1 January 2017
Baunedal, the five "Naustdal children's" aunt:
protection Barnevernet – past expiry date?
There is something wrong with the very foundation which
Barnevernet is standing on. I am thinking of their ideas
about human beings and their views on the family.
• • •
Norwegian original of this article was first published
in the newspaper Dagen
on 3 December 2016, and was also reprinted
translation has been made with the author's kind consent.
Translation, including translation of quoted statements:
Marianne Haslev Skånland
It is now a year
since I witnessed the actions of Naustdal Barnevern (the
child protection agency) in the family of my sister.
Drawing a great deal of attention and interest as it did,
including demonstrations around the world, the case became
a milestone as regards protection of
Looking back on
this last year, questions arise: Has Naustdal Barnevern
become a better instrument for help? Has Naustdal
Municipality drawn anything positive from the media
turmoil, have they learnt something? Has Barnevernet
generally become more functional?
Barnevern has been subject to massive criticism over the
way they went about things, their treatment of that
particular family, my sister's family. A normal reaction
would be to repent and think again, to find out whether
they made the right decisions.
Perhaps both immediate family and kindred were right in
holding Barnevernet to have made a great mistake. Perhaps
the reaction of "the whole world" was right. But no –
Barnevernet sticks to the opinion that they know better
than everyone else. This is called arrogance. The leader of
the child protection unit does not dome forward in the
media or face her responsibility directly, the way it is
usually done in other areas of life.
The municipal administrator Øyvind Bang-Olsen is the one to
make statements to the media. He has no deep insight into
the case, nor has he spoken to the parents. Despite this,
there is one sentence which is repeated in what he says:
"Barnevernet in Naustdal has done a good job." After
several months the municipal administrator says straight
out that "We take no criticism in this
municipal administrator and Barnevernet have no
self-criticism to offer, but are of the opinion that they
have done a good job, how then can there be room for
improvement? And even if there seems to be no room for
improvement, has Naustdal Barnevern nevertheless changed
its methods for the better?
It seems not. Right before my sister's family's case came
up, Naustdal Barnevern intervened in another family with an
emergency decision. The children came back to the family,
but later the family lost in court. Instead of keeping the
children in the family and helping them, Barnevernet
thought the children should not to live with their family.
The two siblings were separated, sent to two different
foster homes, because Barnevernet thought it best.
autumn, Naustdal Barnevern made yet another acute decision
on a weak basis, but this family was, thank goodness,
reunited again after a short time.
I have talked to the concerned families and to others. What
seems to be visible, repeatedly, is that Naustdal Barnevern
sticks to its methods, which I have to call simply brutal.
They make and implement acute decisions made with weak
justification, in cases where there is no danger to the
children's lives, and they carry out little or nothing in
the way of investigation beforehand.
of help" separates siblings or plans to do so, with the
claim that it is "in the best interest of the child" to be
given full attention by being alone.
– I have now just mentioned a few examples, which I am
familiar with, of the brutal methods of Naustdal Barnevern
this last year.
Naustdal municipality, there has been a considerable storm
of reactions against the evident abuse of power of
Barnevernet. Even so, not a word was heard from the mayor
or the local politicians. I wondered about this – would
none of the politicians elected by the people make an
appearance in the media with a wish for a better Barnevern?
One lady said to me, "I think all of Naustdal support your
sister and the family". We in the family have really
experienced the support she spoke of, both from neighbours,
family, friends and others we have met in the district.
If a local politician had understood that "this is the
right time" and had come forward in the media saying that
changes to Barnevernet are wanted, he or she would have
drawn great respect and support. I therefore wholeheartedly
thank Per Storegjerde, former mayor of Naustdal, for his
articles in the papers. After several months the current
mayor let himself be heard. He said to the media that he
wanted peace and quiet and no more fuss over Barnevernet.
In other words: He sweeps all criticism of Barnevernet
under the carpet and does nothing about the problem. At the
same time it may be understood that it is not easy for a
mayor to go against the municipal administrator, who has
said that the municipality has no self-criticism to offer
in the matter. It might have been better for the mayor not
to say anything at all.
My last question
at the start of the article concerned Barnevernet's
functionality. The Minister of Children and Equality
Solveig Horne wishes to place stronger demands on the
competence of employees of Barnevernet. She wants an
evaluation of the law relating to child protection with a
view to having an updated law suitable to the times. The
Minister also speaks of further efforts in psychiatric
health in Barnevernet, of strengthening the local Barnevern
offices and of better cooperation between Barnevernet and
Somebody put it like this: "Minister for children Solveig
Horne is patching up the system." I could not have
formulated it any better myself; patching is exactly what
springs to mind when I hear the Minister speak and likewise
hear what the critics say.
Besides, acute decisions are still being made and put into
practice on flimsy grounds, there is still opposition
against parents and obstruction to their trying to reunite
the family, and so on. In the case of my nephews and nieces
as well as in many other cases, psychologists hold that the
children are traumatised and scared of their parents. But
the truth is that the children are fond of their parents,
they long for home and have not been traumatised at home at
The methods of
the police towards children and parents are also under
heavy criticism. There are people who feel that there is no
way of being safe under the rule of law in Norway. One
couple lost their right to care for their children in the
County Board at the beginning of this year. In October they
won it back, unanimously, in the County Court. How, then,
could they lose in the first place? Rule of law?
Professor of linguistics Marianne Haslev Skånland says
about the legislation: "For several years it has been going
in the wrong direction, with repeated turning of the screw
making parents helpless, depriving them of every right and
possibility of keeping their children with them and
I should like,
here at the end, to say a few words about Barnevernet's
future. When I took part in the debate on national
television NRK last spring, I said that changes are needed
in Barnevernet and in the legislation regulating
Barnevernet and the justice system. Now that I see only a
"patching up of the child protection system", it is clear
that something more is needed to create a better Barnevern.
My sister said at one stage, "Where is love?" There is
something wrong with the foundations Barnevernet is
standing on, something concerning their ideas about human
beings and their views on the family.
A healthy child protection system holds the view that a
human being has immeasurably great value and should not be
violated. The family is what builds society, therefore it
must be guarded with all possible means. When I see and
hear about the workings of Barnevernet today, how low the
threshold is for violating a family through an acute
intervention, how easy it is for parents to lose their
right to care and how difficult it is to get back children
who have been placed in foster homes for some time, then I
cannot say that Barnevernet has the right ideas about human
beings nor the right understanding of the family.
Judging them like this, I have not even gone into the
treatment of parents and children by Barnevernet in acute
take-overs. Several Romanian families have been told by
Barnevernet: "Here in Norway the state owns the children."
This confirms the views of people and families which I can
see exist in Barnevernet.
A particular aspect is clear from the case of my sister and
her family, something which is found in many other cases
too: Children are not allowed to be children with all they
say, both facts and fiction. They are held responsible for
erroneous things they may say, which are not put right and
which therefore have catastrophic consequences. Could it be
that Barnevernet is "past its expiry date" and we have to
start something new?