This articol is addressed mainly to the Norwegian press and media.
I came to Norway five years ago and moved in Bergen with my family. We have started a new chapter in our life as a family in a country that is far different from the country I come from. Yes, I come from the eastern part of the Europe, a part that was ones under the iron curtain of the communism. But at the age of 10 years old I experienced a bloody revolution that has changed the oppressive regime with democracy. And even if I was not that old, I still remember very well the life and how we were supposed to act in certain circumstances in order to avoid problems with the police or even the secret service.
I still remembered how I was repeatedly humiliated in front of the classroom by two of my teachers simply because I was Christian, or, to say it better, because my parents were Evangelical Christians. I also remember how I was taken by the school to different festivals where we had to sing and recite poetry about our beautiful country or for the Good Communist Party or for the wise leaders of our country.
But I remember also how the press was used by the communists to praises the achievements of the Party and of the working people and to tell us how our country was one of the most important and richest country in Europe and World. The same press was used also to tell the people what to believe in and that the ideology of the Party was the only philosophical and empirical truth.
After the revolution many things has changed and one of the most important thing was the Press. From a press that worked for the former government now it started to work for the benefit of the people, (at least ar that time). And that meant to inform the people about the real situation of the country, the real problems and the real crises of the society. Of course the press, through its journalists, had to learn how to do this and it’s still learning.
Now I have moved to a country where the press seems to be different then I described above, and I expected to be so, but very often I become perplexed and frustrated when I see that in some areas the press in Norway shows similarities with the press under the iron curtain in the eastern Europe before the 90s.
I do not pretend to be an expert on Norway’s press, but now as a resident of this country, I read the main Norwegian publications on a daily basis. As a blogger I also like to keep myself informed and up to date with the big headlines in the world press. As a graduate in theology I try to understand and track the ideas that are spread and influence society through the media.
Well, one of the subjects where I think the press in Norway does a bad job is Barnevernet. I have followed as much as I could the big headlines with Barnevernet for the last three years and that’s because some Norwegian friends told me to be very careful with this institution. I’ve heard many stories about how Barnevernet works and its forced interventions in the families, but they were far from me.
Now my friend, Marius Bodnariu, experiences on his own skin the long arm of Barnevernet. I am very familiar with the details of the case and the file, I’ve read the lines of the newspapers and followed the subject in the media. I hear people around arguing about the case. I have read articles pro and against and what I see gives me a feeling of a press that is very uncritical when it comes to Barneverent.
And here are some things I feel and see about this topic:
The media in Norway seems to be uncritical about how the system of Barnevern works.
I understand the fact that the Child Welfare Services has its place in the society and has to be there for the real cases where children need to be saved from real abusive parents or caregivers. I understand also that protecting children is a social responsibility in a responsible country and Norway seems to be so, but what I don’t understand is why the press investigates so little or at all the facts they report, in order to compare them with the legal procedures and the laws? Because many times I have read the papers and all I have found was mostly reports and very little investigation. Barnevern cases have created a huge international issues for Norway and the press do not investigate or even worse, ignore the matter?
There must be something wrong here – either with the press or with the Norwegian culture or maybe with the crazy people whose children were taken away and ask for help.
Here are some hints for investigation of the Child Welfare System, that comes into my mind due to the experience of my close friend, Marius Bodnariu, whose name, by the way, is all over the world these days.
- Did you know that, in many cases, the removal of the children from home is not the last solution, as the authorities say, but the first action, without any warning or any social investigation, just like in the case of my friend? Can you investigate why is this discrepancy between the official statement and their practices?
- It is true that when Barnevernet offers help, the local administration (lokal kommune) will cover the costs, but when a child is removed and placed in a foster home then the County Administration (Fylkeskommune) will pay? What do you think will happen with most cases that are located in small municipalities?
- A parent whose children were taken away by Barnevernet has the right to a public defender but do you know that in fact they have the obligation to have only a public defender? Even if they can choose the lawyer, many law firms do not want to take these cases because they get only a fixed price from the state and they are not financially motivated compared to the amount of the work they need to do?
