Swedish Child Welfare – Tough With the Gentle, Gentle With the Tough
Posted by: Daniel Hammarberg on October 10, 2011
Through an unexpected string of events, Swedish child welfare has recently become a hot topic internationally, with no fewer than three other countries involved in highly publicized child welfare controversies. But first, let’s start off with a domestic matter – vanvårdsutredningen, “The abuse investigation” in English, the inquiry into the excesses children in Swedish foster care had to endure during the mid 20th century, and the financial compensation the victims who suffered this abuse were looking forward to.
Earlier this year, Minister for Children Maria Larsson hinted at former foster care children possibly becoming eligible for financial compensation, following the investigation that’s been in progress since 2006. This September it turned into a stormy matter, however, as she was forced to deliver the gloomy news that the incumbent government had decided there would be no compensation. The left-wing parties of the Riksdag were quick to seize this opportunity to turn the matter into party politics, and chairman of the Left Party, Lars Ohly, went as far as describing the current centrist government as “shameful” and “autocratic” in his debate article here.
The family policies that led to this abuse were spearheaded all the way by the Social Democratic party, with the parties that make up the incumbent government having played no part in it; yet there he was, siding with the very Social Democrats and calling Maria Larsson’s announcement “a scandal.” I personally found his attacks on the Christian Democrats in particular very shameful, due to this party for a long time having been the sole voice of opposition in family policy matters. In the last paragraph of his article, he writes:
“In the fall budget of the Left Party there are funds set aside to compensate the foster care children. In spite of the cowardice and shameful actions of the government we really hope that it will be so.”
The Left Party earlier considered themselves Communists, but dropped that term when the Berlin wall fell. His party has been the right-hand man of the Social Democrats throughout much of the 20th century, securing them the parliamentary support needed to pass their bills many a times, yet here he now was, grandstanding in his vitriolic assault on the parliamentary right-wing bloc. I personally found it hard standing his manners, which is why I wrote a debate article for popular site Newsmill, where I among other things criticized the left for exploiting the affair, and also cautioned people on what solutions to look for when it comes to protecting children – neither the UN-introduced Convention on the Rights of the Child, or more funding for bureaucrats to “strengthen the protection for children” in the system will help. I argued that what we really needed to do was to scale the system back and let the parenting role return to the biological family.
Child seizures are at a record level
Today, almost 25,000 children are in the Swedish foster care system, a figure it’s not been at for several decades – not since the days of the large orphanages of the mid 20th century has as large a portion of the children in the country been in foster care. Half a year ago, I made a video clip I called “State of the Swedish child welfare address,” where I brought up many of the things happening in the system back then; yet since this, there have been a number of new developments, and this new peak in the number of children in the system brought me to the decision to make a new overview.
It’s interesting to note that few other countries have this large a portion of the children in foster care. Indeed, when comparing the Icelandic and German systems, I found that Iceland kept only 1/5 as many children per capita in its system, at a price of 1/9 of the total Swedish cost, and that Germany only kept 1/3 as many, relatively speaking. The large monies circulating in the system might be to blame for this, as many couples support themselves here solely through acting as foster parents for two or three children, and social workers starting orphanages sometimes become millionaires from the generous government payouts. One of my planned projects is to write an exposé on one particular orphanage – barnhemmet Oasen, where owner Rune Nensén takes out a salary of almost a million dollars a year, and many children have run away from there because of the conditions they’re being forced to live under. The following is a clip of a girl in her early teens running from Oasen back home to her father, whom she preferred to live with; yet the social services sent the police to the family’s house to put her back into the institution.
This summer I wrote a petition calling for an end to these atrocities by removing the government from the nuclear family: ”Let our children go! For a complete overhaul of Swedish family policy.” Feel free to sign this if you want to help put an end to what you witnessed in the video above.
Domenic Johansson’s foster parents are moving to adopt him
Back in June of 2009, as a family of three were leaving for India, police intervened and seized the boy after the social services had decided the boy should be in state custody rather than with his own family. I’ve personally monitored this case since 1 August 2009, when I first became aware of it due to a post made on the forum for the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, even though there’s been a huge blackout about it in Swedish media. Only the latest development in the case will be covered here, though; for more of the story since then, go to the Friends of Domenic Johansson blog.
