February 5, 2012
assessments made by the Norwegian child protection service
Marianne Haslev Skånland
An earlier edition of this article in Norwegian,
bedømmelser, was written as a newspaper
article and published in Gjengangeren
in Horten on 19
July 2004. It has later been published on the
website BarnasRett, placed in the file
Kari Killén - sentral leverandør av
lærebøker og foredrag til de barne"faglige"
profesjonene, and also on
The article is but slightly revised here.
The translations of quotes from Norwegian into English are
A possible starting point for an analysis of the Norwegian
child protection agency (CPS, Norw. 'barnevernet') is found
in what their text-books say. Kari Killén's book
Omsorgssvikt er alles ansvar ("Betrayed. Care failure is
everybody's responsibility"), 2nd edition 1994, Oslo:
Kommuneforlaget, is particularly well-known. This book
sells very well to students at the numerous social work
courses around Norway and has apparently been translated
into some dozen other languages, probably to be used as a
text-book for social workers in other countries.
I have looked at a newer edition of the book. The fact that
the recommendations it makes which I discuss in this
article have not been changed since 1994 is probably a
realistic example of the state of social work in Norway.
The book abounds in uncritical claims and allegations, e.g
about the prevalence of abuse and about signs of abuse,
about the ability to provide child care, symptoms of care
failure and demonstration of such failure, about attachment
to foster-parents and lack of attachment to parents.
In a short article like this one, a couple of examples must
of the people who themselves approach the CPS asking for
help, are in a difficult financial situation. But CPS
workers are instructed fairly clearly not to assist them
with economic relief (p 497):
should be made to get involved regarding the reduction of
outer strains, e.g economic problems and housing problems.
To solve the problems is bad care [bad social work]."
The book then goes on to say that the CPS should "direct"
or "guide" the client towards problem-solving. This is
unrealistic social work to say the least.
Regardless of what it was that
occasioned the initial contact of a family with the CPS,
the CPS are eager in their search for possible "care
failure" and they hold a blind faith in their ability to
assess it. The following is one of the ways in which their
diagnostic work proceeds (p 306):
is often necessary for us to deliberately frustrate the
parents in to make it possible to evaluate this very
important function. If parents show very limited capacity
for frustration toleration when we are present, we have to
doubt how it functions in a situation without social
control, when nobody else is present except the parents and
On this point it is probably clear to most of us that:
What the text-book
recommends here is for a social worker to carry out
provocations in order to get parents to lose patience and
No, for every human
being it is, on the contrary, natural to be more calm and
patient when secure and protected by privacy than when
being subjected to observation and assessment from
outsiders. (Having a private life and having it respected
is biologically healthy. The lack of this is central among
the factors which cause the tragedies that are so frequent
among foster children.)
It is of course
especially upsetting to be attacked by public servants who
pretend to be helping but who behave in an impolite and
frightening manner and who experiment with us when they
have us in their power.
It is particularly
frightening for parents because they certainly understand
that the threat of being separated from their own children
is hanging over their heads the whole time.
The patience of
parents towards their own children is based on their
nature-given love for their children, not on social
control. (That is also why the occurrence of abuse and
neglect of children is far more frequent in all other
environments than it is in the child's home with its own
To subject parents
to "assessment" by means of inflicting "frustration" is
torture; it falls under Article 3 of the European
Convention on Human Rights: "No one shall be subjected
to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment." Such degrading and pain-inflicting
treatment of the citizens of a country is punishable by
law. The fact that the Norwegian state does not punish
these criminals but carries out the inhuman and
degrading treatment itself, does not lessen the
seriousness of the offences.
The pain and stress which parents are placed under by such
methods can completely destroy individuals. CPS people
apparently do not understand that they are not observing
objectivly but, on the contrary, are themselves creating an
abnormal situation, as well as a strain which can end in
pushing the victims over the cliff edge. This places their
actions not only as unethical but also as the opposite of
scientifically based. Their "methods" give a blue-print of
to carry out valid
Except in cases of real and serious abuse of children, the
CPS must (as must also the superficial and irresponsible
participants in court decisions) have their powers of
ordering removal of children from their parents quashed.
When this power is removed, the quality of other CPS
measures, called "aid" to families, will also be brought
out into daylight. In the present situation, many measures
are imposed on families who find these measures meaningless
but who dare not protest or make it public: They know that
if they do, their children will be taken from them.