5 March 2016

Some things I have not said about Barnevernet (child protection services, CPS)

By Marianne Haslev Skånland

When you open your mouth (or sharpen your pen), you risk being misunderstood. Quite common and quite natural, of course – you just have to put up with it in as good-natured a way as you can. Several years ago I made up my mind that I would not spend a lot of time e.g trying to put right what journalists or others writing about my concern about Barnevernet (the child protection system) might erroneously claim that I had said. (Any need to rectify anything from interviews has luckily become very limited as I have found out that I'd better leave to others to be interviewed while I confine myself mostly to writing!)

But a few misinterpretations of things I have written or said seem to live on and are still being quoted years later. One reader of my articles suggested I should make clear what my real thoughts were on a couple of these points, because incorrect inferences might sidetrack discussions of serious issues.

So I'll try to put a few things right:

I have not said that Barnevernet is wrong in 99% of all cases. The newspaper interviewing me expressed it in too strong terms. It is unfortunate, because if you say "99 per cent", it means in practice "100 per cent", which appears ill-considered, over-dramatic, hysterical, obstinate.
    I recall the question. I responded with something like: There is probably a very high number of cases in which the CPS take children into care unnecessarily and harmfully, and two lawyers I know who have had long experience of such cases, one in Norway and one in Sweden, have assessed, respectively, 80 and 90% of such transfers of care to be wrong, in the sense of being both unnecessary and harming the child greatly.

I have not said that Barnevernet can be compared to the CIA.
    This is probably a mistake which has made its way into some reference to something I wrote in the article "Dr Mengele & Co in action in Norwegian homes?", from where it has spread. The text in my article is:
"It is no longer possible to avoid seeing the similarity between the public care system of our Norwegian social authorities (CPS, the child protection services) and the Nazi SS, the KGB of the Soviet Union, and the Inquisition a few centuries ago."
    Elsewhere I have also pointed to the activities of East German Stasi as a parallel, because Stasi carried out comprehensive monitoring and straight-jacketing of people's private lives.
    I have never thought of American CIA in such a connection. Irrespective of what anybody might think the American intelligence service abroad does, I do not know of anything like the CIA occupying themselves with ordinary lives of families with children in the USA or anything that might bring to mind some sort of parallel to this.

I have not said that I do not know if any violence or abuse takes place in families.
    This, too, must stem from my responding to a question in an interview, and I believe I said that yes of course such cases exist, but that it is nearly impossible to be sure
which cases are genuine, because the handling of cases by Barnevernet and their fate in county committees and in the courts are not such that we can trust in the outcome not being miscarriage of justice. There have been a considerable number of instances in which innocent people have been found guilty, both in criminal cases and in child protection cases.

I have not said, about a boy who had been moved from one foster home where he was content to another where he was not, that he
should flee back to the first one. I have not recommended anything as something the boy ought to do.
    This, also, was in the context of an interview with a newspaper. There was some discussion about an ongoing case which was well-known from the media, a discussion in which all sorts of people held opinions of what needed to be done – whether the boy should be in one place or another.
    I then said something like this: But if the situation is such and such, then I suppose he had better just flee back then, if that is what he wants.


If other items were to turn up which I do not want to own, this list may be added to!