Open Letter From Grieving Father
by Christer Johansson
I've read the Discrimination Law, the Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention, the Swedish Government Third Wave of Implementation of Human Rights and I have no other option but to conclude that our family is being gravely discriminated against by the Social Service on Gotland.
My name is Christer Johansson and I am the father of a bright, beautiful boy that has been broken into millions of pieces by the Social Services in Gotland Kommun. As perhaps you know, Domenic was taken from us in 2009 as we were on our way to India. This happened after a year of harassment and disputes over our right to educate Domenic at home. Once they took Domenic from us, we started a process of hearings and appeals to determine if we were fit parents and if Domenic was to live with us or with a foster family.
What follows is an account of some of the miscarriages of justice and blunt discrimination with which the Social Services approached our case from the very beginning. The social workers presented reports based on inventions and untruthful statements and they were not challenged by the lawyers that were supposed to defend us. Pure gossip was elevated to the status of science while sound statements by psychologists and doctors on the mental and physical health of the family were dismissed.
Just as an example, the Social Board asked the social workers at the beginning of the process about the grounds for taking custody from the parents and placing Domenic in foster care. Social worker Caroline Palmqvist stated that it was "on account of Christer's mental health." This was the first time any of us heard that my mental health was an issue. On no occasion before the moment they took my son from me had anybody within the system mention this. Now, I have proved twice and with sound reports from experts, that I do not have a mental health problem. I did suffer the trauma of suffering an earthquake and a robbery that almost took my life and took everything I had. That is different than having a mental disorder.
When mental health could not be pressed harder as a reason for justifying taking my son from me, they accused me of being a drug addict. I said, “Let me go and test myself.” Now in Sweden, to go and test yourself a Social Worker has to make the request. In this case it was the responsibility of Sofie Rosenquist to make such request. She did not do it, and she did not do it repeatedly forcing me to plea with the laboratory in charge of the testing to do it anyway. They did and it came back clean. I sent the results to Sofie Rosenquist who later on testified that I had not taken the test. Despite my complaints nobody in the court system followed up on her statement or on the laboratory.
All of a sudden I ceased being an issue and they focused on the fact that Domenic had been educated at home. It did not seem to matter that we won the case regarding homeschooling before Domenic was taken from us. It did not seem to matter that we have, in fact, registered Domenic in public school in Havdhem. It did not seem to matter that I was also invited to work there as I have been working as a teacher for many years.
The social service did not accept that. Instead, they registered Domenic in a different school far away from us. This together with the draconian rules for visitation of our own son which included not taking pictures, not speaking about the case, not bringing food with us, especially not Indian food, and not bringing gifts, is a carefully designed plan to force isolation and it goes against the law.
To further complicate matters, once my mental health or supposed drug use could no longer be established, they decided to discuss Annie’s mental health. Now Annie has never been examined for any kind of psychological issue. All comments regarding her mental health were made by social workers with no training in the field. These social workers took upon themselves to elaborate a scientific explanation for what they deemed "inappropriate grieving" after being forcefully separated from her only son. Social workers declared that Annie did not know what was best for her son and such a comment stood in court as evidence that she in fact did not know how to care for Domenic. It did not matter that Domenic was healthy for 7 years and that he was an intelligent well adjusted kid. They examined him for everything, his physical health and his intellectual and emotional development. They found nothing and now we are denied access to these reports by the Gotland Social Services.
While all this is taking place in court, we were still having very short visits every 5 weeks and at the time of his 8th birthday we were told that Domenic did not want to see us. We were told once we have arrived to the center, with my mother and father hoping for a nice celebration. There was no communication between the Social Services and us and no discussion on Domenic’s reasons. We had to turn around and go home, devastated. I have never seen my father so unhappy and disappointed. On the next occasion we saw Domenic I asked him about this and he denied having said that he did not want to see us. He was very sad and disconcerted. I confronted Sofie Rosenqvist and Caroline Palmqvist and demanded an explanation and their response was that Domenic had a better life now and that they have already made the decision of keeping us apart.
In this same conversation I brought up the issue of my supposed mental health problems and the fact that I had proof of not having any to which they first replied that they could not comment but then went on saying that I have a “personality disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome.” To add to their gruesome picture of me and my family, they commented upon the "distressing fact" that Domenic tends to hug other kids when he is happy and how such conduct is evidence of a deviant tendency that needs to be corrected.
New hearings in court kept bringing up new questions about my mental health and now it was this assumption of me having Asperger’s Syndrome. This was again denied by the reports after exhaustive examination and yet the lawyer Rickard Ploman continued in court to call me mentally ill and that I have a personality disorder. He has done that every time in every hearing. He is the lawyer appointed to me by the court. Now, why would my own lawyer continue referring to my mental health knowing first, that it is not true, and second, that it damages my chances of winning the case? I leave that question open because I truly do not have an answer.
The character assassination continued with reports on our house, the lack of furniture and a certain degree of messiness on the second floor. It is not noted, however, that we were at that point planning to move back to India and that we were in the process of selling all our furniture and doing some renovations before closing the house definitely.
Before I go, we have done everything we were asked to do in order to proof that we are fit parents while social services have proven shown that we are not. We have made every effort to show the circumstances of our family and the importance of us staying together after suffering two very traumatic experiences. Professor Trevor Archer, Swedish expert in Trauma, testified in our behalf and warned the court about the harm it will create to separate the family unit both for Domenic and for us.
