24 September 2012

The Child Protection Service (CPS) – unfortunately the cause of grievous harm
Part 1: First encounters with the system and the court procedures

By Marianne Haslev Skånland

The original version of this article in Norwegian was first published in
Liberal, volume 4 no 2 of August 2006, the periodical of Det Liberale Folkepartiet (DLF) ('Classical Liberal Party of Norway') . It has later been reprinted on some different websites.

Some revisions and additions have been made in this English translation. Some of the cases described have had further developments after 2006; these, however, have not been incorporated in the article.

Where available, English translations have been substituted for some of the original references and some references in English have been added. These latter have been numbered to run consecutively to references in part 2 of the article.


Being invited by DLF to write about child protection for Liberal is of course a spur to doing one's best. Describing our derailed child protection services (CPS) is not altogether easy, however, when considering that my readers here may not previously have looked into this topic at all. The difficulties stem from the great difference between facade and reality in this field. Almost everything is different from the way it is presented to the public by ordinary media, by the child protection organisation itself, and by the authorities responsible for it. Ordinary common sense has turned out to be unreliable as well, when one tries to assess how such a public welfare system probably functions in a society which one feels one knows well generally, because, seen as a system dispensing welfare to the population, the child protection system is not rational. In this article I can only take up some selected aspects in survey and suggest some sources for the interested reader wanting further information.

Twenty years ago I had no idea what was going on in the field of child protection and adjoining professions. In my academic work, however, I had been interested in criticism and analysis of science, some of it directed to psychology, and I had registered the unwholesome upsurge of freudianism and other clearly anti-scientific, speculative trends within clinical psychology, social work, social policies and politics. The operation of the court system seemed to be infected as well, the Bjugn case (28, 29, 30) being a horrific instance of such trends. From time to time I had read newspaper articles about unimaginable actions and conduct on the part of the CPS in individual cases, but I suppose I had concluded that such social workers would of course be put in their place by their superiors, by the affected families, and certainly by the courts if such a case went that far at all. I had not seen the danger signals.

Incredible allegations

Then I got to see two CPS cases close to. They involved people I knew personally and especially in one of them I knew the family so well that I knew right away that the CPS were lying. Their lies and accusations against the parents were very serious and actions based on them could have threatened the very life of the family's sick child.

The other case luckily brought me into contact with a number of people in Sweden working professionally trying to stop corresponding actions against families (several articles in (1)). In none of the cases were CPS workers sacked, prosecuted, or corrected in any way. It became clear that what I had seen were not single, unfortunate departures from the norm; they were quite ordinary CPS cases. And I was soon to encounter much worse cases.

At about the same time my attention was drawn to the fact that the CPS in many cases attack parents claiming that their children's language and linguistic development are delayed or in regression. This is claimed, by the CPS and the psychologists they make use of, to be due to care failure or abuse on the part of the parents or to lack of stimulation from the parents.

I happen to be a professional linguist so I knew these claims to be pure nonsense. Nor is it highly specialised knowledge: everybody with any reading behind them in the field of linguistic research on child language knows this. Children's linguistic development is strongly biologically governed, it varies individually, greatly and over many years, and is independent of environment and stimulation provided the child does not live in total silence (2). In linguistic circles we are familiar with the widespread misunderstanding reigning in Norwegian schools for decades: It is believed that school teachers teach Norwegian children Norwegian. In reality they teach how to write and read a language already known to the children. Pedagogical circles do not really want to understand the difference between this, on the one hand, and teaching pupils in what is to them a foreign language, on the other. Both types of teaching suffer because of this lack of understanding of the difference. I had not, however, known that pedagogical and socio-psychological personnel had pursued their misunderstandings and had built up a special, unsupported 'science' about language development and language proficiency which they use to 'diagnose' children and parents. A good part of writings about child language stemming from social-psychological quarters would be a rich source of fun if only the actual use of this nonsense did not cause the tragedies it in fact does.

When this kind of lies, professional quackery and destruction, within theory as well as practice in the CPS, turns up in many cases, it cannot be due to accidental incompetence or viciousness on the part of a few useless workers who have chosen professions of power. It must be due to overall system error.

