This is an open letter to the Norwegian minister for children, Linda Hofstad Helleland, from a Norwegian mother who had to leave Norway to save her fourth child:


Dear Linda Hofstad Helleland,

I’m an ordinary mum, 31 years of age, with five children. The only thing separating me from other ordinary mums in our society is, that I lost three of my children to Barnevernet, Norway’s Child Welfare System (NCWS). This has made me lose the status of being an ordinary mum, this has made me into a mum who “lost her children to the child welfare services”. And, from where I stand, I have built up a good understanding through my experiences on how NCWS works today.

I believe it’s unnecessary for me to bring up the details about how my children were taken when you have probably heard the very same story from other parents who now fight to get their children back home.

The biggest eye opener in my time as a “bv mum” [“child welfare system mum”] is how our politicians close their eyes to the abuse that happens in this system. When there are so many cries for help, but help is denied because we are not seen as trustworthy. Abuse is such a comprehensive word… And, abuse is something that Norwegian politicians should take seriously, even when it’s executed by their own people, i.e. NCWS.

It is your responsibility and NCWS responsibility to provide children with protection, to ensure it’s in their best interest, and that children and their parents should have their human rights respected. When you hear the stories and experiences of countless children and parents, you don’t take it seriously before there has been an accident or if the media shows interest in the matter.

Is this really how it should be in a system that holds such power in the Norwegian society?

How do you know that NCWS is doing what is best for the child?

Have you ever worked in the child welfare services yourself and seen how this system actually functions?

Have you ever worked as a case worker and entered the home of a child and its family to assess whether the parents are good enough?

Have you ever taken the time to investigate if the child welfare services are acting according to the law?

Did you ever have the possibility and the capacity to do these things?

You and our politicians claim you cannot engage in single cases, but how then are you going to know what is going on and make changes?

What if you did investigate single cases? What if you had a total change of opinion after experiencing and seeing things for yourself?

Do you sincerely believe that NCWS is the best child protection system in the world the way things are today?

Let me tell you: children are being taken and removed from their entire family, all of their friends, from relatives, their school, kindergarten, their hometown where they have had their whole childhood. They lose all they ever had and own, and they are forced to live in institutions, emergency homes, foster homes, and they have to move several times. They are not only losing contact with their parents. They lose contact with all of their family, and that I can hardly imagine to be in a child’s best interest.

In a short period of time, the children have to interact with a great deal of strangers. They are being ignored, their cries are being ignored, when the neediness of the parents is at its peak. They are left clueless about why they have lost everything and what they have done wrong to deserve this. They experience traumatic fractures in relationships time and time again. They struggle with an intense longing for their parents, which destroys them entirely. Desperate attempts to return to their parents, which again and again brings them under compulsory confinement.

When the children meet their parents, it happens in isolated tiny rooms. They live in secret locations and their names are being changed. All these things are extremely harmful to the children, and the central nervous system in their brains experience such trauma that it is damaging the children for life. This is only a small part of what the children have to go through when NCWS enters their lives. And it is far from good. On the contrary, it is heartbreaking, traumatic and stressful, and in worst case scenarios, it results in death.

When everyone from the outside can recognise the misery in our child welfare system, why can’t you and the other politicians see it? There are so many other methods that can be used, which are much more effective and less damaging.

There are so many other opportunities and ways to spend the state money than to rip the children away from their homes and place them in a variety of foster homes and institutions. My first thought would have been what’s best for the child? And, what would be the worst?

What can be done to help the children in the best possible and least harmful way, and what can be done to ensure a good enough investigation of the family? Who is the rest of the family and can the child be placed there, with relatives, in the meantime?

What can you do to help the parents with a possible return? And, always remember to keep in mind – “A care takeover is to be considered temporary and the children are to be returned as soon as the circumstances are right for them”.

Nevertheless, ripping the child away from its parents is the worst thing that can be done to a child, except when the child really is in great danger at home.

With best regards,
from a mother who had to move to Sweden to be able to save her fourth child.

[Photo: / CC0 Creative Commons]