Child protection in Norway: Making parents pay


“by Marianne Haslev Skånland

Parents1 (1).jpgWhen the authorities take the family’s children, they place the children with fosterparents or in institutions. Foster parents normally receive very good payment, often split up between different sums so that the total does not show: so much compensation for costs of food and clothing etc for the child, so much over another budget post for additional expenses, so much as straight wages or compensation for having to stay at home instead of having a job, so much for extra holidays away from the foster children, who are then sent off to other relief-fosterers. There are cases in which a foster family has got the CPS to pay for buying them an extra car (and cars are hugely expensive in Norway, mostly because of taxes that go directly to the state) because the foster family kept two foster children, who had to be driven to different kindergartens in the morning – or the CPS has paid for the foster family to build on their house to get an extra room for the foster child. The charges made by institutions for foster children are of course extremely high.

Now what about the children’s real family?

First of all their struggles to keep their children from being taken usually costs a lot. Official Norway pretends this is not so, because the state pays their lawyer when the case is up for the County Committee or the courts. But if a family wants to get legal help when the CPS has started to pester them but before the CPS brings a case formally to the County Committee to obtain a decision saying that the children are now under the CPS, then the family has to pay for this legal assistance themselves.
Then the actions of the CPS are often so stressful for the family that one or both parents cannot manage to keep going in their jobs, so they get ill and have to take sick-leave, not without it also affecting their finances even if they have paid sick-leave for a certain period.

Then: pay up!

Once the CPS has had the transfer of care confirmed and have placed the childrenParents6 wherever they want, §9 of the child protection law comes into play: it gives the municipality the right to demand of the parents that they pay child support.
Such a demand is not supposed to be made if it is “unreasonable”; mostly that probably means if the parents are absolutely destitute. But I certainly know personally of several cases in which the family that has had its children forcibly confiscated, has paid child support to the municipality for several years. Two of them were cases in which one parent held a very modest job and worked hard, while the other parent was disabled. Disablement and low income are much used arguments for taking the children in the first place; so then, in the next round, the parents are made to pay for their children’s upkeep.

The official rationale for this arrangement is that the situation is comparable to that of the parents splitting up, e.g in divorce. Then the parent who does not have the children living with him/her, has to pay towards their living expenses just like the other parent, who lives with the children on a daily basis. So our politicians and our legal establishment have come up with this reasoning that a parent should pay for the children’s upkeep irrespective of whether or not he/she has the pleasure of the children’s presence.

Why?

When parents do not live together, it is in the nature of things that the children cannot be in two places at once, although some parents manage to practice almost equal custody in daily life.

The situation regarding children taken by the state is altogether different.
To my mind, the practice of making parents pay the municipality which has thrown them out of their children’s lives, is so indecent that it is impossible not to suspect an underlying motive of punishment. The amount is negligible compared to what is paid out to fosterers, to psychologists and various other experts, although for the parents to pay it may be a struggle.
So getting this money out of the parents is as good as to say, “You good-for-nothings, you were indifferent to your children, you neglected them, you didn’t take care of them, so now we have to. But you are damn well not going to get away with not paying! You are going to suffer in this demeaning way!”

But that kind of parent is very rare. Most parents deprived of the care for their children by the CPS love their children and would do anything for them. Many of the parents made to pay child support to the municipality in this way even say, “Of course we want to pay for our children. We only hope that they get to know that we contribute.”
The confiscations just serve the child industry. And making parents pay no doubt makes everybody in the public sector feel at ease about it.

Remind us of something?

A true story was once reported in Norway: A young couple living in Eastern Germany in the communist years had long wanted to escape to freedom. When the wife got pregnant, they understood they would have to flee quickly, because once the child was born it would be impossible. So they tried to escape across the border. But they were discovered and the border guards shot at them. The wife was killed, the husband injured and captured.
The husband was imprisoned, and made to do some kind of labour at a very low wage. But even these wages were taken from him, the money went to the state to pay their expenses for the bullets used to shoot him and his wife.
This was the DDR, then.

Another true story concerned a man who had been imprisoned for many years for a killing he had not committed. He had been a suspect, but there had been no proof and the whole police investigation had been quite criticisable.
At long last publicity accomplished a re-opening of the case and he was now found not guilty. Then the state was to pay him due compensation. The state’s lawyer then argued that one should deduct from the compensation a sum for board and lodging in prison. The state had “provided” him with food and a roof over his head and these were expenses which people usually had to cover themselves and he hadn’t had to.
There was considerable consternation at this proposal, and it was not carried any further. But the very fact that a lawyer employed by the state to provide and guard justice could have the stomach to even think of it seems to speak volumes.
The case stems from Norway.  “

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