11 June 2021

It is indefensible that the CPS Barnevernet abuses its power and mobilises the police against defenceless children

By Tonje Omdahl, formerly in CPS care

• • •
('Barnevernet' is the name of the CPS, the public child protective services, in Norway. 'barn' = "child", 'vern' = "protection".)

A Norwegian version of the article, under the title
Det er ikke forsvarlig at barnevernet misbruker makten sin og setter inn politiet mot forsvarsløse barn, was published on 28 April 2021 by Fontene, the magazine of the trade union Norwegian Union of Social Educators and Social Workers (FO), and has been reprinted here.
   This English version is published by the permission of the author.
   The contents of Norwegian sources referred to in the article have not been translated but links have been given as documentation.
Translation, including of quoted items, are by Marianne Haslev Skånland.
• • •

In February of 2021, the newspaper
Stavanger Aftenblad published the first national statistic about police action against children under the care of Barnevernet(1). The newspaper showed the police to have carried out 2,800 actions ordered by Barnevernet in a year. Children and young are handcuffed, transported in police cars, and hooded to prevent them from spitting. Some are chased by armed police.

Many articles have followed this publication. Among others, social worker Ine Haver wrote a debate article
(2) in which she criticised the journalists for having failed to present the whole perspective:
"Aftenbladet focuses only on the number of cases for which the police have been called to situations of children and young people behaving in a threatening way, not taking account of the complexity and the drama confronting the employees when they choose to ask the police for help." She continues: "If one wishes the series of articles to have effect on system level, it is useful to see to it that all sides are properly scrutinised."

This is where Ine Haver's objection misfires completely. In order to understand, it is necessary to acknowledge that serious errors and damage are caused in the child protection system.

We are just to shut up

To see both sides of an issue, I think Barnevernet and the personnel at institutions should look behind behaviour to the reason why children act out against adults. Their actions are in origin very often frustration and despair at not being heard and seen. Violence and threats can therefore often take place in a heated situation. It springs from a feeling of powerlessness and can be triggered by the way we are treated.

You can do whatever you like. We are just to shut our mouth about it. But this type of violent brutality and lawlessness in practice, exercised by the police, creates a pattern of overwhelming power and far too aggressive action on the part of Barnevernet. In worst case scenarios, children who have done no wrong are arrested.

Powerless children and young

I have myself been under Barnevernet and know what it can do to an individual. I was sent miles from home to a foster home and later to an institution. Because of my criticism of Barnevernet I have been in touch with many whose cases are similar and histories which certainly deserve to be told.

At one time I had contact with a boy, he was then 14 years old, who had fled from the institution and home to his family at the week-end. When Barnevernet and the police came to fetch him back, they handcuffed him and carried him off in his socks with no shoes on. Another time I was with a 15-year old who had escaped from an institution. Later in the day there was a police action on the bus and we were literally pulled out of the bus as criminals.

I do not believe anyone thinks that children and young people experience such helplessness against a system as 'protection'?

No overview of the situation

Anyone can claim that the child protection service Barnevernet serves children's interest. But nobody can really pretend that it does. Barnevernet is to a service for protecting vulnerable children. I would have trusted that if the system rendered help and not punishment.

Their abuse of power in this way is indefensible – calling in the police who use force against children who feel completely defenseless.

We have now come so far that the extent of damage done to the
personnel in child protection institutions has been mapped out. But the harm done to the children – for this there is no overview or statistic.

It says a lot about whom the Child Protection Act protects when it does not protect the children.


Aftenbladet avslører: Politiet utførte 2800 oppdrag mot barnevernsbarn på ett år
(Aftenbladet reveals: The police carried out 2,800 actions against children in CPS)
Stavanger Aftenblad, February 2021

Overview of articles about the use of police force against children
Stavanger Aftenblad, February 2021–

Ine Haver:
"jeg skal slå dere i hjel"
("I am going to kill you")
Stavanger Aftenblad, 16 February 2021


See also

Tonje Omdahl:
Systemet en konkurrent om å vinne eller tape
(The system is a competitor in a game of win or lose)
MHS's home page, 6 april 2021

Tonje ble akuttplassert mot sin vilje
(Tonje was taken in an emergency placement against her will)
Extraavisen, undated, ca 5 May 2021

Arne Jarl Hatlem:
Barnevernet – the CPS – equals merciless Norwegians
MHS's home page, 29 July 2018

Ragnvald Bjørgaas Petersen:
The child and family centers –
The CPS Barnevernet needs law regulation
MHS's home page, 25 January 2019

Siv Westerberg:
Norway and Sweden – where inhuman rights prevail
MHS's home page, 7 May 2012 / 11 November 2017

Olav Terje Bergo:
The stubborn blindness of the defenders of Barnevernet
MHS's home page, 2 March 2019

Anita Skippervik:
Norwegian methods of investigation of child protection cases do not meet international standards
MHS's home page, 2 March 2019

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
The Norwegian child protection service (CPS) Barnevernet
 – what is the truth?

MHS's home page, 22 February 2019

Olav Sylte:
After 12 months: 12 new serious miscarriages of justice
MHS's home page, 24 September 2018