Norwegian children not treated like human beings by Barnevernet
If you really want to know what’s happening in Norway’s Child Welfare System, Barnevernet, you MUST READ the transcript of this recent interview. Shocking and disturbing and sadly common.
Two weeks ago specialist psychologist Ester Solberg was interviewed by Rune Fardal on the Family Channel in Norway, about a mother and her son who fled Norway in the attempt to get to Poland, but were stopped by German police in Rostock. Solberg refuses to compromise on her moral and ethical beliefs. She is frightened by what she sees from the child welfare services in this case.
It is directly daunting that a case officer in Østensjø child welfare service, who herself has a child welfare company, overrides Norwegian police, German police and at least three experts with far more expertise. Indeed, this case manager also overrides the courts as a principle provider.
This is an extreme outcome of abuse of power where morality and ethics are thrown out and where it is obviously not about the child’s best interest, but about a case officer set up to demonstrate her power. It is a symptom in large parts of the child welfare service that those with the least competence have the most power.
There is no doubt that this case will have repercussions for both Østensjø and Oslo. The violation of ethical norms and human rights are of such an extent that the case officer in question must be brought to justice.
Translated transcription of the interview.
Fardal: Welcome to a new report from the Family Channel.
Ester Solberg, specialist in psychology, has been appointed as an expert for Nathalie de Linde who tried to get to Poland with her son, but was stopped in Germany. They were held by the German police and sent back to Norway, to the Norwegian police. You conducted an investigation of them in connection with the child welfare case against them, can you tell us a little about your impression of mother and son?
Solberg: We did an investigation. Cindy Berger and I were appointed as experts in the case. We wrote a very long and big report. We concluded that the two elders would continue to live with their mother. I also thought that if you couldn’t use the network, the other kids shouldn’t be placed either. We knew that child welfare does not place in the family network. They rarely can afford it because network placements are fully financed by the municipalities, while foster homes that are approved are preferably paid by Bufdir (CWS state division). The municipalities pay a small part, but in total this serves the municipalities. So, when there could not be a network placement – and experts are not allowed to participate in that decision at all – I said that one could not split this family at all.
I can say that one of the most important arguments against her (the mother) was about moving, that they had moved a lot. The school had no concerns. It is an intellectually resourceful family. It was said that some of the children were models for other children. And at school it has been said that if this family had financial resources, they do not think this would be a child welfare case at all.
And it is well known that the child welfare service moves children around, on average 3.5 times. So taking a child who has already moved a lot into child welfare when you know that you set them up for being moved even more, it is all a bit … You usually say historically that you didn’t know, but (in this case) You can’t say that. You knew it: Then they will have to move. And we are not just talking about moving from place to place – there are relocation of “bases”. There are relocation to institutions, where there are many different caregivers, relocation to emergency services, to foster homes, and back to institutions – and this particular boy has been moved four times. The case has been raised again with questions about reversal. We (the experts) continued to recommend that the boy is moved back to his family. And there have been several court hearings where we have not been heard.
So, this boy goes from having very good commends on behaviour, to being much more difficult to regulate after he has been in this system. And I think it’s a recipe for destroying an already vulnerable boy who has moved a lot – letting him have to move a lot more and tearing him up from base to base. If he had been placed within the family network, it would at least have become a base, as it has been a stable network. And if he lives with his mother, there will be a risk of some more relocation, but not nearly as many, and not from base to base. So, then we see that this is only getting worse, and he constantly escapes and runs home to his mother. And he is 13 years old! So it seems very strange that you should not listen to him. But that (the opinion of the child) is not emphasised at all. There is nothing in regard to listening to him. We are three experts commenting in the case, and we are not being heard. And the child is not being heard.
So then there has been a real fallout at the institution, the boy says that he has been put down on the ground, he has been forcibly held down with his arms crossed. His hands have been on the floor and he got really hurt. This happened after he had turned on an alarm to show he wouldn’t be there. Then he smashes a window when they are finished holding him, and he cries, he cries when he escapes to his mother, crying all the way. When his mother welcomes him his eyes are swollen, full of crying. He talks to Cindy, and Cindy calls me and asks: What are we going to do, Ester? She has been saying this for quite a while. His situation just gets worse. And I say that he can come and talk to me too. The next day he comes in, he is taken there by his uncle, and he cries and tells this story. He gives me a slack handshake when he arrives, unlike the last time I saw him, and I see that he … somehow gives up, and is completely desperate, saying he would rather die than return to the institution.
