21 December 2014
young – better through cooperation with the child
protection agency (CPS)?
original of this article,
Samarbeid med barnevernet?
with the CPS), was published in the newspaper Ringerikes
Blad, based in Hønefoss, north-west of Oslo, on the 18
September 2014. This English version contains some
NAV is the
Norwegian Labour and Welfare
government agency with local offices in counties and
NOVA is a public
establishment researching (childhood) development,
welfare and aging.
* * *
14 September 2014 an article in Ringerikes Blad:
Utdanning – nøkkelen til
arbeid (Education – the key to
work), written by Elisabeth Holen, who is the director
of the NAV branch in Buskerud county, points out the
importance of supporting young people to complete an
education and train for a profession. She certainly has
good arguments regarding the demands which economic life
makes on us in our times. Among the other services which
NAV is to work closely with, however, she mentions the
child protection services (CPS).
To assume that bringing the CPS and agencies related to
them into contact with the young would strengthen their
determination and ability to complete their education, is
to make an assumption which is not borne out by experience
nor supported by surveys using reliable statistics. Rather,
actions taken by the CPS are likely to be the precursor to
unemployment, early disability pensioning, frequent and
serious health problems, prison sentences, and early death.
And "likely to" in this case means seriously elevated
I can now hear in my mind the usual assertions: that such
tragedies are sure to have been caused by the families of
the children before
the CPS entered the
No, that is not the reality. It is, on the contrary, rather
likely that the CPS causes
such bad results.
Studies are undertaken the whole time, of different aspects
of the lives and development of children in the charge of
the CPS, in our country and abroad. Especially school
results are studied a lot, probably because they are
relatively easy to measure. Some such studies are well set
up, using control groups, or with comparison groups of
children living in the same kinds of environment as those
from which CPS charges have been removed, but with their
own parents. There are also studies of sibling groups where
some siblings have been taken from their parents while
others have continued to live at home.
What such studies show is so dismal regarding the results
of CPS intervention that it ought to arouse people to set
aside their naïve belief that the CPS is a helper.
Regardless what the CPS does to support and help, the
result of depriving children of their own families or
subjecting them to other forced arrangements is alarming.
In a newspaper article like this it is impossible to go
into a lot of detail. Good surveys can be found on the
internet, in Norwegian too, e.g by Sverre Kvilhaug.
Let me just mention one study, which is actually Norwegian,
illustrating that zealousness of the CPS type does not lead
to acquiring knowledge and to success in working life, but
more to results like those I mentioned above. The results
in percentages are also especially clear in this study:
Ellen Kjelsberg in 1999 published a series of articles
about the investigation of the later history of about a
thousand youths who had been through treatment by the
'child and youth psychiatry', including the use of foster
23% made it through the following
15-30 years without
either going to
prison, or being put on early disability pension, or dying
- some through suicide, or a combination of two or all
three of these results.
I should also like to mention a more informal investigation
done without the use of comparison groups: In a law office
in Oslo with a large practice in criminal law (more than a
thousand cases a year) they went through their archives for
some years around 1990. They found that out of the clients
whom the lawyers in the practice had defended, 50% had been
under CPS care for longer or shorter periods while growing
up, and a further 30% had been subject to other CPS
measures. One should not blindly trust Norwegian criminal
investigation and criminal law to prosecute and jail only
guilty persons. Those concerned here, however, had at least
come as close to criminal activity as to be charged.
From people who are in touch with prison administration in
their professions I have been told that the percentage of
prisoners who are former children in CPS care is high –
strikingly so – in the prisons they have had contact with.
Similar observations are found abroad. A prison 'career'
generally goes badly with a satisfactory working life, and
CPS activities do not help. As I said: on the contrary,
they probably hurt.
At present, NOVA is busy telling us that things are going
better for CPS children now. In the light of evidence,
however, there are probably better explanations to be found
of this than what a central person in the CPS for years,
psychologist Elisabeth Backe-Hansen, suggests: "Den forbedringen man ser
i senere årskull kan tyde på at barnevernet gjør noe
riktig" (The improvement we see in later cohorts can
indicate that the CPS is doing something right). More
likely, we could suppose that the increase in forced
removals of children from their parents (which is a
fact, and supported by official policies) leads to the
CPS taking action against more children and young who
have themselves better resources and power to survive in
spite of discouraging circumstances, and who therefore
make it in life despite
the actions of