23 February 2016

Child protection in Norway and Naustdal

By Per Storegjerde, Naustdal

The article appeared in Norwegian in February 2016, in the newspaper
Firda, which is based in Sogn og Fjordane county where
the municipality of Naustdal is located. It has also been published in Norwegian
here and here.

This English version is published here with the author's generous
Translation: Marianne Haslev Skånland

My background knowledge is only through what has appeared in the media and on the internet of late. On this basis, it seems certain that what the children have been exposed to by their parents is nothing except what was very usual child raising here in our country up to a few years ago, and still is abroad. Many who live in Norway today have had a similar upbringing. The statements from the police confirm it. If anything of a more nasty nature has been inflicted on the children, it should be made public immediately, so that people are not left to imagine all sorts of things that I hear mentioned. The family should not be saddled with such an extra burden.

Personally I feel strongly for the whole family and I believe they are being treated very unjustly. It is a strange thing that that is what the rest of the world seems to believe also, just not in Norway and especially locally. I think most Norwegians are over-confident that Barnevernet does everything in the best interest of children. Everybody – government ministers, diplomats, county governors – rise to tell in complimentary words about the theoretically fantastic child protection set-up we have, without entering into the real world. I hope from my heart that this is what causes their behaviour. But I do not believe it. In this case I believe and I feel that it is not.

By good fortune the larger newspapers have lately covered several child protection cases around the country, giving us shattering stories. On social media there are also links, to loads of terrible accounts by people in Norway who have experienced Barnevernet on its worst behaviour. Naustdal is hardly alone. It seems to me that proper investigation and renovation are needed, of laws, rules and procedures. It is not enough that an arrangement looks fine on paper. One must see to it that it functions in each individual case. I think there may be great variations between different county committees and not least between those working there. All the secrecy in Norway appears to serve the county committees more than the affected families.

Everybody can go to social media and see authentic recordings from actions with a family, the police and Barnevernet in action. I guarantee it is not a pleasant experience. Regarding Naustdal, I understand it to have happened without warning. But from what I have heard, taking children away from their parents is supposed to be a last resort after everything else has been tried? Here, obviously, they have started at the wrong end. And where is it to end? Are all these children to live until they are adults in foster homes because the parents have allegedly taken the "whipping rod" down from the wall and one of the kids talked about it? Are there other underlying reasons? Many thoughts crop up. In small communities there are really many possible reasons. Sectarianism and foreigners have been mentioned and might be contributing motives locally.

In addition, the parents have been charged and risk a criminal court case, a paragraph running to 6 years of prison being used. Does it take a month-long court case to get the children home? All this is to happen to a young woman who grew up on a farm in a community in Naustdal municipality, a woman who went to Romania to help street children there, met her husband there, came home and by and by had five children. Together with her husband she has lived for 10 years in their own house on the farm of her parents, where they all lived happily in a large family. People ought to read carefully the desperate cry from the heart of the grandparents in an article in Firda on 10 February 2016. I have to ask, what has Norway become? Can such a thing happen only in Naustdal? Are people right abroad? Are these conditions such as we want to live with in Norway?