Then the child welfare service calls me, and it is a terribly tragic conversation – one of the worst conversations I have ever had – with the case officer, where she does not listen. She talks and talks, and when I have said a few words she says that I mean that, and I say that, and then I have to say that this is not what I said, now you have to listen and hear what I am actually saying. But she’ll have none of it! And she claims they have information that I don’t have. And I tell her that’s fine, I might change a perception after I have all the information – but I must get the information. And I ask the community – I ask everyone: Does the Norwegian society require me – when a boy comes to me and says that he is so desperate that he would rather die – and now he has also been in Germany and has been hospitalised for assessment of suicidal tendencies, he has been sitting at the police station, crying and saying he wants to die. Does the community require me to look past everything I know, look past all tears, look past everything I know, both commitments in regard to listening to children, and how sorry he gets? We know that many more suicides take place under child welfare than anywhere else! Should I disregard all of my experience, my knowledge, and all the information I have of the case, because a case worker with three years of education is demanding it?
We request a court hearing for the court to assess the situation, and I make several suggestions. I suggest they can find a place where everyone agrees he can stay until the court has made an assessment. He usually commutes by taxi three quarters of an hour each way from Oslo to Skoger, and I say that he can stay in my home, and have half of his usual commute to school, while we await the court decision. The child welfare service is not willing to consider any suggestions and get ever more aggravated. I go to work at Kongsberg, and then we realise that the child welfare service is not close to giving in. Mother and boy then decide to try to escape. When I get home, I see police on the street and another car standing there and I am standing by the entrance to my house and wondering what this is all about. They run into the courtyard, I drive after them. The police are very polite at this point, and I say no, there are no guests here, I have no idea where they are now. I wonder if they’ve gone by foot, at least they haven’t had a car. The case officer starts asking me questions. „Have you come right home from work now?“ And such things. (Psychologist and the reporter shake their heads.)
Fardal: It’s a very aggressive attitude. This is Østensjø child protection office, isn’t it?
Solberg: Yes. Those phone calls are completely unreal. NN has had an hour-long conversation with the child welfare officer and has communicated that the child welfare officer very much considered to return the boy to his family. So, this is about a case officer. And when the police are in the courtyard I say I have delivered a letter to the child welfare service, and I ask if I can read it out loud to them if they want it. But the police will not listen. So, the police are acting blindly. And the police in Germany reacted to being ordered around, as they called it. German police claim that they were ORDERED by Norwegian police to take these people to the border. And it is blind Norwegian police we are talking about. For they do not have any information, they refuse to acquire any information. So, the one who is giving orders to German police here, is a case worker in Østensjø child welfare service, who also disregards her manager. At the very least there has been a disagreement between them, and it is the case worker who has „won“ the dispute. She opposes three experts, and she does not want to wait until there has been a court hearing – she insists on making a decision before there has been a court hearing, which will be taking place one of the next few days, and she orders the police. It is in fact she who gives orders to German police.
Fardal: So the person with the least competence and education is controlling both you, who have a lot more education, and the police, into these actions. It is truly quite a scary reality.
Solberg: Yes. That is the point we are at. According to my education, there is something that ranks at the very top. And it’s the ethics. One should consider ethics. And on the farm they were at, both the police and the child welfare services, Jews were living during the war. Dag Nathan is one of them, he died not long ago. He lived in the attic. I know that when the Donau left from the quay in Norway, he was far out in the woods, and the wife of the Milorg leader was also elsewhere. There had been some intricate warning systems, and they had been warned that they couldn’t be there, and then they came back afterwards. I find it interesting that many of the others – many of those who are unable to act blindly but have to maintain an ethic aspect and ask themselves what is right and wrong – many of us have had fighters in the tradition behind us. Perhaps we are trained to have to deal with ethics. One cannot act blindly.
You have to ask yourself the question. And I have not yet concluded what is right and wrong, but I have said that I cannot set aside MY conviction and MY professional judgment, and recommend that a boy who says he will end his life if he returns to that child welfare institution… I know how harmful all that moving is to him, and I know that it has been the crown argument used by the CWS to take him from his family, that he should not have to move around anymore! I think everything is completely paradoxical. So, I cannot act against my conviction. And if Norway thinks otherwise, if Norway requires something else from me, and now I see that the day may come, and I could do something that is wrong according to the legislation… I have now begun to prepare for a situation where I might become a refugee. I will NOT choose the leg cuffs (serving prison time in the home) for ONE day. I will choose to escape. In such a situation, the community will have to detain me in custody, because there will be a great risk that I will escape.
It is frightening to see that a case officer clearly lacks an ethical foundation and does not have the ability to listen to not only you, but also Salvesen and Berger. There are several experts who say the same here.
