28 November 2014

Child protection case damages Norway's reputation in the Czech Republic

by Jan Simonsen

Jan Simonsen is a journalist, and was previously a member of the Norwegian parliament. His twin brother is the biologist Åge Simonsen, who is referred to in this article.
   The Norwegian version of the article was originally published
on Jan Simonsen's blog Frie Ytringer ("Free Expressions"), on 24 November 2014, and was re-published here on the same date.
The translation is likewise published here with the author's generous consent.
Translation by Marianne Haslev Skånland.

Norway's reputation is about to be destroyed in the Czech Republic. The leading case in Czech media now is the story of how Norwegian child protection service (CPS) took the children away from a Czech family. There have been demonstrations against Norway in the streets, the mother has sent a letter to the Czech president, and the Norwegian CPS case was taken up in the European parliamern's committee for civil rights, justice and internal affairs at the beginning of November.

There, the Czech member of parliament Thomas Zdechovský gave an account of the case, which is described internationally as a deprivation of liberty of two Czech children. A spokesman for Zdechovský says to
the Czech newspaper TN.cz that he, at meetings of the committee, invited the other member states and the EU to assist the Czech Republic in increasing the pressure against Norway.

During the meeting in the parliamentary committee, Zdechovský emphasised that Norway is violating international law. To take children away and then segregate the children in different families, with no right for the parents to socialise with the children, is, according to several parliament members, a unique violation of international obligations. The Czech politician says he will continue to work with this case internationally, and he will make contact with different the party factions in the European parliament and in the EU commission.

A program
on Czech tv about the case has outraged the Czechs (cf 9 min 30 seconds into the newsreel). Both the mother and the children's grandfather express their longing for the children. Especially the grandfather (picture), who may possibly die before he is able to give his grandchildren another hug, and who is clearly affected by missing them, makes a strong impression. Norway is not portrayed as a compassionate or child-friendly country.

The Czechs are disgusted both by the fact that the children were taken from the mother and given over to the care of foster parents, who now want to adopt the children, and by the way the subsequent treatment of the mother by the Norwegian CPS, which has increasingly limited her right of access to her children even more. She is now allowed to meet them only a couple of times a year, and is not allowed to speak with them in Czech, she says.

The bureucrats will gradually limit her access to the children, who have already started to forget their mother tongue,"says
the weekly magazine Tyden.

Eva Michaláková will remember May of 2011 until she dies, they write. Eva Michaláková was living together with her husband, who is Czech also, and two children: David who was six years old and Denis who was two, in Steinberg, a small settlement of a little more than 1000 inhabitants, in Nedre Eiker between Mjøndalen and Hokksund. When the husband was away at work one day, the police suddenly called her on the phone, saying it concerned the eldest son. The mother was upset and feared that the son had had an accident in kindergarten.

Instead, the police informed her that the kindergarten employees had told the police that her son had been sexually abused by his father. The son was supposed to have said to the kindergarten nannies that his father had "fumbled with his hand over the pyjamas". Just a couple of days later the parents were informed that their children would be taken away from them. "I broke down completely," says Eva Michaláková to the Czech magazine.

The children were sent for an assessment to the local hospital, which did not, however, confirm any abuse. But the child protection service reiterated their accusation of abuse after interviewing the mother, one of the employees and the son. A Norwegian court which later decided on the parental rights to the children turned down these interviews as evidence, because the court held that the boy had been interviewed in a leading and unacceptable way. The police dropped the case due to lack of evidence of any abuse having taken place.

Still, in February of 2012 Norwegian authorities decided to take away the right of the parents to care for their children, and sent them into foster care. According to TN.cz the mother was promised that she would have them back in her care if she divorced her husband, which she then did, but the sons were not returned. Mother and sons can now meet with each other only twice a year, under strict supervision by CPS employees. The boys are not allowed to embrace their mother or talk in Czech,
the Czech newspaper Idnes.cz relates.

The Czech paper TN.cz writes about a sad ending to a sad story: After three years struggling with Norwegian authorities to get back her two sons, the mother Eva Michaláková is faced with definitely losing all parental rights. According the the latest information the boys are in the process of being adopted by the foster parents, TN.cz writes.

Czech newspaper Idnes.cz in its news story reminds us that Norway has long been criticised by international organisations on account of the high number of children taken from their parents. Decisions made by Norwegian CPS have several times created a stir, head-shaking and anger abroad. Earlier this month the Russian children's ombudsman came out reporting that Norwegian authorities have in 55 cases committed abuse against Russian parents. According to NRK (the national Norwegian broadcasting co), he says that the situation for Russian children in Norway will be taken up in the Council of Europe and in the United Nations. The serious denunciation of Norway comes, says NRK, at the same time that Russian tv channels have hour-long programs about the rituation for Russian parents and their children in Norway, in which the Norwegian CPS is the main target.


Åge Simonsen is one of Norway's leading experts on the child protection services, and has been frequently used as an expert witness in favour of the parents when CPS cases have ended in court, even though his formal education, including a doctorate, was within the natural sciences and not in sociology. He has for many years been a member of organisations critical to the CPS.

Simonsen confirms that the Norwegian CPS has several times been scandalised abroad.

Some years ago there was a case concerning the daughter of an Indian family in which the father was working in the oil industry in Stavanger. The CPS took the child after the kindergarten personnel reporting that the child ate with its fingers, and that she had told them that she slept in the same bed with her father. Both phenomena are usual in Indian culture.

