4 December 2017

"Children of the state" – Czech documentary with critical spotlight on Norwegian child protection

By Jan Simonsen

• •
The article was published in Norwegian
on Resett.no on 24 November 2017, under the title "Statens barn" – tsjekkisk dokumentar med kritisk søkelys på norsk barnevern. It has also been publishe on MHS' home page.
• •

Several documentaries about the Norwegian child protection agency Barnevernet have been produced in other countries over the last few years, shown by TV companies in Britain, France and Germany. On Tuesday 21 November, Czech TV followed, with a new documentary, to be repeated on Sunday.

Děti státu
Český žurnál, no date (November 2017)

The documentary received wide publicity in Czech media.

Czech Christian-democratic politician
Tomáš Zdechovský watched the documentary and exploded in fury: "Crime! Norway should be had up before the International Criminal Court in The Hague" is his opinion.

" 'Barnevernet' has become synonymous with 'the child thieving office' all over Europe," writes
Echo24 in a review. The Czech paper finds that the documentary is realistic and manages to steer clear of conspiracy theories. "The result is, however, more frightening than a Russian conspiracy: it shows us glimpses into a society which has accepted the role of the state as a benevolent father," says Echo24.

The most frightening part of the documentary is, according to the reviewer, an interview with Kari Killén, the social work scholar who has written textbooks about Barnevernet used by thousands of social workers and Barnevern employees since 1991, and who has been given considerable responsibility for the way the attitudes in Barnevernet have developed into what today meets with massive criticism in other countries and among an increasing number of experts in Norway.

The Czech reviewer is shocked at Killén explaining that a child may care for its parents and feel love towards them, but that the parents nevertheless "must 'understand' that they cannot take care of him".

According to another Czech online newspaper,
Reflex.cz, the documentary shows that Barnevernet in Norway removes as many children from their parents as is done in the Czech Republic, although the Czech Republic has twice the number of inhabitants of Norway. 27 per cent of children in Norway taken from their parents and placed in foster homes are deprived of their parents because Barnevernet holds the parents to be deficient in ability to be parents or to "lack in parental proficiency". Other reasons given and taken up in the documentary can be that "the parents are unable to say no or that the parents spend all day on the telephone".

The reasons revealed by the documentary are not in accordance with the answers given by Barnevernet to Czech journalists and the information previously given by Norwegian embassies on their web pages, stating that a child is only taken from its parents when there is gross lack of care, alcoholism or drug abuse, or sexual abuse.

Among many cases, the Czech documentary discusses that of Czech mother Michaláková, a case which has infuriated Czechs for several years, has led to large demonstrations outside the Norwegian embassy in Prague, have been raised in the Czech parliament and in the human rights committee of the European parliament, and has made Miloš Zeman, the Czech president, to attack Norwegian child protection in strong terms.

Michaláková's two sons were taken on account of a suspicion of sexual abuse on the part of the father, a suspicion due to a worry-report from the kindergarten the children went to. The children were removed from their parents pursuant to an emergency decision when the investigation of the father started, and have never been returned, neither as a result of the exoneration of the father by a police investigation, nor when the mother divorced him as a matter of caution.

For a time she could only meet her sons for half an hour twice a year and was forbidden to speak Czech with them, something which outraged the Czech population. The two sons have now been adopted away to their former foster parents. Michaláková today works as an assistant in a kindergarten and takes care of school children with special needs.

The documentary has been produced by Pauerová Milosevic og Margaret Hr
ůza. Hrůza was born in Norway and lives there.

Their documentary caused sharp reactions among viewers and readers. One of them holds Norway's lack of respect for human rights, and especially of children's rights, to have become increasingly worrying over the last eight years.

Another reader thinks Norway will quite soon demand a certificate to be a parent, the way one today has to hold a licence to be allowed to drive a car. In his opinion, the Norwegian system must be terrible for parents and create fear. "The Norwegian system ignores that which is most important in life for a child, namely the emotional togetherness with the parents and vice versa," he writes. One reader goes as far as to compare Norway with North Korea in its attitude to children, state and parents.


A further article about the program:
Hrůzy Barnevernetu. Mohou vás nachytat na čemkoliv, třeba že se moc usmíváte. Promlouvá exposlankyně Chalánková, která zná norský systém jako málokdo jiný
Parlamentní Listy.cz, 26 November 2017

President Miloš Zeman's concern over Norwegian child protection has been included in the Czech Wikipedia article about him:
Miloš Zeman
WikipediE, last revision 25 November 2017