11 November 2020

familien-er-samlet (the-family-is-together):

Flight, exile and taking chances

The years go by and the children gradually grow up. When we fled Norway in 2013, a friend said to me that "You must stay there until the children are 18." I think that was a rather quick and precise analysis, even if I hoped and believed then that it might be possible to return earlier.

Still, some say to us: "Aren't you going home to Norway?" Another, who knows that we had problems with Barnevernet (the Norwegian CPS – the 'child protective services'), says: "Maybe you have to take a chance."

I see. Take a chance, then. Our youngest daughter is only nine. Is she the one we are going to gamble with? Or our thirteen-year-old son? The others, 15 and 16, are of course close to being of an age making it more difficult for Barnevernet to make trouble. But I have no illusions.

We now live in a country with ongoing political trouble. We do not feel it much, mind you, living here in the capital. But on top of the Corona measures which have gone on for six months, we find we have quite a lot to tackle. The embassy was also active, recommending us to return to Norway when the Corona upset started in March. They were going to get air tickets for us too, apparently.

Ah, thank you!


Still. Go to Norway as a family?

Having seen how Barnevernet functions, having tried to rise in opposition against the system, we have learnt from our experience. We have gained an insight which many Norwegians do not share. We understand something which others do not understand. We – who tried to stay upright and proud and maintain our opinion, who thought that we had rights – we have learnt to bend our necks humbly. We have learnt to fear a system which breaks even the strongest.

That is why we are not shocked, observing no noticeable changes in the workings of Barnevernet home in Norway. Of course we have tried to speak with the Head Municipal Administrator (the closest administrative head of Barnevernet), with the County Governor (the state's administrative head of the county), with the Medical Superintendent of the County, with the municipality's lawyer, with the Parliamentary Ombudsman for Public Administration, with the Mayor and with the Chief of the local Barnevernet's office. They all stand firm as a rock against a family fighting for its life. They make a wall of mutual loyalty, one which the ordinary citizen cannot make the slightest dent into. My experience is that none of them – not a single one – sets truth above solidarity. And the strength of the system is incredible; it will take several generations to smoke out the smell ingrained in the very walls.

"Barnevernet is being criticised a lot now", is what some say, believing that it will be safe to return to Norway.

No. I see no changes. It is almost ten years since our child protection case started. What change since then? Oh yes, hope. There is a lot of that. More than ever. Strasbourg. Investigative reports which partly criticise Barnevernet.


Of actual change there is very little:

We still have a system of experts that resembles corruption. Barnevernet still obtains the reports they want. We still let a crazy "child expertise" resting on a flimsy scientific basis win over love between children and parents. Politicians still believe social workers and psychologists capable of telling our fortunes in tea leaves and of interpreting interaction and eye-contact, and use this as a basis for the most brutal decisions possible.

Our medical services still let Barnevernet invade medical institutions and take away new-born babies from their mothers' breast. Politicians still let families live for months under duress and desperately frightened at "family centres" or "mothers' homes" – whose turn is it to have the child taken away today?

There is still a machinery of entities assisting Barnevernet: health nurses, schools, the Child and Youth Psychiatric Units, and so on.

The police are still mobilised by Barnevernet to fetch children away from home, as they let themselves be used by the authorities to fetch Jews for deportation during the war.

We still have scholars researching child protection who do not really want to go anywhere near the central content of what Barnevernet is, but who write reports just suitably critical to obtain more money for Barnevernet and indirectly or directly for themselves.

We still have politicians who, almost to a man or woman, think more about re-election for themselves and about their own careers than they think about standing up for the children. We still have municipal lawyers who are experts at running families down, and who will start procedures at the slightest hint from Barnevernet. We still have county boards which are not courts of law, which recruit their executive officers from the public party, and which find in Barnevernet's favour in nine out of ten cases.

We still have appeal bodies which are useless for the private party, and which produce bureaucratic verbiage instead of help.

And we still have school and kindergarten employees who both inform on families and witness in their favour in the county board and court processes and at the same time take on paid assignments as foster parents in cases which they themselves are involved in.


To go to Norway before the children are grown up? Send them right into the arms of a health nurse at school who wants to "know how their situation is at home", or a teacher or an eager "Out-of-School-Activities" employee? To risk activating the apparatus that we only just, and with God's blessing, escaped from more than seven years ago?

No thank you.

We are grateful for a third-world country, at times in political unrest, a place where poverty and need are visible right outside the door.

Because regardless of what this country is for others, for us it is – paradoxically – freedom itself. It is peace. It is justice. This country has – without people here knowing it – rescued a family. They are our lifesavers. They are our liberators. They are our generous benefactors.

This country is – with its suffering, poverty and conflicts – the garden of Eden for us. If I die here, I am to be buried right down in its holy earth, and not to be sent home to self-elevated Norway in a coffin. Here is where we were allowed to come, without questions, without somebody tormenting us. This is where we were restored as parents. This is where we were allowed to be mother and father to our children, without interference, duress, stigmatisation, regulations, threats, harassment, supervision or the authorities ridiculing us.

Nobody has criticised us as parents here. Nobody has said the agonising words: "We think that neither you nor your wife is capable of giving care, so we want the children to be placed in foster homes." Nobody has told the children that they "are to receive new parents", and nobody has tried to manipulate the children into coming up with nasty accusations against mom and dad.

Take a chance?

We are taking the chance of living here until the children are grown up.

Because taking the family and moving to Norway is not to take a chance. To move the family to within the orbit of action of Barnevernet is pure hazard. That is a game we are through with.


See also

familien-er-samlet (the-family-is-together):
5 years as refugees
MHS's home page, 30 August 2018

 – :  
3 years away from Norway
MHS's home page, 29 June 2016

 – :  
County boards with quality at an all-time low
MHS's home page, 25 November 2017

Olav Terje Bergo:
The stubborn blindness of the defenders of Barnevernet
MHS's home page, 2 March 2019

Jan Simonsen:
A little more humility, please!
MHS's home page, 20 March 2016

Marius Reikerås:
A brief report in the wake of the two ECtHR judgments against Norway on 10 March 2020
MHS's home page, 24 March 2020

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
What is the job of a politician?
MHS's home page, 27 August 2019

 – :  
Prison and foster home – this is what the system is like
MHS's home page, 19 January 2017

 – :  
Starting to babble about social workers' love
MHS's home page, 28 April 2015