Norwegian Child Protection Barnevernet (CWS), a State Within the State?

By Morten Ørsal Johansen
Translated by Professor Marianne H. Skanland

Barnevernet, the Norwegian Child Welfare Services (CWS), do not remove children from their parents for no reason, or do they? I have to admit that I myself have been among those who thought that there must be a very good reason behind their taking children into care. The first thing you think of is that probably, the parents have subjected their children to violence, or to neglect, there are drug or alcohol problems in the family or they have in some other way exposed the children to serious neglect. In the course of my political life I have obtained thorough insight into Barnevernet and close contact with many of the families who are affected by the agency. I will go as far as to say they have been struck by disaster.

Here in Oppland county I have got to know cases, have seen documents, and have heard recordings, which have made me wonder what kind of establishment the CWS are, what kind of people work there, what kind of municipalities let the CWS charge ahead in the way they want to do.

I was a witness in a case before the County Committee, the tribunal that oversees CWS cases. That was when it really became clear to me how erroneous this system is. Thirteen witnesses were heard, from the CWS, from the service for Child and Youth Psychiatry, the school, the health nurse, a mandated expert, and the family. Lillehammer CWS were alone in going for taking into care, the other twelve witnesses were against. The decision of the County Committee was that the child was to be taken into care!

In the municipality of Gran, the children of a family were taken, without warning, from the school and the kindergarten, while the parents were fetched from their jobs by the police. The cause was that an adult had reported a worry to the CWS, four months earlier (!), when she had heard one of the children say that their daddy gets just as angry as the father in the story and film “Emil i Lønneberget”.

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