13 January 2019 

Marianne Haslev Skånland: 

Some professional child experts (4) 
Karen Hassel, psychologist, adoption expert, editor of the CPS Barnevernet's projects

Translations from Norwegian are mine.  

Karen Hassel on adoption

The state is in charge of all adoptions in Norway; private adoption is prohibited. The leader of the state's
Faglig utvalg for adopsjoner (Professional committee for adoptions) is therefore a person who is listened to with respect by makers of legislation and formal arrangements. In 2001, this leader was psychologist Karen Hassel (functions 1982-95).

An example of sensible psychological logic was presented when she was interviewed on TV on 21 May 2001, in a debate program about whether a particular adoption should be permitted. What she said was quite revealing.

Psychologist Hassel:
    "Vi vet at adopsjonsbarn eller adopterte barn krever mye mer av adoptivforeldre enn vanlige barn, og anderledes utfordring enn egnefødte barn. ..... Man må altså kreve mer av adoptivforeldre enn av de som får egnefødte barn og også av de som får fosterbarn i Norge, for vi har mye mere oversikt over hvilke barn det dreier seg om."
(We know that children for adoption and adopted children demand much more of adoptive parents than ordinary children, and are a different challenge from parents' own biological children. .... We must therefore demand more from adoptive parents than from those who have children born to them, and also from those to whom foster children are given in Norway, because we have a much better overview of which children these are.)

The last statement is hardly accurate. Knowledge and information about foster children and often of potential adoptees come from the child protection service Barnevernet, which has a thoroughly unrealistic ideology as the basis of their assessments. Authorities higher up have defined themselves as not being concerned with individual cases, and make no independent investigations. But Hassel is quite right in the observation that, statistically speaking, adopteds and foster children experience a more difficult childhood and youth and also make more trouble for their carers than biological children.

    " - - hva barn trenger og hva et adoptivbarn trenger. ...... Etter hvert får vi mere forskning i Norge. Og vi vet også hvilke vanskeligheter adoptivforeldre sliter med over år, og hva det kreves av adoptivforeldre for å kunne mestre situasjoner. Slik at vi må ikke bagatellisere barnas situasjon."
( - - what children need and what an adoptive child needs. ....... We are gradually getting more research in Norway. And we also know what difficulties adoptive parents struggle with for years, and what is needed in order for adoptive parents to master situations. So that we must not trivialise the children's situation.)

My only objection to her thinking here is to the one-sided focus on
Norwegian research. International research on adoption is at least as relevant, and considering the serious problems encountered in many adoption cases around the world, it seems more self-serving than ethical not to form Norwegian practice according to what is known already, instead of waiting, while investing ever more for our own politically correct researchers to find out the same things – or something else, which is what they often hope for.

    "Hva er det en familie står overfor ofte - og i forhold til denne saken også?"
(What is a family often up against – and in the present case also?)

    "Noe av det vanskeligste, det er tilknytningsproblematikk, avvisning, krav og krav og krav og avvisning i årevis kan de slite med. Og så er det helseproblemer, det er tidlig pubertet, det er overgangsproblemer, store språkproblemer, veldig mange adoptivbarn har jo mye skoleproblematikk. Så det er ganske mye som adoptivforeldre sliter med."
(Among the most difficult are attachment problematics, rejection; they can struggle with demands and demands and rejection for years and years. And then there are health problems, early puberty, resettlement problems, great language problems, very many adopted children have a lot of school problems. So there is quite a lot for adoptive parents to struggle with.)

Karen Hassel realises, obviously, that in spite of screening and planning of adoptive families, and in spite of an ideology idealising adoption, there are grave problems.


