Media coverage of Barnevernet scandals is working well. Norway is making a volt-face.

Media coverage of Barnevernet cases is slowly beginning to bear fruit in Norway itself. Last year´s developments might also bring hope to Eva Michaláková and her children. The present situation is in no way comparable to the one at the end of 2014.

The shift is enormous. And Norway itself is waking up to the fact that the faux pas of the local child-protection service are nowadays subject of public debate. I have written earlier about the story of Natasha and Erik whose twins were taken away on the basis of an extremely dubious expert opinion and then returned. This case was far from being the only one.

Other people are gradually breaking the silence, and the most significant thing is that the mainstream media report about the cases during prime time. Before that, silence and obfuscation associated with the Norwegian child-protection service was justified by the best interest of the child. However, the number of cases and facts proving the severe deficiencies of the Norwegian system is so high that it is impossible to further ignore the Barnevernet issue. Generally speaking, publicizing more and more cases also encourages parents to break the silence and speak in the media about the distress they suffered when fighting with Barnevernet. And the media, too, are no longer worried about bringing new information as the cases are so clear and Barnevernet “lapses” so evident that the we-only-have-a-one-sided-version argument is just grotesque.

Norwegian media are continuously breaking news stories about recent cases

I would like to mention one of the cases publicized not long ago, which is the case of Tonje Jakobsen who ran away from Norway to Sweden to give birth to her baby. Her escape was motivated by fear that Barnevernet, having a mendacious expert opinion, was supposed to take the child away from the mother immediately after birth. The above-mentioned expert opinion claimed that Tonje was mentally disabled and unfit to look after her child. The Swedish child protection service, however, described her as a good and decent mother. With the help of her lawyer, Tonje managed to testify about the alarming Barnevernet practices and her story had a happy ending. She did not lose her child.

At the end of March, Norwegian TV2 screened other reports about people who lost their children due to incorrect or even mendacious expert opinions. Unfortunately, most parents were not as lucky as Tonje. They did not leave Norway and lost their children as a result.

The available data reveal that every year about 200 children are taken away from parents with learning disabilities or mild mental retardation. And also because the mother was incorrectly diagnosed with mental retardation, which repeatedly happened even though the expert opinion presented inaccurate information and the mother was arguably capable of looking after the child, as illustrated by the case of Natasha´s or Tonje´s parents.

Nevertheless, Barnevernet unfair practices reach beyond the Norwegian borders so it comes as no surprise that this Nordic country is beginning to feel the pressure from outside. Over the last 18 months, eight child removal cases have ended up before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. For Norway, such a high number of cases that this court has to hear a is a serious warning as well as sign that something has indeed gone wrong.

Personally, I am extremely happy that the Barnevernet issue is also being discussed at the EU level. Thanks to the initiative of my colleague Julia Pitera, Polish member of the European Parliament, the topic was raised at the February Inter-Parliamentary Meeting between the European Parliament delegation and Norwegian representatives.

Norway is making a U-turn
Norway or, more precisely, its political representation have long been evasive about Barnevernet, burying their heads in the sand. I believe that this is over now. What is more, in March last year professional experts joined the public debate. The result is that more than 200 Norwegian professional experts on childcare (e.g. doctors, psychologists or lawyers) have signed a petition expressing their concerns regarding the current situation. This petition has been officially submitted to the Norwegian government.

Naturally, the Norwegian political scene also had to respond. On 17 October last year, Dagbladet, the Norwegian national newspaper, published a breakthrough article. Norwegian Minister of Children and Equality Solveig Horne herself admitted that Norway violates human rights in the area of childcare. In her opinion, it is necessary to develop every effort to return children to their families if it is possible. She explicitly said that frequent practices allowing parents to see their child only twice up to six times a year for several hours do not constitute good presumptions necessary for reaching this goal. Needless to say, that this all happens under the supervision of Barnevernet employees outside a home, without the possibility for children to hug their parents and talk to them about their common past.

The minister´s speech was preceded by a report of the Commission for Childcare Legislation published on 29 September last year. The report formulates a requirement according to which children should be returned in all possible cases while providing assistance to parents. The report also reveals that current legislation regulating the children-parents meetings is insufficient with regard to supporting family life as stipulated by the European Convention on Human Rights. Last but not least, the report mentions that the child´s right to contact does not only apply to his or her parents but also to his or her siblings and grandparents.

Therefore, the minister might be anxiously awaiting decisions from Strasbourg. She admits that changes will have to be carried out in order to reconcile the practices with the European Convention on Human Rights. Apart from that, a recent article published at the end of March presents Ms. Horne voicing her opinions on the need to reform the system, to provide better formal education for employees of local Barnevernet offices and to evaluate their work on a regular basis. Which is, in fact, admitting, although indirectly, that the system is not working the way it should be working.

What happened in Norway is a crime against human rights
In conclusion, I would like to add the following facts: there is absolutely no doubt that those people who have long been criticizing Barnevernet and the Norwegian systems are right. The system is failing, and it is no longer possible to see child removals based on dubious expert opinions and do nothing. The whole effort that has been developed indeed appears to be meaningful.
We are beginning to feel hope that things will change for the better as official Norwegian authorities, too, are expressing their criticism over the current situation. However, the battle is not yet over! It will never be won unless all unjustifiably removed children are returned to their parents.

I wish you a nice day and a happy mind!

Source : Source : https://tomaszdechovskymep.tumblr.com/post/159821444777/media-coverage-of-barnevernet-scandals-is-working

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