10 October 2017

Marianne Haslev Skånland:

On the Hague Convention re international child abduction:
Custody demands from other sources than parents

My country Norway has established, by Norwegian law, the child protection services (CPS) – in Norway called Barnevernet – as the rightful custodian of children in child protection cases. The Hague Convention on international child abduction may originally have been thought out as a way to settle disagreements between the two parents, but its provisions allow not only for a parent but for "anybody else" who holds the legal rights to a child who has been taken abroad, to demand it back to Norway. And that possibility certainly made our social workers' mouths water when Norway implemented the Hague Convention. Even before this, our CPS have been active to have children brought to Norway by force. They have then had to persuade the other country that they represented the child's best interest. The Hague Convention will make it easier for them to demand cooperation from the other country, even when their arguments about the parents being unfit are less than truthful.

The CPS want escaped children back "home" to institutional care or foster care in Norway, and they have gladly sent out several policemen in company with social workers to prevent the child escaping again.

The typical situation in such cases is that the child has been helped, by its parents, with or without the help of others, to escape to another country, to live there together with its parents. The parents may be of another nationality, in which case they usually settle in their original homeland. Or the parents may be Norwegian, trying hard to make a home somewhere else in order to have their child with them and help it avoid the tragedy of foster care without contact with its family.

One of the arguments of the CPS in favour of the Hague Convention is that now it will be possible for Norwegian CPS to cooperate with another country and have children from Norway transferred to CPS authority
there. It is not true, though, that it has previously not been possible for Norway to cooperate with other countries and its residents and send children there. It has always been possible and Norwegian CPS has used sending or not sending to further what they see as their aim: to keep a child away from its own family. The child protection agencies in other countries are not always the enemies to family that our CPS are, so our CPS have not wanted to send children there because they foresee that the other country will let the child be reunited with its family.

An example stems from 2004-07: A little girl had lived with her father and stepmother most of her life; her mother had had serious problems. When she was about 11 years old, her father died. The CPS now wanted to send her to live with her stepmother, who was returning to Gambia, something the girl emphatically did not want. The girl's families both on her mother's and her father's side were perfectly good and well-functioning but the CPS of course did not want them in her life, the CPS wanted to be in the driver's seat. The CPS were afraid that the girl would escape from the stepmother's, and installed her in a locked institution, where she was also threatened with violence. They gave her the choice between living in an institution in Norway or going to Gambia, a country which Norway at other times denigrates. After a lot of publicity and her lawyer trying to make all sorts of officials see sense, our CPS and other authorities were at last shamed and pressured into permitting her to go and live with her grandparents. The pressure on her had been very hard indeed. (All in the best interest of the child?)
Several articles here:
Barnevernet sender 11-åring til Gambia (The CPS send 11-year-old to Gambia)

In another type of case, Norwegian CPS take the opposite stand, that of not allowing children to leave Norway. I am thinking of several cases concerning (often single) mothers who come to Norway as asylum seekers. If their application is turned down, they are obliged to leave Norway and go back to their country of origin. In the meantime, some of them have had their children confiscated by the CPS, often in a brutal way and and not at all necessarily on the basis of real abuse or neglect. Norway wants to expel the mothers but will not allow them to take their children with them. Norwegian social workers consider the advantages of growing up in Norway self-evident and any bond to the mother unimportant. The humanitarian concerns involved have been taken seriously by Nigeria, which has refused to issue the mothers with travel documents unless the children go with them.
Bjorn Bjoro:
A system that wears people down

Yet another type of case shows how far the Norwegian authorities want to go in order to have power over children and use it to isolate them from their parents. In this example they tried to use the Hague Convention, giving us a rather clear picture of the shape of things to come:

It concerns a Polish girl of 9 years living in Norway with her parents, her father working in a job here. The CPS took her into custody on unclear charges that she was not being treated right, and installed her in a kind of temporary foster facility. The girl desperately wanted to escape back to her parents, they got help, she climbed out of a window and jumped down, and was brought to Poland to her family before Norwegian police could stop them. Mother and daughter stayed on in Poland, while the father then had to commute to and from Norway (work was not so easy for him to find in Poland).

Norwegian CPS failed to get Poland to send her back, so they launched a court case in Poland, and went there with a bunch of people to attend. They
tried to demand the case be tried according to the Hague Convention, claiming that since Norway was her "home" and she had been illegally abducted, she should be returned to Norwegian foster care.

Poland, thank heaven, did not give in to Norway on this; they ran the case as an ordinary child protection case,
and placed great importance on the fact that the girl herself wanted to live with her parents, something which is not taken account of in child protection cases in Norway.

When Norway lost the case in Poland, the boss of the local CPS the girl had escaped from said that they had to consider appealing the verdict, stating:
" – There is simply a difference between what we in Norway think is ok to grow up with and what the Polish child protection agency thinks", and " – We do not believe she would get better conditions for care in Poland". In a nut-shell: External, material "conditions" are what the CPS believe is the most important for children. (Cf
How Norwegian experts came to reject biological kinship as relevant in child welfare policy)
There is information about the Norwegian case in Poland in
Judgment in Poland: a nine-year-old girl NOT to be extradited to Norway.


Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Norway to implement the Hague convention on child abduction – an expected development, and very unfortunate for families targeted by the child protection authorities
25 - 26 April 2015

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Norway to implement the Hague Convention on child abduction
– unfortunate development for families targeted by the child protection authorities
(thread) 24 April 2015 –

Jan Simonsen:
Shame on Norway
21 June 2015

Nandita Rao:
Balance the law with social reality for better welfare
7 October 2017

Nandita Chaudhary:
Protecting Indian childhood
25 September 2017

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
A child protection case Malaysia / Sweden
22 February 2014