Our future is in your hands, especially Domenic's. As Professor Archer said, Domenic can never heal from the trauma unless he comes home. And he was home for a few hours and he said to me “Daddy, what I fear the most is to go back to that family."
My son Domenic does not even cry when he hurts himself. He cannot cry anymore, which is more than enough proof that he is severely damaged him. The law is there to protect our family against violations such as this, but still after two years, the socials services continue to harm both Annie and me and Domenic. They have told him already, "You are going to stay here until your 16 years old." Domenic told me in November 2010. And now, they are telling us that they want to withdrawal full custody and give it to his foster family.
Fall of 2008: The Johansson’s (Christer and Annie) contact the Ministry of Education and after being told that they could homeschool and start the process amidst the obstruction of local school officials. They make the decision of homeschooling base on their plans to move to India in a few months and consider that this will ease Domenic's (born 2002) transition and adjustment.
January 2009: After being fined and visited by social services on many occasions, Christer Johansson calls for meetings to discuss this matter, to no avail. The authorities decide that Domenic has to go to school.
February 11. 2009: The Child and education department orders the family to pay a fine of 250 SEK per day that Domenic is not at school. The Social Services intensify their pressure on the family. Homeschooling is still the only issue.
May 27th 2009: An action is taking to enforce the payment of the fine (Now 15.000 SKr). The court refused to enforce it because the school year is over - an implicit recognition of the right of the family to homeschool under the law at that time (it became illegal in July 2011). Christer Johansson informs the court of the family intention to move to India on June 26th. There is no court order or any other legal action taken to prevent the Johanssons from moving to India as was their plan.
June 25, 2009: Domenic and his parents are seated on the flight to India. Swedish police take Domenic from the plane. They alleged that there has been an anonymous report on the family (this has never been confirmed). The family cooperates. They are told that some social workers are going to talk to Domenic for a few minutes, they agree to let him go. The social worker takes Domenic from the airport. Annie collapses.
The Social Services agree to place Domenic with his uncle, Christer's brother, Mike. The parents are told that they will be able to have Domenic back the following Monday. When they go to pick him up, they are told that they have found two cavities, that Domenic seems to be extremely shy and not behaving like a normal kid of his age, and they consider this to be evidence that there is a developmental problem. From here on there is reference to Domenic's mental health. This time both Annie and Christer collapsed. Due to their physical and emotional reaction the social services decide to not allow them to see Domenic. They finally see Domenic 6 WEEKS later. In Christer's words "he (Domenic) was broken in small pieces"
August 4th, 2009: First hearing.
August 13th, 2009: The court upheld the decision of removal of physical custody without any medical or psychological report stating abuse or neglect.
The parents are not allowed to visit Domenic on his birthday and new conditions are imposed on the visits:
No toys- Domenic cannot receive any kind of gift from his parents and definitely nothing that he could take with him to his foster home.
No taking pictures or filming- therefore no evidence can be provided about the attitude of the Social Workers and their impediments to allow the family to bond.
No speaking about the case- there is no possibility for the parents to speak freely with Domenic, explain the situation and comfort him.
November 30th, 2009: Court of appeals upholds decision largely based on a psychiatric report of Domenic that suggests he was “developmentally delayed”. This report was performed after Domenic has been months separated from his parents with limited, closely supervised visits .
January 27th, 2010: Swedish Supreme Administrative Court denied the appeal exhausting the domestic appeals in this case and making it possible to present a petition on the family's behalf in European Court of Human Rights.
In Sweden, the system allows for a revision to see if the child should remain in State's custody or can go back to his family. This happens every 6 months more or less. These are some of the actions taken to that effect:
May 13th 2010: Johansson's Lawyer Ruby Harrold-Claesson (Nordic Committee for Human Rights) is dismissed by the court in Gotland upon request of Domenic's court appointed lawyer complaining that she took the parents with her in an unscheduled visit to Domenic at school. Domenic was not allowed to see his parents in this occasion.
November 2010: Christer takes Domenic home the 22nd of November (without permission) when they are supposed to have a supervised meeting. Domenic stays with his family over the weekend and then Christer phones the police and tells them where they are. Police appear (again) uniformed and armed and drags Domenic away even without letting him put his outside clothes on. Christer and a friend of his that helped to take Domenic home are charged and Christer spends some time in jail and goes through a psychiatric evaluation. That analysis, completed and submitted to the courts, found Christer to be psychologically sound. Christer requested representation by Trygve Emstedt (a lawyer), but is denied his request in direct defiance of Swedish and European Union laws. Christer sits in jail until 21th of January 2011 when he is finally released.
April 17th 2011: A case number is assigned by the European Court of Human Rights .
April 23rd/27th 2011 (?): Meeting between the Johanssons and the Social Service to respond to inquiries regarding Domenic's deteriorating health. The social services insists that the actions of the parents are to blame for his health issues.
May 2011: The petition to the ECHR concludes, "Insofar as has been communicated to the family through official court orders, Domenic is to remain in the custody of the Swedish officials on what appears to be a de facto permanent basis."
September 2011: Proposal to remove legal custody from the parents.