13 August 2013

Assistance to families

By Else Sommer


Else Sommer, who unfortunately died last year, lived in Jutland in Denmark. She worked for many years against harmful forcible removals of children from their parents carried out by the Danish Child Protection Service. She also wrote very good articles in several fora about this as well as about other aspects of social politics.

Else's wish was that I should make use of what she wrote wherever it could be useful and I therefore hope that she would have liked this publication in English as well.

This article was published in Danish
on Barnevernet.origo on 29 January 2008, on Forum Redd Våre Barn on 30 January 2008, and on mhskanland.net on 22 July 2013.

This translation was made by me.

Marianne Haslev Skånland


If a Danish family is in need of help and goes to the social services, what kind of assistance can be given?

Economic needs

Nothing. A great number of families must make do with something like 1 - 2,000 crowns at their disposal per month [2,000 Danish crowns equals something like 250 Euros.]

The Minister of welfare says there is "inner poverty" if one cannot buy food, clothes, shoes, transport, dentist etc etc, for 2-3 persons for that sum.

According to the state's own nutrition council it costs something like 1,700 crowns per month to buy nurishing food for a boy of 17.

Very old pensioners in old people's care homes – not usually voracious eaters – pay 3,500 (or a little more or less) for board per month.

Social problems

An "at-home-with-you" assistant may be granted. This is normally a teenager with no training and no clear idea of taking care of himself/herself. Typically one who intends to study to become a social worker later. Ordinarily this "at-home-with-you" assistant is a considerable burden on the family needing help.


The child protection service complains that schools are not energetic enough in reporting "problem children". OK. Here is the story of two boys who did not want to go to school because their reading skills are deficient. Both are 12 years old and the parents in both cases asked for help to solve this problem.

A is taken care of by an energetic school psychologist who wants special teaching/training for the boy. After a year and a half the social administration has finally found out that it is a problem that belongs in the sector of child psychiatry. And the child psychiatry services (with waiting lists for several years) are of the opinion that the boy is too stupid for them to work with.

His IQ is located in the good end of the normal area.
The boy persists in avoiding school, because he is ashamed.

B is obviously not taken care of by anybody. But one day the father nevertheless succeeded in having an advisor - a psychologist paid by the municipality - visit the home. The following conversation (more or less) took place:

Psych: You must send your child to school.
Father: There is nothing I would rather do. That is why I have asked for help.
Psych: It is your responsibility to make him go.
Father: I am aware of that, but I don't know how.
Psych: It is your responsibility as a father.
Father: Yes, but I had hoped that you could give me some advice about how I get him to go to school.

The door banged behind the wise man and he has not been seen in that neighbourhood since. The boy still refuses to go to school.

All the municipality can offer is to remove the boys forcibly from their homes. But that would be reckless, because children taken into care rarely get any sensible schooling at all. These two boys' reading proficiency is somewhat uncertain. At twelve years, the children in care whom I know have got as far as to master the alphabet somewhat uncertainly.

Happily, everything that happens is "in the best interest of the child".


Also by Else Sommer:

On foster children
MHS's home page, 23 July 2013


See also

Siv Westerberg:
Child Prisons? In Sweden?
MHS's home page, 1995 – 28 December 2018