Anguished and persecuted parents and children

My first, fumbling search for information brought me in contact with an increasing number of CPS cases. When I had written a few newspaper articles, families started to contact me. Their stories about how the CPS had acted in their cases came pouring out and they were more than willing to give me copies of case documents, reports, records, judgments and expert opinions.

It soon became clear that they were not at all hateful, violent or uninterested parents. Some had children plagued with illness, some were just very young parents, some were poor or had other problems, some in fact had no problems at all before the CPS started attacking them. Even if I was not able to check on the veracity of each single bit of information from each single family, a large part could in fact be checked and was found to be correct, and most important of all: They were people who loved their children and who suffered when deprived of them. The CPS actions against these families amount to clear persecution.

Isn't it strange?: Everybody understands that 'ordinary' parents whom the children are abducted from, are desperate and do anything at all to get them back. Recently [in 2006] Norwegian tv ran a Japanese documentary about families whose children were kidnapped by the North Korean state and kept captive in North Korea for years. Their Japanese parents, now elderly, related how they have all through the years done everything they could to find their children, how they could never forget, how their children's fate had destroyed their lives. Norwegian viewers have no problem understanding this and identifying with their agony. But when it comes to parents the CPS has taken children away from, a certain malicious, rather Pharisaic bullying reflex enters the picture in the quite self-righteous Norwegian population, helped along ably by the continuous propaganda emanating from CPS circles: One permits oneself to believe that
these parents are too bad to 'be suited' to have children, that one is entitled to judge and condemn, that the parents in question are abnormal sub-humans, a kind of witches, that their longing and sorrow, hysteria and desperation show power-lust and the kind of selfishness that wants to dominate over the children contrary to the needs and wishes of the children, and that the children above all must – and want to – get away from these demonic parents. It is a plain repeat of the persecution of the 'taters' or gypsies here in Scandinavia, of Indian children in Canada, of Aborigine children in Australia.

I have also talked to a number of former foster children. It is not too strongly put to say that the pain and suffering caused them by the CPS by depriving them of their parents and preventing both contact and return home, dominate all their later life. Some have had their whole lives destroyed. This is so both in cases where the forcible removal was unwarranted and in cases in which home conditions were very bad. But of course, if the claimed reason for CPS action was to improve the situation for the children, the most outrageous cases are the ones where the CPS's destruction of the family was groundless, and these cases are the majority, perhaps 80-90 per cent. Nor is the catastrophe limited to the former children kept in the institutions called 'children's homes' who now as adults take action against the municipalities. It is equally important for children placed in private foster homes. Swedish human rights lawyer Siv Westerberg considers private foster homes to be the worst of all for a child to be incarcerated in (3, 4, 5, 6).

Quite often, the CPS utilises physical power to take children, either on 'emergency' or when they have obtained a court or social board approval for the child to be taken. They turn up in kindergartens and take children without notifying the parents; they turn up in the home together with 2-4 policemen. If the parents offer resistance, they are brought to the floor and hand-cuffed. Their protests and attempts to protect their children are used as further proof that they are unfit to have children. If the children try to resist being taken, they are locked into the police car and later placed in an institution with locked doors and constant monitoring. If they flee, they are traced, hunted and caught, locked in, and are told that further flight will be punished by total cancelling of any meeting with their parents. It is not rare for the children to be placed as far away as possible from the parents' home, so that it shall be impossible for them to flee home and as difficult as possible for the parents to come to the meagre visitations the CPS cannot stop the courts from allowing. Families who have succeeded in fleeing the country with their children after a social board or court verdict in favour of the CPS, are hunted abroad with the aid of Interpol and by other means.

Parents and children trying to resist being separated is the voice of nature's most valuable qualities: Children and parents seek each other and seek to be together because parents' impulse to protect and help their children is completely different from the motives of anybody else, and because children feel safer with their parents than anywhere else. And there are good reasons why this is so (7, 8, 31, 32, 33). These natural impulses are known under the name 'love'.

An intricate system of madness

Once it had become clear to me that the practice within the CPS, much clinical psychology and psychotherapy, social work, associated expert assessment making, foster home and institutional activity, and training are all interwoven, I decided to read up on different aspects of the problem as well as study concrete cases in detail.

