Norway is considered as one of the happiest countries in the world, however, the Child Protection Services or Barnevern in Norwegian has caused considerable controversy. The European Court of Human Rights has issued a warning on Barnevern for its aggressive action against some families.
According to our source, a Chinese family has also been involved with Barnevern. Meanwhile, we rarely see public voice from Barnevern, so here comes this interview with them. We want to know what Barnevern is doing and how they are going to respond to all the accuses and scandals.
Could you give a short introduction about what is barnevern to the Chinese in Norway? Many of them do not know this organization until their doors are knocked by barnevern.
First of all, let me underline that protection of children has a high priority in Norway, and that children have a strong legal position in this country.
The primary duty of the Child Welfare Service is to ensure that children and young people living under conditions that may harm their health and development will receive the necessary assistance when needed, and to contribute to giving children and young people safe, secure and caring conditions for growing up. The Child Welfare Service provide help and support to children, adolescents and parents who are experiencing challenges or difficulties within the family. The Child Welfare Services may also get involved if a child is in need of help for other reasons, such as behavioural issues connected to drugs or alcohol.
2 How barnevern know there are children or families who need help? Through police, barnehagen, or neighborhood?
The Child Welfare Services often receives a telephone call or a letter that describes how the caller or writer is concerned that a child or a family is in difficulties or not doing as well it should.
The police, the Child Welfare Service and the child’s school are the ones that most often report concern to the Child Welfare Service. Letters of concern can also be sent from the child`s kindergarten, health personnel, neighbours or the child`s relatives. Children and adolescence themselves do not usually report to the Child Welfare Service, however, when they do report it is usually a grave matter.
3 How barnevern decide that they need take the case with respect to a family? Or in what situation barnevern will take action? Do you have written rules on the website? barnevern
When the Child Welfare Service receives a letter of concern regarding a child, it shall, within one week at the latest, examine the concern and assess whether the case needs to be followed up by an investigation. This is in accordance with the Child Welfare Act Section 4-3. The requirement to begin an investigation is if there is reasonable cause to assume that there are circumstances in which child welfare measures are necessary. There is therefore a low requirement in order to begin an investigation.
If there is a risk that a child will suffer material harm by remaining at home, the Head of the Child Welfare Service in the municipality or the prosecuting authority, may immediately issue an emergency order without the consent of the parents. This in accordance with the Child Welfare Act Section 4-6. Such an order must be sent to an independent board for approval, the County Social Welfare Board.
5 When barnevern take a case, what are the common actions? Where does barnebarn get authorization? Does the law in Norway give barnevern the right to do these things? And what can barnevern do and not do according to the law?
It is important to underline that duties and procedures in child welfare cases are regulated by law in the Norwegian Child Welfare Act.
As mentioned above, a case starts when the Child Welfare Service receives a letter of concern. If there is reasonable cause to assume that there are circumstances in which child welfare measures are necessary, the Child Welfare Service will start an investigation. The purpose of the investigation is to gain information about the child and the child`s situation. The investigation shall be carried out as soon as possible and within three months at the latest. (In special cases the time limit may be six months.) During an investigation the Child Welfare Services will gather necessary information in order to make an informed decision as to whether or not further work in the case is necessary, i.e. whether the child needs assistance. The parents will be called on to attend a meeting at the Child Welfare Service’s office or at the home. When the parents meet with the Child Welfare Service, they are given information about the letter of concern. The Child Welfare Services will often also contact others who know the child and the family, for example the local health centre, kindergarten, school, and similar. Experts may also be engaged. An investigation is completed when the child welfare service has made a decision to implement measures or it has been decided to dismiss the case.
If the Child Welfare Service finds that the child is in particular need of assistance, due to conditions at home or for other reasons, it shall initiate measures to assist the child and the family. The aim of such measures is to ensure sound living conditions for children. Such assistance can for example be appointing a personal support contact, ensuring that the child is given a place at a kindergarten, assistance in the form of financial support or advice and guidance to the parents.
The Child Welfare Act gives the Child Welfare Service the right to investigate and initiate measures to assist the child and family. If the Child Welfare Service considers that an emergency care order is necessary, the order must be sent to the County Social Welfare Board for approval.
Initiation of a care order also requires due process in the County Social Welfare Board. The boards make decision in child welfare cases when compulsory measures are needed and their decisions are based upon the conditions in the Child Welfare Act. Please see more information about the distinction between emergency care orders and care orders under our answer to question 8.
The County Social Welfare Board is an independent, decision-making authority led by a judge, and the Board has special knowledge about children and children`s rights.
6 As a newcomer to Norway, many of them do not know the Norwegian rules regarding how children should be treated, where can we get all the information about the rules of raising a child in Norway?
The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs are aware that many newcomers find it difficult to familiarise themselves with the Norwegian system. On our website there is a lot of information in English about the system and the expectations regarding how to raise a child in Norway. Please see https://bufdir.no/en/English
7. What´s kind of help can we get from barnevern if parents have difficulties in raising children?
The Child welfare service offers a lot of measures to assist the child and the family. Such assistance can for example be appointing a personal support contact, ensuring that the child is given a place at a kindergarten, assistance in the form of financial support or advice and guidance to the parents.