- What are the Human Rights Laws that conflict with the everyday practices of Barnevernet?
- How is it possible that the parental rights can be taken from the parents by only three people that form the County Council (Fylkesnemda) and not by a legal court?
- How many cases were won by different parents in the Supreme Court detrimental to Barnevernet and why? How long did it take to get back their children after they won the cases?
- What is the best thing for children in the official statements of Barnevernet? But what about their practices? Do they match?
- How many Christian families were targeted or harassed by Barnevernet?
Of course these few questions cannot be answered only by accepting the official data. Talk to those who actually went through these problems and listen to them. Don’t be naive in believing that Barneverent doesn’t make mistakes or doesn’t abuse of its power.
The media in Norway does not address the root questions of the law. It seems to be uncritical with the text of the law and the interpretation of it.
- Here is a sample from the website of the police: http://www.hvorlite.no/sprak/
Violence in child rearing
(corporal and/or emotional punishment to alter the conduct of children or young adults).
Do you see any problem here? According to this, if I am a parent I cannot even use emotional punishment (whatever that is) to alter any conduct of my child. Does anybody from the press, any journalist with kids home, understand what that means? Does anybody in the press understand the complexity of parenting and its challenges?
2. Here is another sample:
… children are not to be exposed to any kind of violence, nor such light slapping, although it is made as part of their upbringing.
Barneloven har med virkning fra i dag blitt endret slik at det nå er tydeliggjort at barn ikke skal utsettes for noen form for vold, heller ikke for eksempel lette klaps, selv om det skjer som ledd i barneoppdragelsen.
Again, does anybody see any problem here? How is it possible to define light slapping as violence? Isn’t this a cultural view rather than a scientific view?
Do you know that, according to the World Health Organization, moderate forms of physical punishment are legally and allowed in the most countries, and not viewed as violence or destructive? Does any journalist have the courage to write about this?
3. Here is another law:
Parents should give the child increasingly greater autonomy with age until it reaches 18 years.
#33. Foreldra skal gje barnet stendig større sjølvråderett med alderen og fram til det fyller 18 år.
I don’t understand why this kind of things are in the law. Can you imagine what kind of abuses can be done based on this law? How is it possible to have such text when this should be a line in a parenting book and not in the law?
The Christian media in Norway seems to be uncritical with the State interference in the interpretation, and even translation, of the text of the Bible.
In 2011, the Norwegian Ombudsman for Children, Reidar Hjerman, has suggested to the head translator of the modern version of the Bible, Hans Olav-Mørk, to remove the term “discipline” (tukt) from some verses and proposed using the word “rebuke” (irettesette). Unfortunately, totally unprofessionally and unscientifically, the term was removed from the verses where it has the meaning of physical punishment. http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/Evighet-og-tukt-pa-vei-ut-av-Bibelen-6535287.html
Where was the Christian press when this happened? Is it not ethically, don’t mention scientifically, to have an accurate translation of the Bible, the most influencing book in the history of the mankind and let people to interpret or accept it rather than to interfere at a such level with a scientific work on grounds of political correctness? Where is the Christian press when the State dictates to the people what to believe in and what to accept?
As I wrote above, I remember when I was humiliated in front of my class because of my faith and I had only my parents on my side. In Norway today, a whole family has been humiliated in front of the World for their faith and you still don’t see a problem?
So, these are only some suggestions that I believe would be some directions for investigation and debate. I might be wrong in some aspects, but is the Norwegian press ready or even more, willing to start working more for the citizens and not keep them anymore in the bubble and utopia of a country where authorities don’t make mistakes or abuses of its power?
I love Norway and I love the people of Norway. I know that Norway has many good things, but I am sorry to say that Barnevernet is not one of them and it is far from what it was supposed to be. We love and care for our children but we live in fear and that is not normal.
That’s why I wonder myself: what happened to the press and the media in Norway?