There are two different types of literature in this field:
  (a) Real research literature about history and development, about the results for children who grow up under the auspices of the CPS or are adopted away, compared to 'home children' (children living with their biological parents) in different milieus, about psychological hypotheses, research investigation of them and analysis of their consequences, about occurrence of abuse in different environments where children live or spend time, about correlations between criminality, illness, drug abuse and children's living conditions;
  (b) text-book material written for teaching social work and clinical psychological activity. This is characterised by strongly negative suspicion of parents, by encouragement of uncritical belief in own 'professional' competence, encouragement of uncritical belief that whatever the child-professions claim and do is scientifically solid and positive for children.

The difference is depressing. I have several times given evidence in court and shown – bringing documentation not in any way difficult for anyone at all to understand - what the CPS ideologues write and how it is
  partly contradictory,
  partly not based on facts,
  partly erroneous, as long since shown by a series of well carried out and documented scientific studies and projects,
  partly incitement to the child-professionals to carry out sadistic abuse of families,
  and partly abjectly amateurish, of a standard reminiscent of school essays written by 15-year-olds.

And of course, such CPS writings pretend that the proper scientific literature and the valid research studies do not exist. Instead, the psycho-social groups carry out their own studies, usually lacking in: proper hypothesis formulation, method, possibility of disproof, possibility of duplication study or other checking. These studies clearly serve to maintain the professions' own jobs. One such example professed to study how many foster children wanted or did not want more visitation with their own parents. The study had included, among the children who 'did not want' increased visitation, children whose parents were dead. If my readers wonder why: The CPS always pretends that children want to stay in foster homes and that they feel the company of their own family as a pest.

School teachers, pre-school teachers, social teachers, school nurses, doctors and hospital nurses, religious ministers, lawyers and judges - they all receive, very solidly, either through their primary professional education or through later courses - the same ideology about the CPS as helpers of children. Any child truant from school, any disagreement between teacher and parents, can easily be 'solved' by the school condemning the parents and reporting them to the CPS, which takes the child and places it in a foster home. Such action by schools is frequent (9). Any approach to the social security office by a penniless mother who is not able to pay her electricity bill can cause forced assessment by a psychologist, high remuneration paid to the psychologist by the social system, charges of the mother's incompetence being brought and leading directly to the children being taken, and such a scenario is encountered even more often.

The bankruptcy of the legal system

The most reprehensible of all is, however, the treatment of CPS in our system of social boards and courts, and our jurists bear a stronger guilt than anyone else in having done nothing, and doing nothing, to stop what is going on. They should have made their voice heard loudly, long ago and every time.

Very, very rarely, CPS victims encounter judges and lay judges who are not pre-programmed to let the CPS have it their way. But in almost all CPS cases the result is given beforehand, the case handling and court procedures are but a façade – the cases just give an appearance of legitimacy and rule of law. No demand of proof is made on the CPS. The private party: the family, can often bring direct disproof of CPS allegations in records, reports and in court, but it is given no weight in the verdict. The public party: the municipality, represented by their lawyer who acts for the CPS, is frequently given the support of the court in hindering the family from calling their witnesses. The public party is not at all interested in real information, neither about the individual family and the facts of the case, nor about what real research can reveal about the results of CPS activities. The public subsidy of legal help to families who are subject to forcible actions has been reduced to an extent which makes a farce out of the principle of the rule of law.

The reason lies in the fact that CPS cases are not about law but about ideology. Legal textbooks about child protection law are, with very few exceptions, written by people very close to the CPS system. Certification arrangements see to it that the system's own people fill all functions. The social boards are peopled by the same type of jurists and by the CPS professions as lay judges. Judges in the district courts and upwards in the court system have very often been appointed among earlier municipality lawyers, public prosecutors, police jurists and jurists from government departments. A municipal lawyer will normally want to advance his career by fighting energetically for what his party – the municipality, that is: the CPS – wants. The private party's lawyer does not want to go into serious conflict with judges or municipal lawyers. He has furthermore been to courses of child protection himself, the lawyers' association offers such propaganda courses every year, often with leading CPS ideologues as lecturers (10).

