29 February 2016

Professional support for the Bodnariu family and other victims of Barnevernet

By Marianne Haslev Skånland

In 2015 there was a significant movement among many professionals to have Norwegian authorities revise Barnevernet. Many lawyers, psychologists and others signed a paper they called "Report of worry about Barnevernet". It quickly reached 150-200 signatures. They have had meetings with the authorities and gained some publicity.

The people in power – such as our politicians and the people of the Ministry – do not understand, or do not want to understand, that something is wrong with the whole set-up of Barnevernet. They make changes, e.g in legislation, but in the wrong direction, and otherwise only talk as if a few cosmetic changes will put everything right.


Among "the 150" are some quite strong voices. Especially one of the leaders, Gro Hillestad Thune, has a lot of clout. She is a jurist, and has held a position of judge in the European Commission of Human Rights: Gro Hillestad Thune. (The Commission used to be the first instance of the European Court of Human Rights.)

She has for many years criticised Norwegian Barnevern. The authorities, of course, tend to avoid her but she does not give up.
Had to sit in the audience

Recently, Gro Hillestad Thune has come out with some very serious and clear statements in connection both with the Bodnariu case and with the unrest there is generally about Barnevernet. These statements should be known abroad.

The newspaper Firda, which is based in the county of Sogn og Fjordane, on 17 February 2016 carried an interview article
Refsar barnevernet (Castigates Barnevernet). (Unfortunately, the article is not open on the internet except to subscribers.)

It contains e.g this dialogue:

"– Er du samd i kritikken frå utlandet, om at det norske systemet strir med menneskerettane?"
   – Eg trur det er ei lykke at vi har fått demonstrasjonane. Rettstryggleiken er mykje dårlegare for barn og foreldre i kontakt med barnevernet, enn for dei som skal straffast og settast i fengsel, seier Thune, som vil ha meir foreldrehjelp og mindre foreldrekontroll."
(– Do you agree with the criticism from abroad, about the Norwegian system being contrary to human rights?
   – I think it is a blessing that the demonstrations have come. The security of a rule of law is much poorer for children and parents in contact with Barnevernet than it is for those who are to be punished and put in prison, says Thune, who wants more help for parents and less control over them.)


In another recent article,
Etterlyser systemgranskning (Calls for investigation of the system), in Stavanger Aftenblad of 26 February 2016, we find:

"Tilsynsmyndighetene fungerer ikke. Norge trenger en kommisjon som ser kritisk på barnevernet som system. Det mener menneskerettighetsekspert Gro Hillestad Thune."
(The authorities carrying out supervision do not function. Norway needs a commission to examine critically Barnevernet as a system. This is the opinion of human rights expert Gro Hillestad Thune.)

Den tidligere dommeren ved menneskerettighetsdomstolen i Strasbourg har de senere årene engasjert seg for rettssikkerheten til barn og ungdom under barnevernets omsorg. I fjor var hun én av flere fagpersoner som skapte debatt gjennom oppropet «Bekymringsmelding om barnevernet». Hillestad Thune har lest reportasjen Glassjenta om Ida (17) og hennes to dramatiske år under barnevernets omsorg. Hun mener Idas sak avslører systemsvikt på mange plan og at den bør brukes til læring nasjonalt."
(The former judge at the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has over several years lately been engaged in how to secure the rule of law for children and youths under the care of Barnevernet. Last year she was one of several experts who created debate over the appeal called "Report of worry about Barnevernet". Hillestad Thune has read the article series "The Glass Girl" about Ida (17) and her two dramatic years under Barnevernet's care. She thinks Ida's case reveals system failure on many levels and that it should be used to learn from on a national level.)