But then, a few months later, in September 2001, psychologist Hassel was a witness in court for the authorities in a forced adoption case (a different case from the one discussed in the TV program), in which the authorities pushed through the adopting away of Adele Johansen's daughter Signe Malene (Adele's name for her) to foster parents, by force, completely contrary to Adele's wish and in spite of Norway having in 1996 been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for having broken the contact between mother and daughter. (Cf ref 1 – 4.)
    In court (open procedures, demanded by Adele, with access both for the press and the general public), psychologist Karen Hassel claimed that the forced adoption was completely unproblematic and she strongly advised that it be carried through. She held that there was no attachment at all between Adele and Signe Malene which could complicate the adoption, because they had been apart for 10 years. (When the ECtHR verdict came in 1996, the state should immediately have seen to it that contact was re-established and then increased, but of course they had deliberately prevented this.)
    Was there no attachment between Adele and Signe Malene? During the trials it emerged that Signe Malene had asked and been concerned about her mother from she was quite small, and had actively sought her in various ways, repeatedly, from an early age. When at last Adele's new lawyer, much against the will of the child protection agency as well as all other authorities, managed to get a court decision that there was to be a meeting, this turned out in every way very good. Signe Malene hugged Adele several times without in any way being asked to do so; when given little letters from her unknown sister and brothers and shown pictures of them, she said that now she felt that she had real siblings, she wanted to meet them, to go home with Adele to get to know them all, and have Adele come with her to "see her room" in the foster home. The meeting was so successful that the authorities were worried, and made the continuation of the case into a maze of contradictions and downright lies, even claiming that Signe Malene hated Adele and was afraid of her. Signe Malene was adopted away, but tried to contact her mother and siblings later on also, in spite of obviously having been intensely worked on to take exception to Adele, distrust her motives and consider her a stranger.


So the state's top decider, qualified psychologist Karen Hassel, with several decades of experience, says one thing in court, and just about the opposite in an interview four months earlier when she stressed how difficult and troublesome adoption is and how problematic it is for adoptive parents and children to feel parent-child togetherness even if they live together for years and years. And Hassel worked as the leader of the state agency for adoptions, which seems to try to promote adoptions as much as possible.
    In court, Karen Hassel was asked whether the attitude to child protection and adoption practiced today is based on behaviorism (cf ref 4). Her answer was something like this: – Oh no, not at all, we use many methods, such as attachment theory and psychodynamic method.
    Hassel was apparently not aware that attachment theory and psychodynamic psychology (which stem from Freudian psycho-analysis) are both fairly typically deterministic and close to primitive behaviorism.

Psychologist Karen Hassel's work in the field of adoption is clearly criticisable, especially as she has been the leader of the state's
Faglig utvalg for adopsjoner (Professional committee for adoptions).


Karen Hassel as editor of a collection of descriptions of research and other projects in the child protection field

Karen Hassel has authored and published professional books. In 1991 she functioned as editor of a report in the form of a book or rather a collection entitled
Barnevernets idébank – 101 tiltak – (The 'bank of ideas' in Barnevernet) (ref 5 and 6)).

This is a collection of projects already carried out and some suggestions and proposals for projects, made by municipal Barnevern offices, establishments on higher administrative levels, e.g hospitals or state or county units for child and youth psychiatry, or other units or people involved in aspects of child policies and child protection. It came about in response to a questionnaire distributed by Barnevernets Utviklingssenter (The Norwegian institute of child welfare research).

The foreword by the leader of Barnevernets Utviklingssenter Terje Ogden and the introduction by Karen Hassel describe quite ambitious plans for the use of the book, on all levels and in all professions concerned with children. There had been considerable publicity in the child-professional press and at interdisciplinary meetings to encourage sending in to Barnevernets Utviklingssenter descriptions of projects and suggestions for listing in the report.

Ogden says:
"Arbeidet er utført ved Barnevernets Utviklingssenter av psykolog Karen Hassel. Hun har hatt den tidkrevende og utfordrende jobben det er å samle inn det som finnes av aktuelt stoff i feltet. Siden det er første gangen en slik oversikt utarbeides har hun utført et omfattende feltarbeid for å finne fram til personer og beskrivelser av interesse."
(The work has been carried out at the Norwegian institute of child welfare research by psychologist Karen Hassel. She has had the time-consuming and challenging job of collecting the matter of interest which exists in the field. Since this is the first time such a survey is developed, she has carried out comprehensive field work to find persons and descriptions of interest.)

Karen Hassel has an introduction in several parts, explaining the background, the collecting procedure and the proposed structure of the 'bank of ideas'. She says:
"Noen prosjekter er blitt engangstiltak mens andre har gitt nye metoder og arbeidsformer som har blitt en del av sosialkontorenes metodetilfang. .....
   Det er dette ”spekter av tiltak” som idébanken prøver å fange, slik at både tiltakene og de erfaringene som er høstet gjennom dem blir tilgjengelig for alle."
(Some of the projects have only been carried out once while others have yielded new methods and forms of work which have become part of the methods at the disposal of the social offices.....
    This "set of projects" is what the 'bank of ideas' tries to capture, so that both the projects and the conclusions drawn from them are made available to everyone.)

