwegian Barnevernet carries out
My name is Jørgen Stueland. I am a fanatic and I am a
lawyer. Winston Churchill described a fanatic as a person
who will not change his mind and will not change subject.
That´s me. In cases concerning the Barnevern. I will not, I
refuse, I stick to my opinion. And I refuse to change the
subject. I will without exception talk about the Barnevern.
An unwritten rule for a lawyer is to be polite, calm and
factual. However, after having worked with child welfare
cases for 15 years, the very idea Child Welfare, the
growing mammoth Barnevern with a capital letter B, made me
rude, exalted and unprofessional.
What I fight against is a system in possession of methods
which lead to all weapons being allowed.
Whilst preparing this speech, I thought: Can you defend
your fanaticism? Yes I can. I thought. The way of the
Barnevern, the Fylkesnemnd, the courts, the experts, the
academically retarded child welfare staff, the way it all
has been built up and now like war tanks rolls over and
crushes traditional Norwegian families; this system has
strong fascist features. And in a way also racial
hallmarks. Parents are categorized into upper and lower
And so I quote Arnulf Øverland's poem “You must not sleep”.
It is a trite poem. Used in all too many situations where
it does not fit. However, it does fit in innumerable cases
in which I have been practicing as a lawyer. "You must not
sit safely at home and say it is a pity, poor things! You
must not endure so well the unfairness that does not harm
yourself. I cry with the last breath of my voice, you are
not allowed to wander around and forget.”
What we must do. It is now about to happen. That which
should have happened long ago. There is a growing number
coming out from their safe homes. Out to wretches, parents,
children. More and more, lawyers, experts, even caseworkers
within the Barnevern, increasing numbers from the
Parliament, increasing numbers take Øverland's words in
their mouth: They no longer walk around forgetting.
The Barnevern is a true child of the welfare state, the
ideology which the welfare state is based upon. Especially
after World War II, a welfare state was built up which
became all Norwegian's father. A system was built under
which each citizen got his whole life dissected. This state
of welfare is in many ways amazing. Cheap healthcare, good
hospitals, financial arrangements during unemployment,
sickness, disability and retirement.
But the welfare state also created the Barnevern. It has
gradually been developed, and culminated in the Child
Welfare Act in 1992. Since that time, i.e. in 1992,
Barnevernet has gone through an explosive development.
According to Statistics Norway there were 15,303 submitted
reports of concern to child protection in 2003. In 2014,
52,996 reports of concern were submitted. The percentage
increase in the number of reports of concern in eleven
years is 246 percent (!). In 2009, 3415 workers were
employed in the Barnevern. In 2014 this number had
increased to 5139 people in the child welfare system. This
is an increase of 50 percent in six years. And is this all
because my parents and their generation (I was born in
1971) were perfect parents? Is it true that parents in 2014
are 246 percent worse than parents in 2003? What caused
this rapid growth? In fact it is because the welfare state
has eaten itself into our lives. Also into our innermost,
our family life.
The welfare state now owns our children. We only borrow
them. And once an overzealous nurse, a doctor, a hateful
neighbor, sends in a message of concern, Barnevernet
dissects a family's life. Ultimately, they take our
So I am a fanatic. I'm fanatically concerned that these
conditions have to be corrected. We are in desperate need
of new child welfare, with the family in the centre.
I will never stop this fight. For I have found that within
the Barnevern there are great, extreme abuses committed
every day. Hence, I can not remain silent about what I see.
We are going to achieve the change which must come.