4 July 2018

The Council of Europe with a critical report on European child protection systems

By Marianne Haslev Skånland

On 28 June 2018, the Council of Europe debated and passed a resolution based on a report about child protection systems (cps) and the way they are run, a report which is very critical and which formulates important points regarding what is wrong with current child protection.

Resolution 2232 (2018) Provisional version: 
Striking a balance between the best interest of the child and the need to keep families together

Informative articles have appeared in English and Norwegian (cf the reference list below the article).

The Rapporteur for the case is the member of the Council of Europe Valeriu Ghiletchi from Moldova. (A rapporteur goes into a case on behalf of the Council, when the Council has decided the case is to be taken up. The Rapporteur then submits a report, leading to a resolution.)

This engagement in questions of child protection in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – particularly the taking of children into care – was initiated on account of the Bodnariu case, which became well known in 2016, when it caused large demonstrations in several countries in Europe and also in other parts of the world. The case concerned a Norwegian-Rumanian couple whose 5 children had been confiscated in Naustdal in the county of Sogn og Fjordane in Norway. The case soon led to other cases gaining publicity. In the debate in the Council of Europe, and in Valeriu Ghiletchis's Explanatory memorandum, which is included as part of the Report, aspects of Norwegian handling of cps cases and their handling in Norwegian cps are shown in clear light.

Ghiletchi has been to Norway, obtaining facts and statements from various sources. He has, however, not concentrated the report only on Norway, but on the way child protection agencies in the Western world proceed quite generally.

Nothing could have been better. In this way, the report can be a wake-up call in several countries. This is a much-welcomed perspective, one which has largely been missing in debates and articles about Norwegian cps. The most important of all in order to put a stop to abuse from Norwegian cps I believe to be to realise that the problems are entrenched in the Western world, from which there are strong attempts to spread it to even more countries, in which case it will result in the same problems turning up there too. Norway is the country where there is the most publicity about cps matters at present, but I cannot imagine that a thorough revision of the system will be possible unless it is borne in mind that the basis, the way of thinking about children and parents, is the same in other countries in the West. The authorities in these countries will sense that a showdown with Norwegian cps will also affect them. That is why the situation in Norwegian cps is of concern to the citizens in other countries whose authorities are doing the same as Norway, albeit on varying scale and intensity. If mismanaged "protection" of children carried out by Norwegian authorities is to be brought to an end with the help of others, we must assist these others to gain an understanding that the ideas about social work and psychology governing the cps are international and must be countered on a general level.

The report of the Council of Europe is therefore very encouraging. The approved resolution ties a line back to the earlier report of the Council from 22 April 2015, having Olga Borzova as Rapporteur:

Putting the child’s best interest first in any placement decision

Social services in Europe: legislation and practice of the removal of children from their families in Council of Europe member States 
Report – Provisional Version
Draft resolution and draft redommeneation adopted unanimously by the Committee on 26 January 2015.

The report from 2015 is also referred to frequently in Ghiletchi's
Explanatory memorandum. In this memorandum and in the debate, Ghiletchi uses Norway as an example: "3. The situation in Norway: a case study", and the speeches of Norwegian Council members in the debate, too, reveal that it is evident to them that criticism of Norwegian cps is the central example when the Council of Europe again takes up what is essentially the same problem as in 2015. We can for example note among recommendations in the 2015 report:
"90. My fourth recommendation is to studiously avoid abusive practices, which should constitute a warning sign that something in the system is badly wrong, such as frequent recourse to: severing family ties completely, removing children from parental care at birth, basing placement decisions on the effluxion of time, and adoptions without parental consent."

Video of the debate in 2018 (speeches are in English and with English simultaneous translation)
Council of Europe, 28 June 2018

Towards the end of the debate on 28 June of this year (1:08:00), Mr Ghiletchi emphasises the important general aspect: ".... One (answer) is again concerning Norway: I mentioned this in my presentation that Norway in the report is mentioned because the case that kind of like prompted this report was taking place in Norway. But in the resolution, as you see, there is no name of any country, including Norway. I also, Ms Schou, I agree with you and I never pretended that in the Republic of Moldova we have an ideal system. So I totally agree with you that you know we all need to improve our children welfare system."

The chairman of the Council's Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, Stefan Schennach, also spoke in the debate (1:12:40), and informed the Council of how various amendments had been voted on in the Committee. The report was then voted on, with various suggested amendments to the final resolution.

The vote in the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly gave the following results:

For the resolution:          43 
Against the resolution:      2 
Abstaining:                    14 

Of the Norwegian representatives in the Council of Europe who spoke in the debate, Morten Wold stood out in a respectable way (41:10). His speech was good and informative, of help to cps victims, and courageous coming from a Norwegian politician.

Norway's official line was made clear through the speeches of other Norwegian delegates (for analyses of them cf items (7) - (15) below). Norway will obstinately continue its present treatment of families. They will never give in voluntarily. The disparagement of families that have been split up is to continue; no case is to be reconsidered or re-tried. The monopolising of the concept "the best interest of the child" is to continue, without the concept being given any concrete content, and with the enduring misrepresentation that the cps "naturally" are the ones who can assess what is best for any child, the ones who guard it, the ones who implement it.

