21 October 2018

Marianne Haslev Skånland:

Statistics and generalisations about
the CPS Barnevernet

Some particularly skewed claims and suggestions turn up quite often in what our authorities say about Barnevernet. I will consider a few of them.


Our present Minister of Children and Equality, Linda Hofstad Helleland, answers nearly every critical question about Barnevernet by saying that the agency protects children against violence and abuse. Saying it in the way she does, it must be interpreted to mean that this is their major task, and the major reason when Barnevernet intervenes in families either with so-called assistance or they remove the child from its home.

Barnevernet's own statistics, set out by
Bufdir or through Statistics Norway (SSB), give a somewhat different picture.

Bufdir has a section with the title
"Årsaker til at nye barn og unge mottar tiltak fra barnevernet" (Reasons why new children and young receive help measures from Barnevernet). It contains a diagram showing the reason of "the child being subject to physical abuse" to be at about 2.5%, and "the child being subject to sexual abuse" to be the reason in less than 1% of the cases.

The classification shown does not seem to differentiate between reasons given by Barnevernet for providing the child with assistance in its home, and reasons for helping a child by removing it from its home. Of course we can assume that violence and sexual abuse are claimed in a larger number of cases of the second sort, but I have not been sufficiently competent to find any relevant registration of such differentiation in the statistics of Bufdir or SSB. But regardless, the proportion of
"Parents' lack of parental capabilities" (the largest factor) is rather high. From people's experience we know such 'capability' to comprise e.g nonsense from 'attachment theory', so that no 'attachment' between mother and child is supposed to take place if a mother 'does not keep enough eye contact' with her child (a meaningless demand for the human species), and other psycho-babble ideas about care failure and negative prognosis. 'Lack of parental capability' turns up in many articles and discussions, and is mentioned by Bufdir itself:
"Foreldrenes manglende foreldreferdigheter og høy grad av konflikt i hjemmet er de to hyppigste årsakene til at barn og unge kommer inn i barnevernet." (Parents' lack of parental capabilities and a high degree of conflict in the home are the two most frequent reasons why children and young are brought into Barnevernet.) – It is not made clear what they mean by 'being brought into' Barnevernet; whether it means being taken into care or it also includes other kinds of 'help measures' which children 'in Barnevernet' are given.

Minister Helleland does not talk much about these and other
not violence-related reasons for Barnevernet to intervene in a family. And the overwhelming violence she points to as central in Barnevernet's protection of children, hardly exists in their own statistics. Barnevernet's activities to a large degree go in other directions.

Comparable, even lower numbers to those of the Bufdir diagram emerge from Bente Heggem Kojan's
"Norwegian Child Welfare Services: A Successful Program for Protecting and Supporting Vulnerable Children and Parents?"
Page 448 lists, in the table "Main Reason for Intervention in New Cases during 2008" (from Statistics Norway):
physical abuse  1.8%
sexual abuse/incest  0.6%

I must ask to be forgiven: I do not understand so much of Minister Helleland's focus on parental violence as the central issue which Barnevernet is supposed to tackle.


Another statement from the children's minister Linda Helleland and others is that removing a child from its parents is very rare, something only done when all other assistance has been tried and the circumstances are very serious.

Omsorgsovertakelser er opprivende for både foreldre og barn, og skal alltid være absolutt siste utvei. (Taking into care is upsetting for both parents and children, and is always to be the absolutely last solution.)

Bufdir says:
Strict conditions must be met before the child welfare services take children into care against their parents’ will. Applicable situations include if a child is subjected to serious neglect, assault or other serious abuse in the home.

Many people find it difficult to contact the Child Welfare Services, as they are worried that their children will be removed from the home. The assumption of care is an extremely serious measure to take - both to the children and parents, and there must be extremely good cause before this step is taken. 

Helleland speaks for the Norwegian government. So do Norway's ambassadors around the world. From time to time we can hear them say, being interviewed, that other countries have misunderstood Norwegian child protection, and that taking into care is only used in serious cases and as a last resort.
    Do the foreigners believe this? Some probably do.

In an interview in Aftenposten on 29 August 2018, Helleland said:
"... barnevernet gir hjelp til familier i 82 prosent av sakene i form av hjelpetiltak. Det er bare i 18 prosent av sakene det settes inn omsorgstiltak med tvang". (... In 82 per cent of the cases, Barnevernet gives families assistance in the form of help measures. In 18 per cent only of the cases forcible care is employed.)
"Barneministeren: – Norsk barnevern går foran. Snart vil andre land komme etter oss." (The children's Minister: – Norwegian child protection is ahead. Soon other countries will follow us.)

There are at least three relevant comments concerning this:

a) 18 per cent means that about one child out of five for whom Barnevernet decides on some form of measures, is taken into care. I do not think this deserves to be called rare.

b) Since Helleland says
"omsorgstiltak med tvang" (forcible care), then quite likely there are more in addition who are taken out of their home, but voluntarily. But such voluntary care is sometimes a moot point: We know from some cases that parents, and also children who are old enough to understand the nature of dilemmas, do emphatically not want to be separated, but they are confronted with the threat that if they refuse 'voluntary placement', the result will be even less visitation, or other kinds of negative sanctions.

c) Close to the top of Bufdir's
main page for CPS statistics we spot a green-beige cirle. It says 60%, and the text underneath says (translation): "Of children and young receiving help from Barnevernet, 60 per cent received help measures in their homes by the end of 2017."

