27 June 2023

The case of two Indian children taken into care in Stavanger, Norway may have had a racial element
By Bjorn Bjoro
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This article was originally written in Norwegian and was published in Utrop on 7 June 2023.
This English version is published with the author's kind permission. Translation: Marianne Haslev Skånland
The Norwegian child protection service (CPS) is called Barnevernet. The service has an official name in English: Norwegian Child Welfare Services, cf the Wikipedia article.
   The name 'County board' (the official unit making decisions involving force) has been changed in 2023 to 'Barneverns- og helsenemnda', official name in English: 'the Child Welfare Tribunal'. Since the present article concerns a case in 2011-12, the old name has been kept in the text.
• • •

Previously employed in the public Norwegian child protection service (CPS), I am sad to have to agree that the two small children in the CPS case from Stavanger in 2011-12 would probably have been seriously harmed if Norwegian CPS Barnevernet had had their way. The girl was about five months old and the boy two and a half years of age when they were torn away from their parents.
Barnevernet made use of their insidious power
Barnevernet's plan was that the children should live in separate Norwegian foster homes until they were 18, the parents being allowed to visit them 3 times a year, one hour each time. The children would lose their own language, their culture, and especially the boy, with medical problems, would probably have experienced lifelong distorted development.
Stavanger Barnevern should certainly know this. And the county board, making the decisions, would be obliged to know it. But they chose to handle the case the way they did. At first the children were deprived of their parents.
This happened after Barnevernet had placed an English lady in a position of 'contact person' in the family. She was characterised as being 'bossy', 'colonialistic', and sloppy in her report-writing. I have been informed that she at one point said that the English had civilised the Indians, who ran around naked when the English arrived in India.
The case may therefore have had racist elements. Certainly it made the children's mother indignant. During a discussion in the home, three representatives of Barnevernet being present, the aforementioned lady included, Barnevernet's workers said that they would take the little girl out for a walk. They then disappeared in a car and drove off, the mother running after them.
This is an indication that no emergency decision had been made beforehand and that the CPS simply made use of their cunning power.
The struggle to get the children home
Later the same day the boy was fetched from the kindergarten by Barnevernet. The county board, however, decided that the children should go back home. But Barnevernet refused, kept them back, and intimated to the mother that they would take over care and keep the children until they were 18 years old. The mother understood that the children would be seriously harmed by Barnevernet, so she was desperate and angry. Then her desperation – a natural reaction – was used against her. Nor did Barnevernet react positively to the mother's parents coming to Norway in order to help with care of the children.
The case drew public concern in India, where 'the family' is considered to be of central worth, from the richest to the poorest. Reactions were strong, with much media exposure. Even India's prime minister and foreign minister were engaged in having the children released, and were in direct contact with their opposite numbers in Norway. International pressure was brought on Norway and the then leader of Barnevernet in Stavanger, Gunnar Toresen. In a newspaper interview on 26 February 2023 he characterises the case as an ordinary child protection case until it became international top level politics.
The boy is still strongly traumatised
The children's mother and her family in India are taking good care of the children and have done so for the last ten years. On 6 March 2023, the children's maternal grandmother says to The Indian Express that the boy was old enough at the time to understand that Barnevernet took him away from his mother. She also says that when the children came home to their mother and her parents nearly two years after they had been taken, the boy would lie passively on the floor and had difficulties talking. Grandmother adds that he now is given treatment and help with his language acquisition but describes him as still considerably traumatised, although improving. But the process of getting the children home to mother and her parents has been difficult.
Agreement signed under duress
Gunnar Toresen wanted the children's childless uncle, living with his parents in India, to take over care. There was struggle behind the scenes which has not been well-known. I have, however, come to know the previously unknown part of this:
First, the CPS Barnevernet formulated an agreement, which the mother would not sign, however. Then Barnevernet came up with a new draft, in which Barnevernet had included harder conditions: It said that the parents or their families would not be entitled to try and change the agreement by means of any court or other authority or institution. In addition, the draft said that the agreement was signed by free will and that the parties were able to understand and carry out their duties according to the agreement.
In other words: The mother was to sign an agreement saying that Indian courts and authorities would be prevented from considering the case.
The mother refused to sign. That was wise of her, although Indian courts would, regardless, most likely have set aside an agreement which had very clearly been signed under duress. The pressure applied was of course that with no such signed agreement, the children would not be liberated from harmful Norwegian child protection and come to India.
Found security outside Norway
At last a new agreement – one without the harsher additions – was formulated and signed. The Norwegian court in Stavanger accepted the agreement and the children went to India. After something over 6 months, Indian child protection authorities had considered the case and come to a conclusion. They had in the meantime made sure that the mother was of good health and had good ability to care. This was the first sign that the so-called professionals in Norway had been wrong.
In their decision, Indian child protection authorities emphasised that taking children into care away from their parents is to be temporary – something that is legally correct both in India and in Norway. They decided that the children were to go home to their mother and her parents. It would be in the children's best interest. Then, a judgment was passed in the Calcutta High Court that the children were to be in their mother's care. The father's family accepted implicitly by not trying to bring the case to court once more.
This legally correct procedure is described by former Barnevern leader in Stavanger Gunnar Toresen in this way (Dagsavisen 26 February 2023):
"– Ett år senere fikk saken et etterspill ved at mors familie brøt den inngåtte avtale og kidnappet barna fra fars familie, forteller Toresen, som ikke vet hva som skjedde siden."
(One year later, there was a sequel in that the mother's family broke the agreement entered into and kidnapped the children from the father's family, says Toresen, who does not know what happened later.)
The return of the care to the children's mother took place by the use of ordinary legal procedure. The former Barnevern leader's characterisation of it as "kidnapping" is not correct. His statement is so deviant that it makes me wonder about his perception of reality, provided he has been referenced correctly in the newspaper. At the same time, it is possible to understand it as reflecting frustration because Stavanger Barnevern lost control.
As we know, the children are well with their mother and her family. They are given love, care and support. Quite contrary to what it would have been like under the so-called professional Norwegian Barnevern.
See also
Bjorn Bjoro:
The Bollywood film should wake us up from our white self-satisfaction
MHS's home page, 20 April 2023

 – :  Deficient rule of law in child protection cases in Norway
MHS's home page, 25 July 2015

At the movies: The Bollywood film "Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway"
Some comments by viewers
MHS's home page, 7 May 2023
Majoran Vivekananthan:
The illusion that all is well in the end
MHS's home page, 5 May 2023

Aage Simonsen:
Norwegian child protection hits immigrants hard
MHS's home page, 4 July 2012 / 10 November 2017
Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Norwegian non-humans again
Stavanger CPS (Barnevernet) – The India case – and now a Bollywood film
MHS's home page, 22 / 31 March 2023
 – :  Were cultural differences the cause of the India/Stavanger child protection case, in the same way as the Bollywood film relates the story?
MHS's home page, 20 April 2023
 – :  When children of minotirites are deprived of their parents
MHS's home page, 12 April 2015
 – :  Lithuania and Norwegioan child protection on the news in Norway
MHS's home page, 13 April 2015
Jan Simonsen:
A little more humility, please!
MHS's home page, 20 March 2016
Øistein Schjønsby:
Child protection – rules and regulations and how to worm out of them
MHS's home page, 26 January 2015
Siv Westerberg:
Child prisons? In Sweden?
MHS's home page, 1995 / 28 December 2018