A response to Ambassador Jon-Åge Øyslebø’s comments on how Barnevernet works

Jon-Åge ØyslebøAmbassador Jon-Åge Øyslebø, Washington D.C.

A point by point response to Ambassador Jon-Åge Øyslebø’s comments by a mother who has been through the Barnevernet system. See her story here-The story of a Norwegian mother, similar to the Bodnariu case…

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Read/watch the video interview with Ambassador Jon-Åge Øyslebø on the day that Romanians were protesting peacefully outside the Washington D.C. Norwegian Embassy in January 2016 – Interview with Minister Counsellor, Communications and Cultural Affairs, Embassy of Norway, Washington D.C.

Ambassador Jon-Åge Øyslebø comes with many assertions about the Norwegian barnevernet and „how the system works”. I do not agree with most of his assertions. It is NOT how the system actually works. The protesters have got it right, Mr. Øyslebø hasn’t got a clue.

False assertion no. 1: Taking children from parents is a last resort.
Fact: Evidently this is not the last resort. The Bodnariu-children were taken as a first resort, not last. Barnevernet immidiately went in and confiscated the children when they received the notice of concern from the teacher at the girls’ school. Most children are taken in emergency measures. It has happened to my child and many others. Barnevernet takes the children and then it investigates whether the concern is substantiated.

False assertion no. 2: The law is very clear.
Fact: No, the law is not clear as required by the principle of legality codified in the Norwegian Constitution article 113 which stipulates that „The authorities’ intervention against the individual must have a basis in law.” The Norwegian Welfare Act of 1992 (barnevernloven) article 4-12 section 1 litra a, second alternative states that „Decisions to take care of a child may be taken a) if there are serious shortcomings […] in relation to the personal contact and security it needs in relation to its age and development.” The majority of children are removed pursuant to this statute which leaves a lot to Barnevernet’s discretionary decision.

False assertion no. 3: There is a due process.
Fact: The children and parents do not receive a due process of law when they are separated from eachother. The County Board for Child Protection and Social Issues is not „an independent and impartial tribunal” as stipulated in The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, section 1, art. 6, first paragraph. The County Board is an administrative organ organized under the same department as Barnevernet.

False assertion no. 4: Parents get a free lawyer.
False: The lawyer representing the parents recieve a maximum hourly rate of NOK 985 per hour while Barnevernets lawyer is paid NOK 1500 or whatever he charge. The municipalities have lawyers working full time removing children from the parents and they work as many hours as they need. This is in contrast to the lawyer representing the parents who get paid only a certain number of hours. Also barnevernet act as secretariat for their lawyer while the private party has no such services. There is not equality of arms as required by The European Court of Human Rights. This constitutes a breach of the right to a fair trial, cf ECHR article 6.

False assertion no. 5: The parents have the right to appeal every year.
Fact: In theory the parents may appeal every year, which is a special Norwegian rule designed to keep costs down, but Barnevernet uses 3 month to investigate the case, then it takes some months before the case is scheduled before the County Board. After the County Board has made its decision it may take 4-5 months before the case is scheduled in the District Court. The process takes about a year, so in practice the parents are allowed to appeal every second year.

False assertion no. 6: Once the parents are deemed capable of providing adequate care the children are returned.
False: Barnevernet never reverse its decisions, and it is extremely difficult to have your children repatriated. Most placements are long-term, id est permanent. The children are not released from barnevernet’s custody until they reach 18 years of age.

Conclusion: The propaganda given by Ambassador Jon-Åge Øyslebø is highly unreliable and should not be trusted.

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