Feature: Protests against Norway's welfare service for taking children from parents
by Dragana Paulsen
OSLO, April 16 (Xinhua) -- Demonstration campaigners filled up a square in downtown Oslo on Saturday as part of global protests against Norway's child welfare service for aggressively taking children from their parents, many of them of foreign origins.
Banners painted in Norwegian flag colors, with emotional messages to and about the country's child protection service, known as Barnevernet, were held by both Norwegians and foreigners in the Eidsvoll Square in front of the Norwegian Parliament.
Oddvar Espegard, one of the volunteers and speakers at the protest, said the demonstrations took place simultaneously in almost 60 cities in different countries around the world.
"Today a big thing is happening in the whole world: from New Zealand in the East to the U.S.A. in the West, people are demonstrating and protesting against this criminal Barnevernet," he told Xinhua.
"We demand that Barnevernet immediately stop their abuses," Espegard said, adding that the Norwegian government is using billions of Norwegian kroner for the system that does not function.
"Barnevernet got a permit to show what they can do in many decades and we see now that it got to be only uglier," Espegard said. "They maybe help a child or two and at the same time hurt and destroy eight children."
"Eight out of ten children were hurt by Barnevernet - it is pure mathematics," he said.
Officials of the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir), which is in charge of Barnevernet, have said the negative attention is a challenge for the child welfare service since it depends on trust in order to do a good job.
They said they could not talk about individual cases in media due to the duty of confidentiality, adding that Norwegian laws that ensure children may not suffer any kind of violence must be respected by everyone who lives in Norway.
"The Norwegian Child Welfare Act (CWA) outlines the responsibilities of the child welfare service and its main purpose is to ensure that children who live in conditions that can harm their health and development are given necessary help and care," Anders Henriksen, a head of section at the Bufdir, told Xinhua.
"The CWA applies to all children in Norway, regardless of their residential status, background or nationality/citizenship," he said.
"A care order can only be passed if there are serious deficiencies in the everyday care, or if the child is mistreated or subjected to other serious violence, abuse or neglect at home," Henriksen said. "It is also a requirement that the care order is necessary due to the child's situation and in the child's best interest."
Some other people, including those whose children were taken away from them, said the Norwegian child protection service should pay more attention to foreign cultures.
"It is Barnevernet that needs to understand our culture and have a better communication with us," said Purisima Caledor from Chile, whose two children were taken away from her by Barnevernet three years ago.
"They were taken away from school and kindergarten without a single explanation. Barnevernet only said we were not able to take care of them," she said.
"They convinced my children that it is better that they stay with Barnevernet since they will give them a better life, a horse for example. So my children were manipulated in this way," Caledor said.
The case of a Romanian-Norwegian couple of Pentecostal faith whose five children were taken away by Barnevernet last November has stirred up many discussions and controversies.
Marius Bodnariu, a Romanian, and his wife Ruth, a Norwegian, used corporal punishment when raising their children, a method that is illegal in Norway. They admit this and add that they still did not expect this outcome.
Some Christian believers have expressed opinion that Barnevernet simply discriminates the couple on religious and national grounds.
The whole case is additionally complicated since Barnevernet refuses to talk about individual cases, in order to protect the children's privacy.
More than 60,000 people have since January demonstrated against Barnevernet in this case in the United States, Romania and several other European countries, according to an anti-Bernevernet Facebook page.
Frode Andersen, a spokesperson of Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told local newspaper VG that there were attempts to inform people about the system and legal frame of Barnevernet abroad, but the job was not easy since the campaign against it was "willfully distorting the facts." Enditem
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