City officials in Oslo closed a painful chapter in the capital’s history this week, as it wrapped up a four-year effort to make amends to children who were abused at city-run institutions and foster homes. The victims, now grown, have received formal apologies and payments of as much as NOK 700,000 (USD 116,000).
Other cities and townships around Norway are adopting the successful program Oslo introduced after the children’s poor treatment over the years became known. Many of the group-up victims had kept quiet, or felt they wouldn’t be believed. As children in the 1950s and 1960s, they were largely overlooked.
Now men like Einar Litsheim, who was placed by city officials in an abusive foster home in 1963, feel they’ve finally received some compensation. “What I experienced as a boy will always remain with me, and I still feel like I’m not worth much,” he told newspaper Dagsavisen. “But it helps that the City of Oslo has taken responsibility for what happened to my sisters and I.”
They were removed from a Norwegian home characterized by alcoholism and abuse, but ended up being put in a foster home that was even worse. They were beaten, forced to eat fish infested with worms, dressed in rags and thus subjected to humiliation at school. City authorities failed to monitor their welfare, and Litsheim had to endure the abuse for 10 years.
Now the city has compensated him and 943 other so-called barnehjems-barn (children’s home children). Oslo has spent years screening and verifying relatively unbureaucratic applications for compensation from the victims, paid out a total of NOK 562 million and issued formal apologies.
“It was expensive, but worth it,” said the head of the city government Stian Berger Røsland of the Conservative Party. “We had a clear moral obligation after what happened to so many children in the city, and make sure they realize it wasn’t their fault.”