Emil’s abduction at birth
Norwegian mother Ronja Ophaug was harassed by Norway’s Child welfare System throughout her pregnancy. She recalls the terrifying events below:
“My name is Ronja Ophaug. I’m 21 years old and live in Norway. Barnevernet, Norway’s child welfare system, brutally took my child away from me within one hour of me giving birth at a hospital in Trondheim in Norway.
I was also part of the child welfare system in my youth due to a difficult period in my childhood. I dropped out of school and partied for a short period, something I decided to stop doing before I fell pregnant. A few months after I changed my lifestyle, my boyfriend and I found out that we were expecting a baby boy. This was a turning point; a time of great enrichment for us. The past was behind us and we were very optimistic in terms of the future for our little family. A new start, we thought.
I had frequent pregnancy checks due to my previous lifestyle, so I had to take regular drug tests during the pregnancy. I wholeheartedly agreed to this because I wanted to cooperate and prove my innocence. I also quit smoking on my own initiative because I wanted to protect my child from all the toxins. I had already received threats from Barnevernet about taking my baby away from me, and one nurse at the healthcare centre, who was working with Barnevernet, tried to pressure me into having an abortion. They said that if I didn’t they would take my newborn baby away.
All the other mothers who were going through a pregnancy via the healthcare centre with the doctors in the hospital received care and psychological support. I spent my pregnancy under constant threat and observation! Decisions from Barnevernet on an emergency decision were most likely made in advance of the birth, as I was informed before the birth that they would take my child from me.
I thought I would be met with understanding and empathy when I was open with them, humbly cooperating all the way. I realise today that I was naïve to have trusted these people who work at Barnevernet. Barnevernet has so much power in Norway; it has the power to execute orders to the police without question. It has power over the nurses and midwives in hospitals, and can tell them exactly what they should do.
When I was in hospital I went through some very bad labour pains. At this point police officers were sitting in the hospital corridor waiting. The ‘child welfare guards’, who were dressed as nurses, constantly disturbed me by walking in and out of the birthing room, putting more and more pressure on me. I found it terribly invasive, offensive and traumatic.
In my life’s greatest moment, when I was about to bring my precious child into the world, I was treated so poorly, like a subhuman who has no rights to even exist, let alone give birth. I cannot find the words for the immense pain and fear I felt at this painful time.
I had to beg them just to hold my son for a short hour. After forty-five minutes they snatched him out of my arms. I did not even get the opportunity to breastfeed him. I had to pump breastmilk out while I sat there crying. After they had taken our baby boy they ran out of the hospital and drove away. My boyfriend and I just fell to pieces in total grief, traumatised and in absolute shock – and we still feel this way.
But we are fighting to get our son back because we have done absolutely nothing wrong! I cry for my son every day. He was torn out of my safe arms and carried away by strangers. It’s inhumane treatment for a newborn baby to go through such a thing. Not even animals are treated like this in Norway. We are still in shock and in deep sorrow. It all feels incomprehensible, like a bad dream. We only get to see our baby four to six times a year, for two hours under supervision. We are not criminals and we don’t really understand this, but it’s standard procedure in Norway these days.
Foster parents who were unable to have children had already been lined up and were waiting for a baby boy. They had allegedly ordered a baby boy via a pre-adoption company. I felt so exploited and treated like a lesser being in an incubator. That’s not how a human being should feel. I had every opportunity to be a good mother from the start, but they didn’t give me a single chance, even though I did everything I could to follow their demands. I also said I could go to a home for mothers and babies, but they even took that possibility away from me.
I was so focused on preparing a good start for my beloved son’s life. I have the resources and the strength, but Barnevernet didn’t acknowledge this. It seemed as if they just wanted to, and even enjoyed, keeping me down and exerting their power over me. They never worked with me or helped me in any way so that our little family could get a good start in life.
According to human rights laws in Norway, Barnevernet should be working toward keeping families together, and it is obligated to help parents do everything so the parents can take care of their own children. These laws are constantly broken, as we have seen in our case with the many laws that were broken when they took our baby boy.
But even worse than this, human rights are not just broken in Norway. They are broken in the most brutal and terrifying fashion. There is hardly any justice to be found in the court system. We have now been to every court possible in Norway’s ‘justice system’, so our last chance of getting our baby boy back is in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. We have now started with the application process, and we are going all the way. We will never, ever give up on our son.
How can it be possible for a government-supported system to abuse so many human rights laws? The Norwegian media try their best to make Barnevernet look good, and the new children’s minister has, to date, simply ignored what is happening in Norway’s child welfare system. Many children die in foster care every year. Some are diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses and others get highly medicated. They are forced to live apart from their families, who they desperately long to be with. Many children and parents sadly choose suicide because of the way Barnevernet has treated them. The children and their parents are not listened to, and the parents are ridiculed, bullied, manipulated and treated like subhumans.
Barnevernet was not interested in my caring skills, even refusing to get an expert psychologist to evaluate my caring skills for my child. I still want an expert to evaluate me, and the formal recommendations in these cases confirm that it should be allowed. But I did not get any evaluations. I have never had the chance to experience the joy and challenges of motherhood.
Two young women with no child psychology education who work as social workers in Barnevernet have condemned me and forcibly taken my baby away from me and my partner. How can they commit such violations without considering the law for one minute? And how can a local lawyer, county councillors and district court judges manage such matters in such an undemocratic way and without the support of any experts with competence in this area? The abduction of newborns in Norway should be a high-priority issue for the media. I think it is of great public interest.
It is today’s situation that should apply, not the past. And being judged for neglect of care based on subjective views, and the prediction of future events, should be strictly prohibited. It is unscientific, unprofessional and irresponsible.”