18 August 2014
Should we feel sorry for the CPS employees?
by Øistein Schjønsby, lawyer – with far too many CPS cases behind him over the years
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The Norwegian version of this article was first published in the newspaper Oppland Arbeiderblad on the 13 May 2014, as Stakkars de ansatte (more literally translated: "Poor employees!" or "Sorry for the employees!").

It is published here in English by the kind consent of the author.
Translation: Marianne Haslev Skånland

Øistein Schjønsby has a law practice in the county of Oppland north of Oslo.
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Oppland Arbeiderblad (OA) recently brought us a news report about a municipal meeting in Gjøvik at which concerted support was expressed for employees in the Child Protective Services (CPS). The reason for this encouragement was said to be the numerous critical articles and comments in the media against them, not least in OA. It appeared that CPS workers had remarks flung at them and were exposed to abusive language from the public. So the meeting expressed sympathy for the employees who had to carry out their work in such adversity. Present at the meeting were politicians as well as CPS personnel, so apparently most angles and aspects were covered – except the point.

For the issue is actually the parents and children who are being targeted by the Child Protective Services, a contact which is experienced by a large majority as threatening. For this reason the law imposes deadlines on the CPS, so that parents and children they take an interest in can look forward to a finish to this threatening situation. When the CPS receives notification of 'worry' about a child from the school or kindergarten – or for that matter from anonymous sources – the CPS starts a so-called 'investigation case'. They investigate the parents' ability to give care. This procedure is often carried out with no appropriate consideration for the parents or children concerned. Rather, the Child Protective Services emerge as totally unfeeling and without listening to children or parents at all, and with extreme confidence in their own measures and beliefs. Our society has moved into an age of unfounded opinions.

The above-mentioned point is therefore clear: While the CPS and the politicians pity the CPS employees and consider dishing out even more money to the child protection going on, we forget those who really have a tough time, viz the parents and children living under a long-winded investigation case heading for a conclusion in which parents lose their children and children their parents, being allowed only to meet briefly four times a year (a kind of standard).

The conclusion must be that there is no reason at all to feel sorry for the CPS personnel. There is, on the contrary, reason to commiserate with the families who suffer under the investigation cases carried out by the CPS, investigations which even exceed the three months allowed by the law. The CPS prolong their investigations beyond the limit, so that parents and children keep getting frightening calls and summonses to be questioned by the CPS.

Parents and children are the ones who should have our sympathy. Unfortunately, when the CPS exceed their authority nobody cares or interferes. The CPS can therefore continue to disobey the law.

The criticism of the Child Protective Services voiced by so many is accordingly justified. To announce to the public, as the above-mentioned meeting did, that sympathy should go to the CPS employees, is to turn the question upside down. I might say: They receive according to their deserts, as a consequence of what they do.