"Men hun tviler sterkt på om den varslede granskingen av saken vil føre til en slik læring.Tirsdag ble det klart at fylkesmennene i Hordaland, Rogaland og Troms skal føre tilsyn med barnevernstjenesten i Karmøy, Bufetat Vest, den private barnevernsaktøren Aleris, helsetjenestene og muligens andre aktører som har håndtert Ida.
    - Jeg skal ikke foregripe utfallet av en gransking. Men prinsipielt blir dette som å la bukken passe havresekken. Fylkesmennene er klageinstans for barnevernsbarn og har ansvar for å føre tilsyn med institusjonene. De skal passe på at barna ikke blir utsatt for uforsvarlig makt og tvang. Fylkesmennene kan dermed ikke betegnes som uavhengige."
(But she strongly doubts whether the announced investigation of the case will lead to such learning. On Tuesday it was clear that the County Governors of Hordaland, Rogaland and Troms counties are to supervise the Barnevern service of Karmøy, The Office for Children, Youth and Family Affairs region West, the private Barnevern agent Aleris, the health services and possibly other agents who have handled Ida.
   – I will not anticipate the result of an investigation. But on principle this is like setting the fox to mind the geese. The County Governors are the appeal instance for children under Barnevernet and are responsible for carrying out inspection of the institutions. They are to make sure that the children are not exposed to indefensible use of force and coercion. So the County Governors cannot be said to be independent.)

Bravo! Here is a prominent jurist saying what victims of Barnevernet know to be the truth about the state's top representatives in the counties, the County Governors. Cf p 8 here:
Critical comments to Norway's fourth periodic report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child – 2008

"Så spørsmålet er: Hvordan kan vi få en gransking som jenta fortjener og som det offentlige har tillit til? Hvordan få den granskingen samfunnet trenger for å lære? spør Hillestad Thune."
(So the question is: How can we achieve an investigation of the quality the girl deserves and which the public can have confidence in? How can we achieve the investigation needed by society in order to learn? asks Hillestad Thune.)


Another front figure in "the 150 group" is psychologist Einar C. Salvesen. He has been in contact with the Bodnarius and has read their case papers. His general stance is less critical of Barnevernet. But the article in Firda says:

– Ein tragedie og eit overgrep mot borna. Slik skildrar psykologspesialist Einar C. Salvesen måten barnevernet tok fem born ut av heimen sin i Naustdal.
(A tragedy and an abusive action towards the children. This is the way psychological specialist Einar C. Salvesen characterises the way Barnevernet took five children out of their home in Naustdal.)

"Han er ikkje i tvil om at det var ei grov feilvurdering då barnevernet aksjonerte og tok borna ut av heimen sin."
(He is not in any doubt that it was a grave misjudgment when Barnevernet took action and took the children away from their home.)

"– Det er ein tragedie for borna. Denne saka er så sår og hjarteskjerande at det nesten ikkje er til å halde ut. Eg er ikkje i tvil om at barnevernet har gjort feil i denne saka, seier Salvesen."
(It is a tragedy for the children. This case is so painful and heart-rending that it is almost impossible to bear it. I am in no doubt that Barnevernet has made mistakes in this case, says Salvesen.)

Psykologspesialist slaktar barnevernet  (Psychological specialist slaughters Barnevernet)
nrk Sogn og Fjordane
, 18 February 2016


I have come to think that Barnevern-circles may have become somewhat nervous these days about such statements appearing in the mainstream media, especially in conjunction with the demonstrations and information abroad not ceasing. They are not used to it.

While it is true that the people employed in the system appear brainwashed and unable to see reality, and while they pepper our nation with propaganda for the Barnevern system the whole time, the situation in Norway is, in other words, not that there are no voices of sense and humanity. But we sorely need politicians and lawyers in general to throw away their dependence on each other and start looking into what the sensible voices say. The first thing that is needed is to go into individual cases, of course, to face them, face the concrete examples of what their power has orchestrated.

– –

The five children of a Romanian family taken in Norway
Forum thread,  21 November 2015 –

Demonstrations abroad against Norwegian child protection (CPS) – Barnevernet
Forum thread,  8 January 2016

The five children of a Romnian-Norwegian family taken by
Barnevernet (the child protection services, CPS) in Norway

November / December 2015