The Classical Liberal Party's debate forum has over some months now had some entries in a thread about child protection, a couple of entries being mine. Most points of view appearing in the thread that are different from my own are well-known to me from other public debate and were not unexpected. Just one point was surprising to me, but should not have been, it was when 'simon' wrote: "I understand you to have investigated such cases in an official capacity" [my translation]. My experience of having analysed and criticised CPS ideology, literature and practice, and even more my participation as an expert witness for the private party in court in some CPS cases, have made it completely clear to me that it is almost impossible in Norway to examine CPS cases critically and realistically in an official capacity. To speak publicly against the CPS, or form alliances with and between CPS victims, is downright dangerous. Most people who have tried, have experienced considerable reprisals in their professional or private lives. As it happens, I myself am fairly protected, because I am close to retirement age, have the status of 'embetsmann' (civil servant of a type that cannot be given the boot from the job except by the state bringing and winning a court-case showing grave incompetence or transgressions), and have no family that can be attacked by the CPS. But the CPS has tried to 'get at me', e.g in court cases in Oslo. The CPS office in Horten tried, a little comically, to have my employer the University of Bergen 'discipline' me (11): They did not like my letting my readers know I was a professor at the University of Bergen when writing newspaper articles about them. CPS victims are worse hit: If they try to use people of my type as witnesses in court or social board, they will normally have to face increased sanctions against them and their children as a result.


Marianne Haslev Skånland:
The Child Protection Service (CPS) – unfortunately the cause of grievous harm
Part 2: Content, dimensions, causes and mechanisms of CPS activities

16 March 2012


(1) Lennart Hane (red) (1993):
Rättvisan och psykologin – en studie över psykologins makt i domstolarna [Justice and psychology – a study of the power of psychology in the courts].
Stockholm: Contra. ISBN 91-86092-29-4

(2) Marianne Haslev Skånland (2006/1995):
"Alexander Aminoff's linguistic proficiency in childhood. An analysis of claims made by the Swedish social services in connection with the forcible removal of him from his mother"
MHS: home page

(3) Samfunnsmagasinet: "Barnehjemskandalen" [The Social Magazine: The scandal of the 'children's home' (Norway) (collection of articles)].
Previously found as: http://www.sfm.no/Barnehjemskandalen.htm

Samhällets styvbarn (nettsted) [Stepchildren of society (Sweden) (website)].

Radio Godhavn (nettsted) [Radio Good Haven (Denmark) (website)].

(6) Siv Westerberg (1995):
"Child Prisons? In Sweden?".
Forum.r-b-v 2006

(7) Marianne Haslev Skånland (2005): "Child abuse which the child protection authorities do not want to know about – 2: Violence against step-children compared to genetic children – Daly & Wilson's research"
MHS: home page

(8) Sverre Kvilhaug (2006):
Atskillelse barn og foreldre [Separation children and parents].
Isdalstø: Cita. ISBN 82-303-0532-3.

(9) Joar Tranøy (2004): "Rett informasjon? Om bruk av tilgjengelig informasjon i sakkyndighetsarbeid" [Correct information? About the use of available information in expert assessment work].

(10) Åge Simonsen (2003/1996):
Håndbok for klientutvalg og barnevernsofre, kapittel 4: "Barnevernets behandling og vurderinger" [Handbook for client boards and victims of child protection, ch. 4: Treatment and assessments made by the Child Protection Agency].
BarnasRett 2004

(11) "Liv Wiborg Karlsen, leder av Horten Barneverntjeneste" (oversikt over sakskompleks og bl.a brevskriving til Universitetet i Bergen) [Liv Wiborg Karlsen, leader of Horten Child Protection Agency (overview of case complex and e.g letter written to The University of Bergen)].
Likestilling.com 2004


(28) Astrid Holgerson (1995):
"Professionals as Evalutors or Indoctrinators in Sex Abuse Cases"

(29) Marianne Haslev Skånland (1998):
"Do the psycho-babblers learn anything?"

(30) Lennart Sjöberg (2001):
"A case of alleged cutting-up murder in Sweden: legal consequences of public outrage"

(31) Laura Canetti, Eytan Bachar, Omer Bonne, Ofer Agid, Bernard Lerer, Atara Kaplan De-Nour, and Arieh Y. Shalev (2000):
"The Impact of Parental Death Versus Separation From Parents on the Mental Health of Israeli Adolescents"

(32) Zhengkui Liu, Xinying Li, Xiaojia Ge (2009):
"Left Too Early: The Effects of Age at Separation From Parents on Chinese Rural Children's Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression"

"What science says about separating children from their families"