This is an absolutely chilling story from Norway, whose state-run child protection agency seizes children and separates them from families on flimsy pretexts. Excerpts:
Ruth and Marius’s life was torn apart without warning one Monday afternoon last November when two black cars approached the farm where they live in a remote Norwegian valley.
Their two little boys, aged five and two, and their three-month-old baby son, were in their big, bright, modern living room overlooking the steel-grey fjord.
Ruth was waiting as usual for the school bus that would bring back their two daughters, aged eight and 10.
But that Monday, it never came. Instead, Ruth saw the two unknown cars. One continued along the main road; the other turned up the farm track – and a woman from the local child protection service knocked at the door.
She told Ruth to come to the police station for interrogation.
The woman said the other black car had taken Ruth’s two daughters away, into emergency state care. And she told Ruth to hand over her two older sons to be taken away, too.
The following day, two black cars appeared again. The couple assumed it had all been a terrible mistake and the children had been brought back.
But they were wrong. Four policemen got out. And took the baby.
It turns out that Ruth and Marius spanked their kids occasionally, which is illegal in Norway. Ruth, a pediatric nurse, says a medical examination of the kids showed no problems, but the law says there can be no corporal punishment of any kind — and this was something the couple claims not to have known.
Now the state is attempting to permanently remove their five children — to steal them from their parents, forever. The couple are Pentecostals, and Marius is a Romanian immigrant, two factors that lead supporters to believe they are the victims of discrimination. According to Marius’s brother:
What we know so far, and is now also supported by documentation, is that the entire investigation started from an alert provided to the Barnevernet by the school principal, where the girls Eliana and Naomi attend. The principal called Barnervernet, expressing ‘concerns’: the girls told her they are being disciplined at home, also the girls are ‘challenging’ in the sense that they talk a lot and do not want to obey the school rules, but are creative and intelligent. In her message she also said that the parents are faithful Christians, ‘very Christian’ and the grandmother has a strong faith that God punishes sin, which, in her opinion, creates a disability in children. According to the principal’s statement, the girls’ aunts and uncles also share this belief. The complaint further says that although the girls are distinguished by good results at school and that she does not believe them to be physically abused at home, she believes that the parents need ‘help’ and guidance from the Barnevernet into raising their children.
Can you believe that? The whole thing started not because of suspicion of physical abuse, but because a busybody school principal didn’t like the kind of Christianity the family observes. So the Norwegian state smashed a family when there is no evidence of serious abuse. The whole thing could probably have been solved with a stern talking-to. But no, the Norwegian state feels compelled to destroy a family.
This couple is not alone. Barnevernet, the child protection agency, takes most kids now because it doesn’t like the parenting style of moms and dads. More:
That, in short, is the reason Barnevernet gave for taking away the four-month-old baby daughter of a young Norwegian father called Erik and his Chinese wife in the country’s second city, Bergen.
Home videos of the little girl when she was three and four months old show her lying in her cot, apparently alert and responsive as she interacts with her parents.
But Barnevernet, the child protection service, said lack of eye contact, and other signs, revealed she was suffering serious psychological harm. They said her parents couldn’t meet her emotional needs, partly because her mother was depressed, and Erik – to quote one social worker – was “simple”.
However, Erik’s never been diagnosed with any condition other than a slight lack of short-term memory when he was small. And the baby was never examined clinically by any health professional to establish if anything was wrong with her, and if so whether the parents could be at fault.
One journalist has calculated that children with a foreign mother are four times more likely to be seized than those with native Norwegian mothers. This suggests that the authorities are prone to criminalizing differing parental styles. Erik’s father tells the BBC that his daughter-in-law’s Chinese mother cared for the baby, which is common in China but not in Norway — and he theorizes that that’s what drew the authorities.
Read the whole thing. It’s terrifying that agents of the state can take your children without warning, only because those agents don’t like the way you’re raising them. Around 170 psychologists and others who work in the child welfare field have published an open letter of protest to the government, accusing Barnevernet of running amok.
Norway is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited, and I am very fond of its people. But it sounds like this government agency is a stain on its reputation.
(Thanks to the reader who sent this story.)