Apparently the Norwegian representatives in the Council of Europe have also had our parliament Stortinget come up with a statement, in which the case is presented as a strong victory for Norway's child protection. Whether the criticism against the cps is true or not is irrelevant. They appear in Strasbourg, twisting reality so that it suits the official Norwegian child protection policy, and then give a triumphant account of it all suitable for domestic propaganda. Here we see Stortinget's clear contempt for victims of the cps – it seems as if some of the Norwegian delegates in the Council of Europe may have had a somewhat strange impression of the debate:

English translation (for the Norwegian original see (16) below):
From the Norwegian Parliament: «Solid Norwegian Efforts turned the Balance in Resolution on Child Protection»

The leader of the Norwegian delegation, Ingjerd Schou, and company do exactly what Norway was doing in 1996, they copy the tactic when Norway had lost the case which Adele Johansen brought against them in the European Court of Human Rights: They claim that Norway has through new legislation improved the little that was needed, they trivialise the criticism, they repeat that everything in Norwegian child protection is so good. I remember the meetings for which they gathered social workers and other "help establishments" after 1996, to "explain" that the case
Johansen v. Norway was really almost a mistake, one that one could keep quiet about, and that everything was excellent after the introduction of things like the County Boards into the system. I also remember statements in the papers, e.g from Chief Justice Carsten Smith, who said that the Norwegian justice system had not really been found to be in violation of human rights. Cf case (a) here: The Child Protection Service (CPS) – unfortunately the cause of grievous harm.

So, listening to Ingjerd Schou, and reading Solid Norwegian Efforts, is it not time to realise that talking to the present-day Norwegian politicians and authorities, and all the bright hopes which cps victims have, are a waste? Their hopes of cps people, municipal lawyers, municipal bureaucrats and municipal politicians being upright and reasonable people who will understand the families and take action if the families can just get it across to them how much they love each other and how much the cps misunderstand and deviate from the truth. Their hopes that high-up people on government level will intervene and put things right if they write to them about the atrocities committed against their children and themselves. Listen to Schou, and face it that the authorities are almost waging a civil war against families.

The only difference I would have liked to see in the report, is the title:
Striking a balance between the best interest of the child and the need to keep families together
It is usually very much in children's best interest to be with their parents. That is why in Article 8 in the European Convention on Human Rights, the creation of the European Council, the right to family life is presented as a mutual right for parents and children. There are of course exceptions, such as instances where parents abuse their children. But there is no reason for alert people to believe in the "politically correct" picture of that or other serious misconduct being at the bottom of the majority of cps cases in the countries in the West which most intensively confiscate children, place them in foster homes or institutions, or adopt them away forcibly. The cps have, through their training, acquired basic enmity towards parents, even if they may say otherwise. (This grudge, too, against parents is to do with the ideology, cf How Norwegian experts came to reject biological kinship as relevant in child welfare policy.) In most cases by far, there is no conflict between the parents and the best interest of the child, and keeping the family together holds a very important place in securing that which is in reality the child's best interest. This is abundantly clear in what Valeriu Ghiletchi says, in his Explanatory memorandum and in the Council of Europe debate.


PACE spells out strict conditions for removing a child from the family as a 'last resort'
Council of Europe, 28 June 2018

Voting results
Council of Europe, 28 June 2018

Adopted Resolution
Council of Europe, 28 June 2018

Speakers list
Council of Europe, 28 June 2018

Video of the debate
Council of Europe, 28 June 2018

Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development:
Striking a balance between the best interest of the child and the need to keep families together
Provisional version
also containing Valeriu Ghiletchi's Explanatory memorandum
Council of Europe, 27 April 2018


Jan Simonsen: 
I morgen kan Norge få så hatten passer (Tomorrow, Norway may get a proper scolding)
Resett.no, 27 June 2018

Jan Simonsen: 
Knallhard kritikk mot Norge i Europarådet, norske delegater forsøkte å stanse kritikken
(Strong criticism against Norway in the Council of Europe, Norwegian delegates try to stop the criticism)
Resett.no, 30 June 2018 
Simonsen quotes Jan-Aage Torp about an important point: 
"The resolution ..... provides a foundation for the European Court of Human Rights' assessments in cases of complaints against takings-into-care of children. That will increase the possibility of Norway in the future losing cases in the Court."

– Resultatet av møtet med barnevernet avhenger av hvilket kontor du møter
Europarådets resolusjon viser sterk kritikk mot norsk barnevern, mener Morten Wold (Frp)
(– The result of contact with the cps depends on which cps office you come up against
The Council of Europe resolution shows strong criticism of Norwegian cps, Morten Wold (Progress Party) holds)
TV2, 30 June 2018 
Also on TV2's facebook page

Finn-Ove Hågensen, TV2 News: 
TV2 om Strasbourg-resolusjonen: – Resultatet av møtet med barnevernet avhenger av hvilket kontor du møter
(TV2 about the Strasbourg resolution: – The result of contact with the cps depends on which office you come up against)
Christian Coalition World, 30 June 2018

PACE News:
Strasbourg yesterday: PACE spells out strict conditions for removing a child from the family as a «last resort»
Christian Coalition World, 28 June 2018

Jan-Aage Torp:
Norway’s Brainwashing about Barnevernet by Mockery and Arrogance: «You have very little or very one-sided information»
Christian Coalition World, 28 June 2018

Jan-Aage Torp:
Norwegian Parliamentarians mislead the Norwegian People regarding PACE's Report on Barnevernet - Conveys Propaganda Version from Strasbourg
Christian Coalition World, 30 June 2018

From the Norwegian Parliament: «Solid Norwegian Efforts turned the Balance in Resolution on Child Protection»
Christian Coalition World, 30 June 2018

TV2 - the Second Channel in Norway - brings truthful Report from PACE's Resolution on Barnevernet
Christian Coalition World, 30 June 2018

Solid norsk innsats snudde balansen i resolusjon om barnevern
Stortinget, 29 June 2018