Norway’s New Brainchild

Many people believe that Norway’s child welfare system (NCWS), Barnevernet, has already turned into a monster, and in some quarters, that is certainly the case. However, a new program called “Child brain protection” (Barnehjernevernet) could expand Barnevernet’s influence and increase this monster’s strength.

In an article titled, “Protecting children or are children becoming a parent’s guardian?”, Telepolis, a German magazine, that received the European prize for online journalism in the category “investigative reporting” in the year 2000, share their concerns for this new Norwegian program.

A pilot project has been underway since 2016 under the premise “Child brain protection”, the results of which were presented at the end of April 2019. Magne Raundalen is involved once again.

The article reports on the fact that children should report their parents immediately if the parents are no longer considered good parents by the children, because Barnevernet ensures that the children are doing well, explains a representative of the authorities. With the introduction of the program, the reports generated in kindergartens about “possible” problems with parents increased, proving to the authorities that the project is successful and justified.

The opportunities for children in need to seek help from contact persons certainly makes sense. But a report by the highest-circulation Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, which is held in a high esteem, shows that children become a kind of guardian to the parents. Even sentences that introduce a seminar to the authority sound somewhat threatening: “Sometimes it can be difficult to be a good mum or dad, and the children of Oslo’s kindergartens learn what to do in this case.”

Since 2016 questionnaires have been distributed to kindergartens, in which children are encouraged to report their parents if they drink alcohol, or were threatened, beaten or whether the parents get angry. Other people that observe something outside of the “Norwegian standard” also have the opportunity, through the internet, to contact Barnevernet anonymously. It is expressly encouraged to report the slightest suspicion to the child welfare system.

It creates the impression that this fight is against abuse and neglect, however a certain tunnel vision has emerged by the authorities and its contributors. Also, when the focus is on children’s behaviour, children’s verbal utterances are considered less important, such as when a child wants to defend their parents from excessive false accusations.

The article finishes with a comment by Norwegian clinical psychologist Einar C. Salvesen. Salvesen doesn’t want to reject the child welfare system per se, but he believes that some of the roughly 500 Barnevernet offices have developed a “totalitarian” and “dysfunctional” nature which in turn has created a “system of evil”.

Let’s hope this monster doesn’t grow any bigger than it is.

[Photo: Unsplash.com / CC0 Creative Commons]