Written by Tomáš Zdechovský, a Member of the European Parliament
If I have to talk about Norway’s child protection services, Barnevernet, I admit that I have exchanged my favourite quote: “Believe in victory, and victory will believe in you” for a different one: “A blind person is not the one who cannot see, but the one who does not want to see.”
The case foremost in my mind is of a Czech mother Eva Michalakova, whose two sons were taken by Barnevernet. This was the first case of the state-sponsored snatching of children in which I got involved. Before this I was mostly fighting for the rights of fathers for access to their children after divorce. These fathers had been unfairly deprived of a full relationship with their children, but the case of Eva was far worse. Her boys had been taken on allegations of child abuse that were proven to be false and yet the children had not been returned. Even three years after the allegations were found to be false, Barnevernet refused to return the children.
The unfortunate brothers are till today being brought up separately in two different foster families. Barnevernet claims they are allowed to see each other once a month for a short time. Initially Eva was permitted to see them individually for two hours twice a year. Such visits that took place were under strict supervision and very harsh rules; no physical contact was allowed and use of the boys’ mother tongue—Czech—was prohibited. If she reminded the boys of their nice moments together in the past, the visitation would be immediately terminated.
Later even this meager visitation was cancelled on the ground that the mother had “harmed” the children by going public with the story of their removal. The boys’ grandfather was deprived, even on his deathbed, of the chance to speak to them once before dying. He was not even permitted to contact them via Skype on the grounds that he had shared one of the boys’ illustrations on Facebook, which was said to be “uncomfortable” for the boy. It turned out that even this silly claim was false, as in reality the grandfather had no Facebook account. And there was also no way for him to get an illustration.
READ THE REST OF THIS SUNDAY GUARDIAN LIVE ARTICLE HERE.
This article is published in collaboration with http://www.saveyourchildren.in, lawyer Suranya Aiyar’s website critiquing the role of governments and NGOs in child-related policy.
I will eventually link to each article in this outstanding series of articles. I am very appreciative of Suranya Aiyar’s efforts. She has not only made a big difference in her home country of India by making her fellow countrymen aware of these evils, she has been an advocate for children all over the world.