There are no comments at all by Karen Hassel to any of the projects, nor any indication in the introduction that she has evaluated them. Her editing may have consisted in simplifying descriptions into summaries, while she seems to have changed or amplified none of the contents.
    She indicates no worry about any of projects possibly being in breach of the law, or having potentially harmful effects. Nor does she express any opinion of her own about ways of spending research money. She has apparently helped the authors formulating their projects more clearly than they were able to do, stating in her introduction that the suggestions were often unclear in their wording of what they want to achieve. Perhaps Hassel takes it for granted that what they wanted to achieve was competent and useful – the authors are just somewhat helpless in formulating it. Even with her help, some of the descriptions are still rather vague.
    With this attitude, partly implicit, partly expressed, Karen Hassel as editor cannot be presumed to be critical of any of the contents of the report, but rather to identify with them to some extent.

Although briefly described, the 101 listed projects give some insight into what official Norway has done and wishes to do in a fairly wide field of child welfare, and how the professionals go about trying to accomplish it. Finding and collecting it may have been challenging, as stated by Mr Ogden, but rather than yielding 'new methods and forms of work which have become part of the methods at the disposal of the social offices', they seem to continue what we know was pretty much in use in the decades before 1991 also, and there is hardly anything which has not continued in fairly regular practice in the child protection field up to the present. These are projects and activities which express the originators' ideas and ways of thinking about children and families. Their ways of thinking have had a large part in forming Barnevernet the way it still is today. The idea expressed by Hassel, that new methods and forms of work have resulted from the projects already carried out, is up against a serious objection because there is no reference at all to the outcome of projects. Nor are the methods employed described in any detail. One could say that anyone interested in knowing more about the details of a project would contact the 'contact person'. But some kind of reliable information about results, preferably based on statistical comparisons, is called for when the projects are included in a catalogue said to be based on gained experience and aiming expressly to be useful for people working in schools, kindergartens, the pedagogical-psychological service, educational institutions, child and youth psychiatry, the school health service, in addition to the CPS offices around the country.

Two projects should be mentioned specifically:

p 50

Title: "Bruk av enveisspeil i arbeid med barnevernsaker"
(Use of one way mirrors in work with child protection cases)

Aim: "1. Yte bedre rådgivning. 2. Mer målrettet intervju. 3. Direkte veiledning til saksbehandler. 4. Synliggjøre fremmende/hemmende samspillsfaktorer. 5. Se ressurser hos klienten"
(1. Give better counselling. 2. More purposeful interview. 3. Direct guidance of case worker. 4. Show concretely positive / negative interactional factors. 5. See resources in the client)

Target group: "Saksbehandlere og klienter"
(Case workers and clients)

Method: "2 ansatte (med familien), 1-2 bak speilet, konsultasjon og påpeking underveis"
(2 employees (with the family), 1-2 behind the mirror, consultation and concrete running comments)

A central question is not made clear: who is to know about the one way mirror and who is not. The target group being said to include the clients maybe indicates that they are to be informed. But if the purpose is that social workers behind the mirror, who cannot be seen on the other side, are going to teach and guide the social workers who are in dialogue with a family, it seems likely that the family does not know they are being observed, or their behaviour would be strongly affected by knowing that the meeting was a kind of theatrical sketch. 'Clients' – families in child protection cases – are on the other hand usually not in a position to protest or make conditions, and would not get anywhere by complaining after the fact.

Apart from the question of legality of secret surveillance of someone who is in a difficult position but not under criminal arrest, and the ethics of it, there is the further question of whether the description of such activity, in a collection of projects explicitly aimed to encourage other workers in CPS offices to initiate similar activities, is legal or ethical. Such questions should be made clear in the description of the project.

p 81

Trygg og Sterk (tidligere Incestinformasjon)
(Safe/Secure and Strong (previous Incest Information))

Starting point: "Vansker med å avdekke og forebygge seksuelle overgrep mot barn"
(Difficulties in discovering and preventing sexual abuse of children)

Aim: "Forebygge seksuelle og andre overgrep mot barn. Bevisstgjøre barn om deres rettigheter. Styrke barns evne til å stå opp for seg selv og forsvare seg."
(Prevent sexual and other abuse of children. Make children conscious of their rights. Strengthen children's ability to stand up for themselves and defend themselves.)