Everyone who has been involved in the matter says the same thing. But there is also a new situation when the boy has been kept in institutions like this, and has fled as he has done, and is suicidal. A new situation has arisen which we believe the court should consider anew.
After all, this is not the only time … I also increasingly ask myself how the police choose to prioritize using their resources. The worst situation I’ve ever been in was when I was seriously concerned about the welfare of a child who was being abused in a foster home by a minor. There were very good reasons to believe it. This information was also forwarded to the police. There was a little princess girl who was placed, and she kept getting worse. The foster home was from a prostitution environment, where the foster mother and her foster son came from a prostitution environment abroad. And the girl is totally injured during this period. The case officer has every right – she can only do exactly what she wants. She can’t help answering these concerns. She can keep the little girl away from mother for half a year. And at the first meeting, this case officer, because she wants to, can let child meet mother in the middle of her normal bedtime and without her pacifier. It went well anyway, and the kid is back with her mother, all the children in that case are back with their mother. In other words, sometimes you witness disaster. And the police do nothing. In many situations I find that they are not there to protect the people. And they are acting blindly.
Fardal: It’s pretty scary that these people don’t have their own ethic compasses and are not questioning themselves in relation to their actions.
Solberg: They don’t want to. They must rely on the child welfare service. On another occasion there was a case officer we considered to be not only evil – like a lot of fellow case officers – we also considered her to be ill. Dissociative and very ill. In that case, after all we had found out that she had done … It was a kind of madness, not just naughty madness but real madness. So, I was saying that it couldn’t possibly turn out well with her kids, they couldn’t possibly manage (to grow up to be responsible adults under her watch). So, we discussed the case and asked ourselves: What can we do with regard to her children? And there’s no place we can turn. There is nowhere we can go. We were dealing with a branch of child welfare service workers who were opposing us. It doesn’t work, we don’t have anywhere to appeal. And then, after 3/4 years, the eldest daughter kills a person. And the way the murder is carried out is also a form of madness. There was nowhere we could turn!
And there are always examples of this. There will be police who use guns when they should not, psychologists who exploit their position to receive sexual services, lawyers who are corrupted. There will always be servants who are not kind, who do not behave. But those case officers, who in reality are in a poor position and are poorly educated, they have all the possibilities in the world – nobody is as strong as them! They can do whatever they want.
She was the case officer who let this child be sexually abused for half a year – when we met in the Court of Appeal, and the court members are completely shaken by the information that is revealed, and sends all the children back to their mother – the case officer is not present then. She’s protected. So, they do whatever they want and they get away with whatever they do. And the same municipalities are often the ones being incompetent, the ones that cannot afford to use network placements or provide help in the home, but can only afford to use foster homes that provide income for the municipalities and are straws in the treasury. It has become too much of a monster. We’ve come to a point where there is just too much that doesn’t work.
This case with Natalie could have been handled in a completely different way, had anyone had the ability to listen to the experts, as one would expect. The courts often base their assessments on expert witnesses. But here is a case worker working within an administrative body overriding everything.
That’s the way it is. She not only overrides Norwegian police, but actually orders foreign police. Without the Norwegian police knowing anything about the case, as they do not want to acquire any information on the case, it is the case worker they have to listen to. And they put in lots of resources. We realised that our phones were bugged. The police choose to put in a lot of resources, after a case worker, who really is the one who knows least about most, initiates this whole cascade of madness.
And when there are sexual assaults in a foster home, or parents are subjected to criminal assault in various ways, such as IQ tests that are completely flawed, and when these IQ tests (and other types of illegal, altered and fraudulent “documentation”) are being removed as soon as they have been used to remove the child from its home – the police use no resources. I have never seen the police use resources (in this type of context).
If one gets into a situation where child welfare commits illegal, criminal acts against a family, the parents have no legal protection. In this regard, we have a society that is completely lawless. I’ve heard people say that you can go to court and sue the state, what rubbish is that? It costs half a million NOK (around £50,000). There is no legal system in place. They have no rights. Everyone is actually unprotected the moment an unskilled case worker wants to do away with them. They can do anything, and they get away with it.
I’ve been involved in another case where the school had no worries. The only thing the child welfare had was a spokesperson who said that the boy only wanted to be at home, and then they had a psychologist who said she didn’t know anything about the case and who was quite angry about being summoned. And who had nothing negative to say, except that one of the parties, who was not the biological mother, was struggling with something. And there is a grandfather who is very worried about the boy, the father of his deceased mother. It turns out that the late mother has gotten the father to promise that the boy will never meet this grandfather again. And then some aunts that have previously been unknown to the family, express their concern, and it turns out that he (the grandfather) is not only a paedophile but also terribly violent.
