7 May 2015

Is the child protection service silent?

by Marianne Haslev Skånland

The translations from Norwegian of title of the article discussed and quotations from it are mine.
A Norwegian version of this article was published on 5 May 2015.

The two writers of an article in the Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen, Audgunn Oltedal and Helga Johannesdottir, wonder why the child protection service (CPS) does not go out in the media when their obligation of confidentiality does not bar them from doing so. As a contrast, they point to the far greater willingness of the police to give information to the media:

Et "ansiktsløst" barnevern (A child protection service without a face)
Dagsavisen, 4 May 2015

First of all: The CPS does not keep silent at all, in my opinion. On the contrary, they receive all manner of goodwill, space and time in the press and other media to voice their own excellence. But it is true enough that they, by and large, speak in general terms, not about the concrete details of their actions and assertions in particular child protection cases. Oltedal and Johannesdottir's article mixes together, in an unclear way, concrete cases (like statements about the Lithuania cases, cf here and here) with that which they want, viz that the CPS should be even stronger in their general propaganda: "Hvorfor svarer ikke ledelsen i barnevernet på spørsmål om hva barnevernet gjør, er og vil?" (Why do the directors in the child protection service not answer questions about what the child protection service does, is and wants to achieve?)

Oh? But the child protection service certainly does talk about this! The whole time! Now the Norwegian ambassador in Lithuania has even hired a public relations firm to "present Norway's case".

However, in general statements from the CPS and other Norwegian authorities the comprehensive evidence for the negative aspects of the actions of the CPS is left out. Statistics exist showing the results for children being "taken care of" by the CPS, as well as the prevailing conditions during the time they have been in CPS "care" or been subject to other CPS "help measures" (e.g statistics of how many of them escape and are brought back by the use of force and police assistance). Such information certainly should take a central place, in particular if one is so allergic to "single cases" that one will not take in the lesson from the many single cases which are convergent and which add up to most of the general picture. All of this, and the implications of it in particular, is kept quiet. What is presented is undocumented assertions like "in the large majority of cases", "all other measures have been attempted before the CPS takes children into care", "in some cases the parents prove unable to ...".

What is needed in order to place all the propaganda in favour of Norwegian child protection in its appropriate context and inform people generally, is not more hot-air about what the CPS does, is and wants to achieve. Clear and sustained exposition of realities is indicated. This may be achieved by demonstrating carefully and in detail how very many single cases start, develop and end. Here the CPS remains silent.

So why does the CPS not talk concretely about single cases?
There are two reasons:

By referring to their obligation of confidentiality or to the best interest of children and/or parents, the CPS manages to put across the idea that the family in the concrete case is extremely unfit to take care of their child, that they
may have offended in very serious ways, and that the CPS workers are the responsible and sensible people who protect the child against exposure of its terrible family.
   Media people are just like most Norwegians: they trust that official employees are honest, responsible, knowledgeable and well-qualified – so the media accept these innuendoes of the CPS
of course being trustworthy in their judgments.
   Most Norwegians trust media reporters to,
of course, having deep insight into the case "even if they cannot write everything", for journalists must be honest, responsible, knowledgeable and well-qualified, and they trust that of course, so are the public employees of the CPS also – so the readers believe that of course there must be something very serious behind it all when the CPS says it is unable to comment.

If the child protection workers' actions, arguments, claims and details of very many concrete cases were to be shown openly so that they could not be disputed, then Norwegians – even superficial journalists – would face another reality than the preconceptions current in the politically correct ideology in our society today.
   That would not suit the CPS very well. So they shut up, to protect themselves, their employer/job (the municipality), and all the other buddies involved in the child protection industry.


The police may from time to time cover up matters not to their advantage. When such matters are exposed, they cause justified alert and demands for reform. But the police hardly have a comparable need to that of the child protection service of hiding from view that practically all their activities are different from what they are claimed to be. Hence, perhaps, the difference in willingness to give information to the press.

My budding understanding of the reality that is so different from the surface image of the CPS lies twenty years back. It was aided by my functioning as an expert witness in some child protection cases before the courts and a county committee. But this reality is not really difficult to find, unless one lets prejudice and political phrases stop one.

Oltedal probably has little insight into what goes on with children and parents attacked by the CPS? Otherwise, why does she wonder? About Johannesdottir we read that she is a lecturer at HiOA (the district university of Oslo and Akershus county), which educates child protection workers, so she probably knows something. It does not seem, though, that she would want the CPS to go public about anything but the idealised picture – rose-coloured with an image of CPS workers as martyrs for children – which is the officially approved version in Norway already.

The two want more of the same. That fits badly with the needs of children and families.