CHILDREN TAKEN INTO NORWAY’S CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM SUFFER SEVERELY
Author, anthropologist and historian Yngve Nedrebø is division executive for the regional State Archives in Bergen (Statsarkivet i Bergen), which holds twenty-five kilometres of public archive material on its shelves. The following commentary written by Nedrebø analyses and briefly summarises some important points made by researcher Lars B. Kristofersen.
Lars B. Kristofersen, born 1952, is a senior researcher at Norwegian Social Research – HiOA. He is a sociologist from the University of Oslo and has experience in multidisciplinary research collaboration. For five years he was a research director at NOVA before it became part of HiOA in 2016.
Kristofersen’s experience incorporates longitudinal studies of children and adolescents, including child welfare knowledge and studies of child poverty. His research experience covers the field of cooperation between child support services for young people. Before this time, he worked for around twenty years as a researcher II at the Norwegian Institute of Urban and Regional Research (NIBR), with projects focusing on children and young people’s health and living conditions, child welfare studies and evaluation of the mental health plan. Kristofersen also worked for around ten years at the Bureau of Vital Statistics Norway (SSB) carrying out health surveys and analyses of the effects of social inequalities on mortality.
High death rates in care
NOVA’s 9/14 report shows the ages of the 1,797 children and young people who had been under child welfare measures between 1990 and 2009 (of whom there were 45,165 males and 38,585 women in total) .  The number of deaths increases rapidly from the age of sixteen, and when they reach the age of eighteen and become ‘no one’s children’, the numbers soar. This child welfare population was compared with a population from the same age groups who were not registered with child welfare. The child welfare population totalled 83,750 people, while the non-welfare population totalled 95,051.
The report found that 6.5% of the child welfare population received a disability pension compared with 0.7% of the non-welfare population. The report also showed that in the 25 to 41 age bracket 11.1% in the child welfare group received a disability pension compared with 1%.
The report showed that suicides account for 2.81% of child welfare deaths compared with 0.58% in the non- welfare group, making suicides 4.8 times higher among the child welfare group. The risk of being killed was twenty-seven times higher for the child welfare population. Even the of dying from cancer was 93% higher. Most of these deaths were connected in some way to alcohol or drugs.
The report also gives the reason why those from the child welfare population who died ended up in child welfare in the first place. It shows that fairly low numbers were taken because of alleged sexual abuse (1,466 children of the total 83,750 included in the survey) which equates to 1.75%. Physical abuse accounted for 2% and psychological abuse for 1.9%, while 23,193 children (or 27.7%) were taken on subjective grounds; things NCWS claim to have observed that no one else had.
The highest risk of death for the child welfare population, related to drug abuse, although this was still a rather small group of 3,119 children, or 5.87% of those included in the study. The lowest mortality rate was recorded among those who had been sexually abused (1.75%). It must be noted that all categories of welfare children had a much higher risk of dying than the non-welfare population with which they were compared.
Mothers and fathers
NIBR’s 2005:12 report studied the parents of children removed by NCWS. Between 1990-2001, 3,683 mothers and 6,892 fathers died, with 438 mothers and 953 fathers committing suicide during this period. This represents an average of 116 suicides per year, a shockingly percentage given that around 500 and 600 suicides are recorded in total each year in Norway, indicating that around 25% of all suicides in Norway involve parents of child welfare children.
NCWS will undoubtedly say that the high numbers show how badly these children were treated before they were removed from their families. Meanwhile, critics of the system will claim that the deaths are the result of NCWS’s involvement. It is a mix, and the Kristofersen’s studies do not give us conclusive answers. We need more studies to be conducted, and they must be carried out properly. NCWS and the authorities will not be in favour of doing such studies, as they most likely already know that they will be blamed!
But I think we know that children taken into the child welfare population and their parents suffer severely. The process is very stressful, and many children and parents suffer from PTSD afterwards. I have no doubt that most of the deaths can be blamed on NCWS.
Child welfare children generally end up without a proper education, with only 8% achieving a higher education compared with around 50% of the total population. Job prospects are also very low. Children are very often introduced to drugs, sexual abuse and prostitution for the first time while they are in the ‘care’ of NCWS. Dagbladet, a daily newspaper in Norway, has published several stories recently that resulted in the closing down of several institutions.
Child welfare children have a much higher risk of dying at a young age, and by the age of eighteen NCWS is no longer responsible for these children. After this they are often offered a ‘disability pension’, enabling NCWS to keep them under control for another five years!
When NCWS takes children away from their parents and out of their homes, the children’s life expectancy drops from around eighty to less sixty. The risk of dying from cancer increases by 93%, and the risk of being murdered increases by 2,700%!
[Photo: Pixabay.com / CC0 Creative Commons]