One of his sons has committed suicide, one woman has had her ear bitten off by him, he has committed a number of violent crimes, there are victims of violence, and the stories are absolutely horrible. When the child welfare service gets to know this, from this aunt, that it is this grandfather who is behind these messages of concern – and the child welfare service has been worried that the boy has not been allowed any contact with his grandfather anymore – when they get to know it, they keep the information a secret.
Had I not required the information and said that I needed all new information on the case and stood there and asked for it, no one would have known. Then they would have hidden it. The boy still had some contact with his grandmother, and also still had contact with the grandfather. And as long as the child welfare service pretended that they did not know the background of this grandfather, the man could continue to contact the boy through the grandmother, and it would have been impossible to accuse the child welfare service of anything. They do exactly what they want.
We’ve let them become immune to everything, they can do exactly what they want. And if it gets too bad – as we have seen in the past – they’ll just move the person (case worker) to another place or position, and then he or she is back! Here we are talking about serious violations of the law, and human rights violations, violations of every kind. But no one wants to act or provide measures to get it under control. I almost don’t think society can handle it anymore.
I think it’s going to get worse. And that’s why I don’t know if I can stay in this country. There is NOK 40 billion (around £35,000,000) in this child welfare service pot. Everyone is making money out of it. We’ve seen lawyers who provoke emergency decisions because that is when they make money on these cases. So, there are parents who are represented by lawyers working against them. And it’s not about incompetence. I totally disagree that this is about incompetence – it is about morality.
I have been to a court in Oslo where the chairman has commented about clients in what I would call a racist and extremely offensive way, influencing the outcome of the case. Afterwards, I asked around a little, and got to know that this committee leader is notorious. Many lawyers have had the same experience with her. She has been working as a municipality lawyer, where they were struggling with her. I was encouraged to write to the head of the board in Oslo and tell what had happened and what she had said, what statements she had given, something I did. Nothing happened, except of my name being deleted from their list (of expert witnesses who can be appointed).
Fardal: So, it is you who are not being hired anymore when you reveal morally reprehensible behaviour.
Solberg: Yes. And now I’m just thinking … now I have come to this point where I no longer know. I’ve been there for a long time, really, I’ve been there all the time. I’ll let those people hire me to work for them for as long as they want.
You question the morals and ethics of this child welfare system, and you will not let go of your principles to satisfy these demands they are making. I have never – in human matters – been able to cross my morals. I could probably have acted a bit immorally both in traffic and with some other things. But in relation to actions where we should be aware of what is right and wrong, I can only say that I do not know the matter well enough, and leave the decision to the court. Nor do I aim to convince the court. I aim to do as good a job as I can. And it also says in my letter this time that if the court decides otherwise, I am leaving other people’s actions up to them, but I can’t take a stand that I cannot take. I can’t look a boy in the eye who says he would rather die than to go back to the child welfare institution, with all the information that I have indicating that this is not good – and say that I’ll make you go there anyway. I can only step back and leave it up to someone else to enforce it, and the police has done that, but I still have to say that I disagree. And a situation can arise where there will not be any way out of this. I realize that now.
Fardal: You’re reacting to the missing morality of some case officers in the child welfare service.
Solberg: Yes. And it’s a matter of course. It goes without saying that there will be immorality when there are no control bodies.
Fardal: There are never any consequences, right?
Solberg: There can be no consequences. It can probably happen from time to time that a child welfare officer says that this approach is not working, or something like that, but there are no formal steps to ensure that there are consequences for case workers‘ violations of law. In the same way, lawyers who provoke emergency decisions because that is what they make money from, will not be persecuted. There are no consequences for anything. It does not have consequences when experts are incompetent. After all, it pays off to take sides with the state and with the municipalities. There are no consequences for anything. It makes me think of the BBC comment about the Brøyn case. There is this statement by Mr. Langfeldt, who says: Let the sleeping dog sleep. Because if you wake up this system, the whole system will fall. And maybe that’s what they’re afraid of. If you begin to enforce the law when people act like in this case – what will happen then?
I think that when everyone is acting blindly and not asking questions about ethics … You are ripping children out of their homes, from their parents, and you do not ask if it is right or wrong – in principle, it can be a vicious backer who wants the child, it can a paedophile grandfather who is behind it.
