Oct 28, 2010

Guest Writer: Daniel Hammarberg

The Domenic case is far from unique
By Daniel Hammarberg, human rights activist and author of The Madhouse: A critical study of Swedish society

Since Sweden introduced barnavårdslagen, "the child welfare law," in 1924, the act which enabled the state to take children into custody without their parents' consent, quite a few Swedes have faced relocation into foster care on dubious grounds. As the supply of foster homes wasn't nearly enough to meet the new demands of the grandiose plans for solving societal ills through foster care, the state swiftly established orphanages where sometimes upwards of 30 children were brought up. In the mid 20th century, at the peak of the days of unbridled foster care, no less than one in 30 children at any given time resided in foster care - half of them in actual families, the other half in orphanages. Since then, the proportion of the total population has gone down somewhat, but these dreaded child institutions are still around, now referred to as HVB-hem - treatment homes.

Two opposite developments have taken place; on the one hand, the poverty that afflicted early 20th century Sweden was nearly eliminated during the 1950's and 60's. On the other hand, as the original reasons to take children into state custody were disappearing, social workers created new reasons to seize children. While before, children could be taken due to their parents not being able to afford their sustenance or outright physically abusing them, now questionable psychological theories on the development of children see the light of day, instead. Delusional Freudian beliefs are now used to justify separating a child from his or her family. As the legislation upon which the foster care system was based has progressed, not only is actual harm to the child used to make a case, but now also projections of psychologists on the future development of the child are heavily considered.

While the early incarnations of barnavårdslagen, "the child welfare law," were fairly specific on the grounds upon which to take a child into custody, these later developed into general clauses which in today's LVU law lets the government seize children if "... any other condition in the home" warrants it as per §2, or as far as the conduct of the child goes - "... any other socially destructive behaviour" as per §3. What is considered to meet these conditions is for the social workers as a profession to decide, and the administrative courts that try the cases rarely question the opinions of the social workers.

Any use of naked force and oppressive measures will eventually meet resistance, and in Sweden as a possible counter, we've witnessed the use of Newspeak for what was previously a blatantly controversial use of state authority. The 1924 law didn't mince words when it laid down the rules, and here children could be described as "degenerates." An orphanage was still called an orphanage, and society didn't need to disguise its aims to any noticeable degree. 

In today's society, the same public authority circulates such phrases as barnens bästa i centrum, "the best interests of the child," and similar. The government insists it's only doing what's right for the child these days, with little regard for birth family bonds which are so very critical for a growing human being, without which a person has little hope of becoming a well-adjusted adult. Children can be mercilessly torn from families where an independent observer will have little understanding for the state's actions. Perhaps "the best interests of the child" is merely Newspeak for the state's willingness to seize children from families that refuse to conform and cooperate with the state. The "care" it's felt that the children "need" is rather the oppressive measure of a covertly totalitarian state that's ensuring that society won't have to deal with functional families independent of the state, with the strength that's inherent in an intact nuclear family.

Over the years, several horror stories have emerged from the Swedish foster care system; in the 1970's, Sweden's political elite made use of girls placed at orphanages as prostitutes, some as young as 14 years old, in what was called the Geijer affair. In 1983, German magazine Der Spiegel published an extensive article entitled "Kinder-Gulag" im Sozialstaat Schweden on the state of foster care at the time, likening it to the Soviet system of Gulags. Back then, Europe still enjoyed good investigative journalism as well as a European Court of Human Rights that still had the ability to influence the way public authorities operated. Not so today, when mass media is oh so silent on the topic of foster care abuses, and the ECHR is virtually useless as an institution for the individual families to seek redress for their grievances due to being flooded with cases.

There have been other cases recently, similar to the Domenic one. During the summer of 2009, an Iranian man named Esmail and his Swedish wife Susanne, who have three children together, found these taken at the airport as they were leaving for Iran after having only made a brief stop in Sweden. An anonymous report about alleged child neglect had been made against them, and still today they've not been able to get their children back.

The future looks even more bleak. In a parliamentary bill the other year, 2008/09:So555, the Left Party of Sweden wanted to make it a crime attempting to leave Sweden with children who had legally been taken into state custody, and the authorities were going to be alerted whenever anyone with a LVU order on them attempted to leave, just like criminals. To support the bill, they quoted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the CRC. The bill was voted down, but overall when one browses the bills that have been written on the LVU law, they all have one thing in common - the call for greater jurisdiction and possibly more spending as well.

To learn more about the state of contemporary Swedish society, feel free to have a look at my new book "The Madhouse" where I cover all the things above in greater detail; for now only available as an E-book but soon to be available in print as well.


Or take a peek at my new blog at


No comments:

Post a Comment