Target groups:
"Lærere og førskolelærere, voksne som arbeider med barn."
(Teachers, pre-school teachers, adults working with children)

"Kursvirksomhet. Produktutvikling. Evaluering"
(Courses. Development of the product. Evaluation)

Start: 1 March 1986
Financing: Oslo municipality
This project had resulted in a publication in 1988:
Laila Vielfaure and Lita Fougner:
Prosjekt Trygg og Sterk. Rapport fra 2 års forsøksvirksomht i hvordan forebygge seksuelle overgrep på barn.
(Project Safe and Strong. Report from 2 years of trial activity in how to prevent sexual abuse of children.)
One of the authors is listed as the contact person for others who want information and/or to use the course material.

The course was developed on the basis of a similar American one, in the middle of the sex abuse craze in several countries in the Western World which resulted in many tragedies of innocent parents, kindergarten teachers and others being jailed, their innocence in many cases being demonstrated later. Some committed suicide. There are many high quality books and articles about this topic, showing e.g the ease with which questioning of children can lead to false conclusions.
    A prevailing attitude among Norwegian psychologists and social workers is to believe that they have the professional insight and the tools to investigate, assess and advise people with some certainly (cf ref 10 and 11). They ordinarily know little of the important sources of error, which are actually well-known in scientific psychology but all to often ignored in clinical psychology. There are other project listed in the 'bank of ideas' collection dealing with sex abuse in similar ways to the "Trygg og Sterk" course.

In Norway a large such case of the type leading to hysteria was the Bjugn kindergarten case (ref 7, only available in Norwegian). It had parallels in Münster in Germany, Shieldfield i North England (ref 9), and in North America.
    Some people connected to the CPS in Bjugn arranged for the "Trygg og Sterk" course to be used there. Hans Kringstad's book showed this to be one of the factors which contributed to triggering the case (ref 11, pp 27-28, 39). Several persons in Bjugn who were present at the course, and who also saw what came later, judged the course to have been very detrimental. But this was in the following years. The "Trygg og Sterk" course was held in Bjugn in February 1992, i.e after the publication of the 'bank of ideas' report. Criticism of Hassel on account of her having included "Trygg og Sterk" in the catalogue of good ideas of projects in Barnevernet would therefore have to be on a general level, of her not at all thinking of and looking into possible effects of that which she was the editor of, regarding the "Trygg og Sterk" project on a par with the lack of any clarification of the use of one-way mirrors in the p 50 project.

Whether her work with the report deserves the name of 'editing' is quite a question. But if so, she also shares something of the ill results of this kind of activities being encouraged and spread in child work in Norway. Her editorial work has been uncritical and therefore not sufficiently responsible, given the serious nature of what is done to children and their families by the child protection professions.



Case of Johansen v. Norway (1) (27 June 1996)
The European Court of Human Rights

Marianne Haslev Skånland (16 March 2012):
The Child Protection Service (CPS) – unfortunately the cause of grievous harm
Part 2: Content, dimension, causes and mechanisms of CPS activities

Case (a)
MHS's home page

Lennart Sjöberg (30 November 2001):
Adele Johansen vs Norway: A mother fighting for her child
Nordiska Komittén för Mänskliga Rättigheter (NKMR)

Marianne Haslev Skånland (13 October 2017):
How Norwegian experts came to reject biological kinship as relevant in child welfare policy
MHS's home page

Karen Hassel (ed) (1991):
Barnevernets idébank – 101 tiltak – (The 'bank of ideas' in Barnevernet)
Rapport 1, ISSN 0802-42781991
Barnevernets Utviklingssenter (Norwegian institute of child welfare research)

Marianne Haslev Skånland (to be published):
About Norwegian Barnevernet's 'bank of ideas' from 1991

Bjugn-saken (the Bjugn case) (last editing: 31 May 2018)

Astrid Holgerson (1995):
Professionals as Evaluators or Indoctrinators in Sex Abuse Cases
Institute for Psychological Therapies, Volume 7, Number 4

Richard Webster (4 December 2002):
Shieldfield: how did it happen?

Terje Carlsen (13 November 2017):
NRK og Redd Barna gir en oppskrift på justismord (NRK [the National Broadcasting Co] and Save the Children give a recipe for miscarriage of justice)
Stavanger Aftenblad

Hans Kringstad (1997):
Bjugn-formelen (The Bjugn formula)
Tiden Norsk Forlag, ISBN 82-10-04241-6


Some professional child experts
27 August 2018 –