Many of the Child Welfare Service’s cases have started as a result of one or both of the parents asking for assistance.
8 When and how children are taken from their parents?
When it comes to removal of children from the home, there is an important distinction between emergency orders and care orders.
If there is a risk that a child will suffer material harm by remaining at home, the Head of the Child Welfare Service in the municipality or the prosecuting authority, can immediately make an emergency order without the consent of the parents. When such an emergency order is made it must be sent to the County Social Welfare Board for approval. The order shall be approved by the board chair as soon as possible and if possible within 48 hours of receipt of the case by the County Social Welfare Board. The conditions for such an urgent measure are stringent, and are regulated in the Child Welfare Act Section 4-6. It will not be implemented if voluntary assistance measures can reduce the risk of harm for the child. If a decision is made by the County Social Welfare Board to approve the emergency order, the parents can appeal such a decision.
If an emergency order is made and the Child Welfare Service finds it necessary to file for a care order, an application must be sent to the County Social Welfare Board as soon as possible, and within six weeks at the latest. A decision is based on the overall consideration of the child’s best interests.
There are strict rules as to when a care order can be made. A care order may be passed:
- if there are serious deficiencies in the everyday care received by the child, or serious deficiencies in terms of the personal contact and security needed by a child of his or her age and development,
- if the parents fail to ensure that a child who is ill, disabled or in special need of assistance receives the treatment and training required,
- if the child is mistreated or subjected to other serious abuses at home, or
- if it is highly probable that the child’s health or development may be seriously harmed because the parents are unable to take adequate responsibility for the child.
It is also a requirement that the care order is necessary due to the child’s situation and in the child’s best interest. Further, an important condition is that a care order cannot be issued if voluntary measures can provide satisfactory conditions for the child.
The conditions for a care order are regulated in the Norwegian Child Welfare Act Section 4-12.
In care order-cases, parents are entitled to free legal aid, and parents can file the decision from the County Social Welfare Board before the District court.
9 Where are children sent to? How do you pick up a foster family? How much do you pay to the foster family or other organization?
There are several requirements that must be fulfilled to be a foster parent.
Potential foster parents must first provide a “good conduct” certificate from the police. They also need to have a stable living situation, as well as the time, energy, co-operation and caregiving skills required to provide the child with a proper upbringing. In addition to this, they need a stable economy, regular living conditions and a social network. These are the general requirements.
In addition, the Child Welfare Service will carry out an individual assessment of whether foster parents have the necessary qualifications to attend to the individual child’s needs.
The Child Welfare Service first attempts to recruit a foster home among relatives or in the child’s immediate network. If this does not prove successful, a trained foster home may be provided.
The municipal Child Welfare Service provides a detailed account of the child’s needs and the specific support measures necessary for the child’s well-being. After this is established, the regional foster care service attempts to locate one or several foster homes that can provide satisfactory support for the child in question. The Child Welfare Service in the municipality will then make the decision regarding which foster home will provide the best care for the individual child.
10 How can parents get back their children?
The parents can file for a revocation of the care order every 12 months after the last ruling. The court may also decide to review the case at an earlier stage, if it is documentary evidence that show significant changes in the child’s situation. The County Social Welfare Board or the District Court is entitled to revoke a care order when it is highly probable that the parents will be able to provide the child with proper care.
11 There have been many demonstrations against barnevern in many countries. They accuse barnevern too aggressive, kidnapping, and destroying families. How do barnevern respond to these criticisms?
Cases where a child is removed from the care of its parents, will naturally be difficult and with strong emotions. The Child Welfare Service is aware that an emergency care order or a care order is difficult and challenging for the parents. However, it is important to note that there are legal guaranties in these cases, and that all care orders are tried in an independent County Social Welfare Board.
Different countries have different ways of raising a child, and it may be difficult for a foreign citizen to adapt to Norwegian customs and law. An example is that of corporal punishment in the home. This is common practice in several countries, but in Norway all types of physical punishment of a child is forbidden by law. If corporal punishment is reported to the Child Welfare Service, an investigation will be initiated and measures may be implemented to ensure the health and safety of the child.
12 January 2018, Jo Erik Brøyn, one of 14 experts of barnevern, was sentenced for downloading over 200 000 children porn pictures and over 4000 hours video for the last 20 years. How could such a person work as the expert for barnevern? What is the barnevern’s responds on this case?
This is clearly an unfortunate case; however, we cannot comment on specific cases.
Generally speaking, we regard it as self-e
vident that such behaviour is unacceptable for anyone involved in child welfare cases.
13 Recently, the BBC has released a documentary named as Norway’s silent scandal focusing on the crisis of barnevern. What is the barnevern’s responds on this TV program?
The Child Welfare Service is one of the most important systems of assistance we have for children and families living in Norway, but also one of the most complicated. We are always striving to further improve the Child Welfare Service to ensure that Norway will continue to be one of the safest places for children in the world.
14 A Norwegian lawyer Marius Reikeras accused that one of the reasons why so many kids are taken away in Norway is because of money. Children care companies are competing to get the kids so they earn money. What is the comment from Barnevern on this issue?
As stated above, there are strict rules governed by law on when a child can be removed from his or her home. Children are not removed from their parents for economic reasons.