8 September 2018

Olav Terje Bergo:

Nordanger's CPS-haters

• •
The article first appeared in Norwegian with the title "Nordangers barnevernshatere"
, in the Bergen newspaper Bergens Tidende, on 4/5 September 2018. It is also printed here.

Its present publication in English is by the author's generous permission.
Translation: Marianne Haslev Skånland

The author, Olav Terje Bergo, is the former editor of Bergens Tidende's competitor
Bergensavisen (BA), which over a number of years published several articles with critical debate of the Norwegian CPS Barnevernet.
• •

– To defend the Child Protection Service – Barnevernet, which I am going to do, often triggers hateful comments.

This is the way professor Dag Nordanger starts
an article in the newspaper Bergens Tidende (BT) on Saturday 1 September 2018.

A shoddy advertising bureau could discuss the CPS, and the realities of children's lives, their rights and their judicial protection in this way. A professor should enter into the debate about social issues with integrity, openness, a questioning attitude and respect for people who hold other opinions. To brand the comments of others as hateful is an unethical method of debate.

To call BBC journalism
(1) and criticism of the CPS a conspiracy, a war against Norwegian child protection, sounds like a conspiracy theory with no factual basis. Insinuating that a mother who criticises the CPS thinks that she owns her children, and does not care about her children and their rights, is a gross accusation.

Nordanger's move is classical domineering tactics, abusers of power making themselves out to be victims of those they abuse power against.

Our demand on those to whom democratic power has been delegated, and who exercise it, is that they accept responsibility for their decisions, meet criticism with questions, impartiality, openness and honesty, not with accusations and evasion nor attempts to explain away criticisable matters.

Nordanger ought to ask: Children and families with children whom the CPS says they want to help, what is it that makes them become desperate, broken-hearted and furious? Could it be that the CPS does not solve their own task in society the way Nordanger believes?

Nordanger's idealised image and his blackening of CPS critics are not only contradicted by the BBC. Reports in the Bergen newspapers, in Stavanger Aftenblad, NRK, TV2, VG and many other media have for decades told us of tragedies, care failure and abuse of children in the hands of the CPS.

When Ann-Kristin Olsen
(2) presented to the government the report about violence to children, a report which Nordanger took part in, she said:

– These children have been let down by the authorities.

"These children" were children who had been subject to serious violence, sexual abuse and grave care failure. Prominent among the public services having failed, and who still fail these children, is the CPS which Nordanger defends.


When there is a lot of absence due to illness in their workplace and many leave the service, it may be because of the criticism against the CPS. But many employees in the CPS are dissatisfied with they job they do, and they know that the criticism against them is often right. Maybe that is the reason why they fall ill and leave?

When children and parents are the target of gross misjudgement and abuse of power, they are completely within their rights to let it be known. Freedom of speech is a right which our Constitution gives everybody, children too. It secures for the citizens the right to express themselves, especially about the authorities' use of power. Nobody has the right to stop, limit, define away or make a triviality out of children's and parents' description of injustice and public abuse by stigmatising what they say as "hateful".

The state's "Children's Houses" (Barnehusene) wrote to the Solberg government, responding in connection with a hearing:

The children's houses often find that the CPS has been in possession of information about violence which has not been forwarded to the police ..... These examples can represent offenses against the Criminal Code §196 about violation of the duty of preventing violence in close relationships.

The word "often" in the Children's Houses' letter bids us be humble.

The professor wrote in his article that "it happens" that the CPS takes children out of the home "on an erroneous reason". Good God. It seems like the professor thinks that it was right to take the children from their parents, only the "reason given" was unfortunately wrong.

Probably nine out of ten of the takings-into-care of the CPS are not only done for "the wrong reason", but without any valid reason, and constitute grave violations of children's rights and right to be protected by the law. Some of these children are forced to live under CPS care in months and years, before they are allowed to go home. Some are set free from the CPS only at 18 years of age. Many who have lived under the CPS's miserable care do badly, even in adult years.

Very likely the care even of quite unsatisfactory parents is much better than the care which children receive from the CPS. "The Glass Girl" Ida had a better life, and behaved better, while serving a sentence in Bergen Jail than when she was in the care of the CPS.


Improvement must start with a realisation that almost everything the CPS does is probably wrong. When that is the case, the pin in the eye causing distorted vision must come out of the eyes of more people than Nordanger, so that they see what the critics of the CPS have seen for a long time: The CPS needs a Lund Commission
(3) and a fundamental reform.

There is an abyss between the facade of the CPS and what they do, hidden behind the facade. The response of our parliament Stortinget and the city council of Bergen is more money and more positions. But when the culture and proficiency are wrong, then more money and more employees are not an answer. On the contrary, money and more jobs in the service probably strengthen and cement a negative culture and unacceptable practice.

The CPS Barnevernet is in need of fundamental changes of culture, good leaders, new attitudes and new insight. Therefore, old culture, unfit leaders, the arrogance of power, corruption and out-dated knowledge must be thrown out, to make room for a child protection service which actually understands and actually stands up for children and children's rights, and not only say they do.


(1)  About the BBC journalism referred to, cf

BBC documentaries: Parents against the State. 2016, 2018
Forum Redd Våre Barn (Rescue Our Children), d 23 April 2016 –

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
A new BBC documentary on Norwegian child protection
MHS's home page, 15 August 2018

(2)  Ann-Kristin Olsen, Norwegian jurist and civil servant

(3)  About the Lund Commission's Report, cf

Nils Morten Udgaard:
Norway and 'civil society'
MHS's home page, 13 November 2016