Minister defends ‘Barnevernet’

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The name of the Norwegian state agency charged with ensuring the welfare of children, Barnevernet, has become well-known far beyond Norway’s borders, for all the wrong reasons. Thorny cases of children taken away from foreign parents have made headlines from India to Lithuania but now the government minister in charge of the embattled agency is coming to its defense, while also promising to take all the complaints against it seriously.

Solveig Horne, the government minister in charge of children's and family issues, is now tackling the controversy around Norway's state child welfare agency "barnevernet." PHOTO: regjeringen.no

Solveig Horne, the government minister in charge of children’s and family issues, is now tackling the controversy around Norway’s state child welfare agency “Barnevernet.” “Barn” means “child” in Norwegian, while “vern” means “protection.” PHOTO: regjeringen.no

Solveig Horne of the Progress Party wrote in a column in newspaper Aftenposten this week that her ministry is considering some changes in child welfare laws and new lines of responsibility for child welfare cases between the state and local governments. One thing, she wrote, is clear: “All children who live in Norway have a right to care and protection. That’s something we’re proud of, but it’s also demanding.”

It’s especially demanding when various cultures and ethnic backgrounds are involved. Norway has a law against slapping or otherwise physically punishing a child, for example, and that’s not always understood by parents who have moved to Norway from countries where slapping a child is not unusual. After a rash of cases in which children were placed in foster homes, Barnevernet and Norway itself has faced a flood of hostile media coverage in their parents’ home countries.

As Norwegian embassies have been confronted by protesters, Barnevernet has also faced criticism at home, both for failing to act in a child’s best interests and for stepping in and removing a child from a troubled home. This week, a long list of professionals including psychologists, social workers, lawyers and academics launched a petition to call the Parliament’s attention to problems swirling around Barnevernet.

‘Dysfunctional’
“Society wants to be confident that Barnevernet operates with high professional competence and exercises good judgment … but those of us involved in individual cases unfortunately see another reality all too often,” their petition reads. They continued that there are “many situations when Barnevernet steps in and takes over custody of a child, with its workers tackling this demanding job in the best manner. At the same time we see examples where the agency is viewed as a dysfunctional organization that makes the wrong evaluations with serious consequences.”

Earlier this week, Jan Storø of the University College of Oslo and Akershus called upon Horne to take a more active role in the controversy around Barnevernet. Støro acknowledged that much of the criticism from abroad involves “wild accusations” but other complaints can be legitimate. Through it all, he has missed an active response from the politicians responsible, complaining Horne herself has been much too quiet on the issue, as have Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Svein Harberg, who heads the parliamentary committee in charge of family and culture.

Horne promises that she is indeed looking into the trouble at Barnevernet. “It’s demanding to reach beyond our borders to get out correct information, but we are using resoures and making it a priority to do so,” she claims. “Norwegian authorities have on several occasions spoken up in foreign media to offer information about Barnevernet. We have experienced, though, that interviews are edited and presented incorrectly.”

More resources granted, and a study
Horne noted that more than 4,000 Lithuanians had protested against the negative picture presented of Barnevernet in their country. Information about Barnevernet is also being presented both through her ministry and the foreign ministry, to clarify Norwegian law and parents’ rights.

Horne said the directorate in charge of child and family issues (Bufdir) has been granted more resources to boost competence and help local governments as advisers in specific cases with international aspects. And she has commissioned a study to see whether Barnevernet workers evaluate cases involving Norwegian children differently from those involving children of non-Norwegians. Bufdir, she wrote, is also in the midst of a three-year project aimed at increasing confidence in its operations within immigrant communities in Norway.

“Barnevernet is an agency that attracts both positive and negative coverage in the media,” Horne wrote in her column. “Children have told me that Barnevernet came into their homes too late, others too early. We have challenges within Barnevernet. It’s a complicated picture, but Barnevernet’s work is always based on what’s best for the child.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • Olivier

    Well, Barnevernet does not put kids in foster home if there is only “light” punishment ( if you can call anything “light” ). If they get the kids out, it means that they have been repeated and heavy abuse. Again parents trying to “defend” themself by saying that it someone else fault, instead of looking at what they did and improve.

    • frenk

      Seems to me that there are people in charge of ‘government/council operations’ in Norway that simply don’t know what they are doing….combine this with a ‘lets be nice to everyone attitude’…combined with ‘lets spend as little money on everything attitude’….and…well…this is what you get – ‘Norway’. ‘Competence’ – you are having a laugh.

    • inquisitor

      So there is no record of cases of overzealous reach or abuse of authority by this organization?
      I have a friend that will finish her education and begin working in this agency, so I will then have the inside scoop…just like I do with the highly dysfunctional and abusive NAV.

      • Heidi Pettersen

        There’s loads and loads of such records

    • Heidi Pettersen

      YES… “barnevernet” DO put kids in fosterhomes
      after producing their own “proves” of none-exising punishment/abuse and so on. That’s exactely the problem!

    • Trond_63

      Yes, they put kids in foster homes for far less than “light punishment”. They even use the term “not enough emotional contact between mother and child” as a reason to put kids in foster homes. That “assesement” is based on a few visits from a person that are supposed to observe the family, but always interferes and by this creates a situation where the “emotional contact” is different from normal day to day life. This is used in court to take kids from their families and put them in foster homes. No abuse, no drugs, no alcohol abuse, no violence, and no “light punishment” involved.