The parents and their lawyer suggested a solution whereby the child would be temporarily cared for by its uncle in Calcutta, a solution opposed by the CPS. Instead, the child was taken from the parents and placed with a Norwegian foster family. The uncle, however, had close contact with the Indian foreign affairs minister, and the case ended in demonstrations against Norway in India, large write-ups in Indian newspapers, and finally with the Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs taking the case up with Norway's foreign affairs minister at the time, Jonas Gahr Støre. Only then was the child allowed to live with his uncle in its homeland.*

Simonsen also points to a case which Norway lost in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in 1996, a case concerning the state's taking over of children from parents. In this case, a child was taken from its mother immediately after birth and was placed in a foster home. When the case reached the Court, the child had lived with its foster parents for 7 years, but the mother still won against Norway. Her winning in the ECtHR was, however, of little value to the mother, since the Norwegian authorities after losing in Strasbourg let the foster parents adopt the child and refused to follow up on the decision of the ECtHR.

Åge Simonsen holds that the Norwegian CPS takes many children away from their parents' care without any documented failure to care on the part of the parents. Arguments used are e.g. that the parents have "too weak ability to give care", and that there is a risk of future care failure if the parents are allowed to keep their children.



* About the Stavanger/India case:

It was not the children's uncle (the father's brother) who had political connections, rather a number of outraged Indians who became the family's helpers, especially the lawyer Suranya Aiyar, who together with others mobilised several politicians right up to the level of the Prime Minister.
   The case primarily concerned the son, not the daughter, but both children were taken. The son suffered/suffers from some neurological trouble, which the BUP (child and youth psychiatry unit) and the CPS certainly did not bother about helping the family with. Instead they branded the mother, Sagarika, with a totally false and unfounded psychiatric 'diagnosis' and held that the son's trouble was that he had 'an attachment disorder' caused by the mother. 'Attachment theory' is a favourite quack diagnosis with the CPS, because it is quite untestable. It stems from psychoanalyst John Bowlby and has, in spite of research being done on it, very weak research support, and such support as there seems to be, could equally well be due to other causes.
   One factor which they 'diagnosed' as the mother's fault, was that the son had poor speech and speech development. However, when he had been kept in a foster home for a year, he had deteriorated to not speaking at all. This was neither diagnosed as the fault of the foster 'parents' nor of the CPS, but was even then laid at the mother Sagarika's door.
   Other reasons advanced by them for taking the children were that the mother fed her son by hand (the daughter was just a baby) and that the son slept with her in her bed. (Both eating with one's hands and sharing parents' beds are usual in India.)
   Stavanger CPS tried to force Sagarika to sign away every right to ever go to court - in India, as a condition of letting the children out of their clutches!
   The children's father had meanwhile changed horses, joining the Norwegian CPS in blaming his wife.
   They finally had to let the children go back to India, to stay with their paternal uncle, but Sagarika has succeeded in getting them back, going to the Indian courts. The local CPS where she lives has fully supported her, she has been thoroughly tested and evaluated by Indian psychiatrists and psychologists, who concluded that she was completely normal in spite of all she had been put through in Norway. She is taking the very best care of both her children, both with their daily care and with finding special resources for the son and a special school for him. Her extended family fortunately understand completely all about the case and that Sagarika is blameless.
   Marianne Haslev Skånland


Other relevant articles (some particularly in relation to the Stavanger/India case):

Czech family seriously damaged by Norwegian child protection
Forum Redd Våre Barn (Forum Save Our Children), 11 December 2014 –

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Judgment in Poland: a nine-year-old girl NOT to be extradited to Norway
11 December 2014

Joar Tranøy:
Child protection and the law
10 July 2012

Åge Simonsen:
Norwegian child protection hits immigrants hard
10 July 2012

Arild Holta:
The media gives victims of the social services "the silent treatment"
10 July 2012

Siv Westerberg:
Norway and Sweden - where inhuman rights prevail
3 December 2012

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Norwegian CPS action against Russian families - what is the truth?
26 November 2014

Protester i Storbritannia, og Slovakia har suksess ("Protests in Britain, and Slovakia is successful" - many links to articles in English)
6 October 2012 -

Norway NRI kids row: The untold Story by Sagarika Bhattacharya
25 May 2012

A competent group of lawyers, politicians and social scientists in India has worked very thoroughly on this and other cases. They have come up with several reports and a petition to the Indian Human Rights Commission:
The Confiscation of the Bhattacharya Children by Norwegian Authorities - A Case Study
12 October 2012
We should note a sentence on p 30: "The Bhattacharya care proceedings make for sickening reading".

Petition to the Indian National Human Rights Commission: Indians want their government to guard against western CPS
16 October 2012

Suranya Aiyar - At press conference held on 12 October 2012 at the Women's Press Club
16 October 2012

Suranya Aiyar:
Understanding and Responding to child confiscations by Social Service Agencies
9 May 2012

Critical comments to Norway's fourth periodic report to the UN committee on the Rights of the Child – 2008
25 January 2009

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
The curious case of 'child protection' in Norway
20 April 2012

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
The iron hand that rocks the cradle
30 January 2012

Indiske barn konfiskert ("Indian children confiscated" - lots in Norwegian but also many links to articles in English)