The same is repeated further down on the page (translated):
• Children and young with help measures in the home
• 60% of children and families with help from Barnevernet receive help measures in the home
    For the majority of children and families who come into contact with Barnevernet, help measures in the home are sufficient. The purpose of starting help is to contribute to a positive change in the child or in the family. At the end of 2016 23,452 children and young between the ages of 0 and 22 received help in the home. This was 60% of children with help measures from the CPS at the end of 2016.)

And then, logically enough, we find:
• Children and young placed outside the home
• 40 % of children and young with help from Barnevernet were placed outside the home
    Placement of children and young outside the home is only considered if Barnevernet’s help measures are not sufficient to secure an acceptable care situation for the child. By the end of 2016, 15,820 children and young were placed outside the home by the Barnevernet service. These were 40% of children and young with measures from Barnevernet. This is an increase of 6% from 2003, when 34% were placed outside the home.

I am perfectly willing to believe that these figures have been calculated for a different group from the one which Helleland's 18 per cent is based on. However, I also tend to believe that there are others in addition to myself who wonder how her 18 per cent relate to the 40 per cent? At least some clarifying information is needed for us simple souls, from child protection authorities or statisticians, and such information we almost never get.


Studies are conducted regarding people who are or are not satisfied with Barnevernet's efforts for their families. On 21 August this year, Linda Helleland said, in the article
"Jeg skal sørge for et barnevern som er der for barna, ikke kommentere enkeltsaker" (I am here to see to it that there is a Barnevern which is there for the children, not to comment on individual cases):
"80 prosent av familiene som har fått hjelp mens barnet bor hjemme er fornøyde, og befolkningens tillit til barnevernet øker." (80 per cent of the families who have received help while the child is living at home are satisfied and people's confidence in Barnevernet is increasing.)

So it's 80 percent of the families whose children live at home. But the heading of the paragraph is
"80 per cent are satisfied". Many readers will probably believe the group she refers to consists of everybody, including those families whose children have been removed by force by Barnevernet. This is at least the interpretation that is allowed by our authorities to spread, every time such surveys are carried out. I remember such a survey about 15 years ago, which stated explicitly that families who had been subjected to forced removal of the children were not included. The 'satisfied' rate was said to be 90 per cent, while the non-inclusion of cases which involved the CPS using force was almost never mentioned.

Possibly, the 80% satisfied survey referred to by Helleland now in August is one published in October of 2015? Anyway, the one from 2015 is revealing about sources of error: about deliberate exclusion (children placed outside their home have not been included); about the sampling (Barnevernet has come up with suggestions and have organised things and taken part in the handling together with the research scholars); about the proportion of those asked who said yes to taking part; about the collection of data and about anonymity.
Official report about CWS services to families: Eight out of ten are satisfied?


These examples, from our authorities' presentation of CPS activities and its supposed effect on the population, are without any doubt aimed at concealing the real state of affairs.

In fact, in 2002-03 our authorities found that all the psychobabble explanations they used to justify their actions in CPS cases were causing mounting, angry upset and loud and competent criticism. So their reaction was to say that from then on they would, when they 'explained' their business, emphasise instead that there was so much alcohol and drug abuse as well as violence among parents. They thought the public would understand this better and accept it. Mind you, there was no plan to change their treatment of cases, it was to continue in the same old way. Only their explanations would be changed.

And that seems to be what happened.

But let me, as a kind of fourth point, bring up a type of statistic I find rather UNimportant. It is the question of whether the Norwegian CPS Barnevernet takes fewer or more children into care than they do in other countries – in relation to population size. We often hear that Norway takes more. On the other hand, under-secretaries of state in the Ministry of Children and Equality tend to tell the media that Norway takes fewer, or about the same, this being made into an argument why Norwegian Barnevernet is not unusual and is therefore innocent of abusing children.

Quite right, Norway's Barnevern is quite comparable to the CPS of other countries in the Western world. Numbers may vary, but these public agencies are all on a dangerous road out into the wilderness. They have placed themselves in a framework of thinking which is neither based on intuitive understanding of what children feel and need, nor on realistic science.

Understanding follows if we start from the other end: Ask, first of all, what the effects of growing up under CPS care are in these children's later life. Then ask what their life has been like in foster homes or institutions, e.g how many have fled from CPS care, how many have started taking drugs, how many have even as early as in their teens gone into petty crime or serious crime. Compare the figures with those of the population average. Then go into whether the courts and the county boards have understood this. Then one can investigate how the taking into care took place and what the CPS said were imperative reasons why the children had to be deprived of their parents.

Such statistics can be obtained and some already exist, with figures which lead to insight. Our authorities which handle child protection carefully avoid mentioning them.


About related issues:

Aage Simonsen:
Norwegian child protection hits immigrants hard
10 november 2017 (4 juli 2012)

Jan Simonsen:
"Children of the state" – Czech documentary with critical spotlight on Norwegian child protection
4 December 2017

Nils Morten Udgaard:
Norway and 'civil society'
13 November 2016 (20 May 1996)

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Educating the young – better through cooperation with the child protection agency (CPS)?
21 December 2014

Marianne Haslev Skånland:

An imcomplete list of reasons given by the child protection services (CPS) of the Nordic countries for depriving children of their parents
14 March 2012 –