      Before you ask, Yes, it can be documented. I know of several such cases.

  • frenk

    This country is a ‘total shambles’?

  • “Barnevernetes” biggest problem is the total lack of scientific understanding and knowledge of the biology in the attachment with the parents.

    • pzk

      I think even ordinary human understanding would be of great help.

  • She denies that Norway, like many other countries have laws against terror, kidnapping, torture, genocide, crimes against humanity, the degradation of human beings, etc.

    She defends such gross criminal political public activities!

  • Arianne Høvik Christiansen

    hahaha…barnevernet has never understood what is best for children. They do not listen to children. Only if the children agree with them. Otherwise, children’s own view is neglected..Oliver…you have no clue about what is going on..you are propaganda fed. But, that is your problem. Ask the children, before barnevernet start to mind manipulate them… they all want their parents, in their lives. In one way or the other…it is written in the law of nature

    • Olivier

      Sure, propaganda fed. You do not know anything about me, or for the matter my kids and my personal history. You certainly don’t know what some people can do. Life is full of very bad people that does very bad things to their kid. I don’t know how many time I have to explain why I have my kids 100% with mother visitation under supervision for the youngest one ( the oldest dont want to see her ) and get the “the mother might be very sad, poor mother”. No one actually said “poor kid, they have been physically and mentally abuse”.

      I guess most of you talk without have gone through that. The bernvern did a good job for us, it took a lot of back and forth ( and sadly time ) because they wanted to be sure of the fact, talking with the girls, seeing different specialist and psychologist.

      For the rest of the comment, what about kids that got rapped by their parents ? do you think they still want to see them ? How crazy does that sound ?

      So yeah I’m either propaganda fed, or you are just being irrational.

      I would add, how many case of “abusive” decision VS how many case of actually saving the kids ? We only see the bad story ( and there is not that much ), but no one talk about the good stories, where the kids are actually saved ( and by saved, I literally mean saved ).

      Again, the internet, full of people that know way better, because they have read somewhere that something is bad ( or because they are actually guilty of something, and just use that disguise themself ).

      I will add, I do not speak Norwegian, nor read it, so I wonder how I can get any kind of propaganda.

  • Finn Kristian Halvorsen

    Norway have a system it is impossible to trust. Norway have also a lot of corrupted people in the system ans also try to push the economy part over to the goverment.

  • Korneliusz Zaczek

    it is prety sad to see so many problems with no undrstanding of what is the best for children. So if you have problem with understanding that maybe supposed to be open some family centres run by non goverment Foundations which help parents to meet rigt criteria of what is the best for children based on scientific research from around the globe. Families for children should suport other parents and family members to find good solutions. But it will never happen. this is the AP-SV political plan for long term emplyment in public sector which is also in operation of privat barnevern- (privat companies which serves its service and provide jobs to local market. This is all about to ensure profits and secure cosial jobs. I don mind so many workers helping people in parental responsiblility for children development. We in international group of people see some fact which shadow very dark on some cases where children are simply not heard. Even Magne Raundalen committe has wrote that Barnevernet does not have enough money to monitor children placed in Foster care. So this wild west can carry on on children who live in Foster care under hardcore conditions and abuse. Primitive way of making money on children.

  • Olivier

    Do you have a link for these numbers ?

    • Yo!

      By the way, only in 2012: “According to the latest available statistics 6,737 children were taken into care”…in only ONE year…

  • Even in Canada we have heard that you steal children from well-minded families and give them to some agency who send them to some other shady families. This is the subject of APEAL and against the human rights. You also destroy families. Many families like the ones you steal the children are Christian families. SHAME on Norvegian system who treats foregin children like some comodity for other people who are impotent to have real, authentic families. I hope this practice will be brought to some International Tribunals where your country will pay for the families that you have stolen the children. I will also share all the stories of people who have children stolen from your “welfare” system so other countries think twice before stepping into your country. I practically I am not interested in visiting it even as a tourist. SAD and UNFAIR and hope that the future will shade some light into the unfaireness of your practices.

  • Margaret

    This is legalized child trafficking. Thousands of children needing to be taken from their homes in such a relatively small population????Cold and heartless. Destroying human lives. News is spreading in the United States about this too. Do the right thing Europe and stop this legalized child trafficking.

  • Michael Harris

    This is how Barnevernet is distroying lifes:

    In a period of 13 years from 1990 to 2002, the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, NIBR, followed 100,000 children in child care across the country. National data are used by Statistics Norway. Mortality is much higher among children in care than among other children and death is mainly due to accidents, suicide, homicide and assault. In 2001, 114 children died in child care, compared to 168 in the rest of the population.

    150 youth, affiliated child care committed suicide in 1990-2001, 8 times more than young people in normal families. Children with links to child welfare and their desperate parents are far sicker than other families. They have major health problems, and there are more suicides among these parents than among other parents. These are discouraging statistics.

    http://www.nibr.no/pub109

    http://www.nibr.no/filer/2005-12.pdf

  • Agnès Valentin

    Please could anyone explain Ms Horne and higher officials in Norway how families torn apart by so called good intentions and principles feel?
    It is revolting, inhuman, “nazi”, this way of thinking “children’s best interests”. Barnevernet has too much power and a foster care system is to be considered as a “a necessary evil” just in extreme cases, not in dozens of thousands!
    Has Norway lost its head and heart??? Did anyone of you people read A. Huxley’s “Brave New World”?