Now we have actually heard how a case officer controls Norwegian police, and in reality also decides what German police should do. She does not care about ethics, and her morality is non-existent. The child has not been given a single thought. As far as I know, the child is on his way to the Norwegian police, the same police who do not think about what they are doing, but only do what they are told.
Fardal: These are quite frightening prospects. What do you think will happen to this child now, based on your experience, if he is taken back to Østensjø and placed in an institution?
Solberg: Of course, one can never know what will happen. But what the child welfare service is doing is the recipe for destruction of the child. He has moved too many times with his mother, but all the moving that the child welfare service is forcing him into is directly devastating. And, as I said at the beginning, many times in history people have said that they have acted without sufficient knowledge. That they didn’t and couldn’t know what would happen. But we know that the child welfare service moves children on average three and a half times. And we know that twelve-year olds, twelve-year-old boys, are terribly difficult to place successfully. And we know, we knew all along, that there were going to be a lot more moving and that the child protection agency then put additional pressure on a child who has already been pressured in a bad way. It was the worst thing that could happen to this boy, what the child welfare service have done to him. If they had made a placement within his family network, it would have been stable. The boy has never escaped from home – he has only escaped from institutions in order to get home. He’s only escaped in order to get home.
Someone with some knowledge, because there must be people of this sort within the child welfare service too, must say: Now this has got to come to an end. Let the boy stay at home, get him some support, and if the problem is that his mother needs a little bit of financial support, it would be a lot cheaper to help them find a place where they can live permanently, compared to what they are doing. It’s bound to have cost huge amounts of money, all these things that they have now put into action!
Yes. And whatever conclusion the court may arrive at… Until now, I have accepted that people have different opinions. What I can’t do is ignore my own beliefs in the middle of a situation like this. I can’t say this is fine when my entire professional assessment and everything in me says the opposite.
Fardal: So, you insist on upholding your sense of morality, your knowledge, your ethics, and you refuse to give in to the pressure.
Solberg: Not for my part. Although I know that children are sexually abused in a foster home, I do not actively engage in any illegal actions. I know that child welfare can do what they want. They can expose this child to sexual abuse. And, to do something to save that child, that’s what is illegal according to the law. And, so I can allow the state that freedom, they will be allowed to do so. I can’t spend my personal resources getting into it. Someone else will have to do that – I can’t do it. But to stand in the middle of a situation and to tell a young boy who threatens to end his life, that now I’m going to make sure you get back to that place that is making you feel so bad, where you might be going to commit suicide – I can’t. That is crossing the limit for me.
Then we’ll just have to see what happens. The last word in this case has not been said. If that boy is on his way back, we’ll have to see what the Østensjø child welfare service will do this time. For there are people who are responsible. There’s the county governor, and there’s the Child Welfare Manager in Østensjø. I am expecting this case to get known among the people. We have just witnessed the Polish consul being thrown out because he helped citizens of Poland according to his duties. And then in no time this case comes up, and more is coming. Just today, another couple has arrived in Poland. So, people are starting to flee the country.
Yes. People are starting to flee the country.
Fardal: And maybe experts start to….
Solberg: Yes. Perhaps we’ll also see professionals beginning to escape from the country.
Fardal: We’ve heard specialist in psychology, Ester Solberg here at (Oslo airport) Gardermoen. We’ve been discussing a case from Østensjø child welfare office, and how one of their case workers has been handling this case involving a thirteen-year-old who wants to live at home, while the child welfare service argued that the family had been moving too many times. Instead of providing a stable home for the family, they have placed the boy in various institutions and foster homes where he has had to move four times and is probably being moved for the fifth time as we speak. He won’t be moving back to the same place where he broke windows and triggered alarms. So, we’ll follow up.
And to all of you out there – it’s time to voice your opinion. We cannot tolerate the child welfare service that Ester Solberg has been describing, where morality and ethics have completely disappeared, allowing a case worker from the lowest step on the academic ladder with her three years of education the command over national and international police. In reality, she also overrides the courts. And it is her version of reality, and the stories told by other case workers like her, that nearly always form the basis of any court decision.
Solberg: Yes. She is ignoring the fact that a court decision will be available in a few days. She is refusing to give it any consideration. She could have waited. The child could have stayed at my house in the meantime and gone to school. Everything could have been solved in a quiet and comfortable manner. I opened my home! For him and his mother to stay with me in the meantime.
Fardal: So, it’s not in the best interest of the child, it’s „my way or the highway,“ that’s what it’s all about.
Thank you for listening to us here at Gardermoen. We will follow the case, so please watch our future updates. And with regard to Østensjø child welfare service, listeners could send them an email and tell them what you think about this type of treatment of children. Thanks for watching!