The family has not seen each other very much since then, with only brief supervised visits being allowed during the first year and a half – and even this contact was completely abolished in late November 2010, when Christer defied the authorities and used his supervised visit with his son to instead take him home, in violation of the terms imposed on the family by the social services. This Wednesday, father Christer revealed on the Facebook group concerning this matter that he had been notified that the foster family was moving to adopt his son. Ever since the first days of the care placement, the family on the Indian mother’s side have pleaded with their own government to pressure Sweden to allow the family to emigrate intact – and with these news, they redoubled their efforts, yet to no avail, the Indian government appears as unwilling to bring up the matter, as the Swedish one is to reconsider it.
International media has however picked up on this development, with both WorldNetDaily and the Homeschooling Legal Defense Association highlighting it. The HSLDA is providing a letter readers can send to the Gotland social services if they want to protest this move. For now, the decision the social services appears to have made back in 2009 to permanently give the then 7-year-old Domenic a new home appears to stand. The family consists of his foster mother, his foster father and a slightly older sister. The last report I heard of him was that he appeared to be leading a fairly normal childhood, having been sighted a month or so ago buying groceries with them in a Visby store.
When in Rome, I get it… But getting arrested during your vacation?
This summer, Italian politician Giovanni Colasante went for a vacation in the Scandinavian countries with his family. While in Stockholm, his son started a fuss about not wanting to eat at a restaurant, demanding they go somewhere else instead. In accordance with Italian customs, the man simply grabbed his son by his hair and started to drag him back, which alarmed some of the bystanders. What he thought would be simply a visit to a restaurant turned into him being arrested for child abuse, as someone had called the police and reported him.
After being arrested and put in jail, he was soon in court, charged with child abuse. Here he described the incident, merely stating: “I held my son by the collar of his jacket and his hair for a moment.” Since the boy had not suffered any injuries, the court considered the offense a misdemeanor; even though he was sentenced to a fine of 6,600 Swedish crowns (about a thousand dollars), this was waived, and he was able to return home a free man, having suffered no more than a three-day incarceration for a couple of seconds of hair-pulling.
The affair got immense coverage in Italian media, where they found themselves puzzled at just why the Swedish authorities reacted this way. For the story in more detail, see the article at the British Daily Mail.
Spare the rod, create a monster
Not everyone has it this rough with Swedish child welfare, though. In this country, the social services generally handles all legal sanctions for youth offenders, and minors who break the law are sentenced to assorted forms of care that’s meant to prevent them from becoming full-fledged criminals. Sometimes this pampering can just be too much, like in this recent case.
In the small town of Enköping, with a population of some 20,000, there was at the start of the year an almost unbelievable specimen of a 14-year-old boy. He had recently been suspended from his elementary school after having amassed this rap sheet during his time there:
* He had threatened to kill teachers as well as other pupils and regularly carried a knife to school.
* He was the leader of a youth gang.
* He had been indicted for drug charges, perverting the course of justice and having headbutted another pupil.
After he had been enrolled in a new school, he went up to the principal’s office on 18 March, after he had learned that this principal had reported him to the police because of his antics. He told him he would kill him and left his office briefly to go get a baseball bat. A couple of minutes later, he returned with this bat, while the principal had gone into hiding in another room, completely terrified. Then the boy took out his rage on the the man’s office instead and demolished it.
Following this crime spree, the police were reluctantly forced to hand over the boy to the social services, which judged the appropriate legal sanction would be to be forced to meet with a contact person a couple of times a week, while still living at home. This was in spite of the fact that the boy had explicitly told the social services that he was going to kill this principal, either with a knife or a gun, and in the courtroom he also stated that he had intended to kill the man while at his office.
During this last summer, he’s burglarized people’s homes, newsstands, cars (both looted them and set them on fire), threatened police officers, resisted arrest, been caught with drugs etc etc. His crowning achievement came in June, when he set the pub Joar Blå on fire, a deed whose reconstruction efforts will run nearly a million dollars.
Since there has been no legal way for the justice system to restrain this boy, the police have pleaded desperately with the social services to take him into custody, but not until 18 August would they finally put him in an institution, after he was on trial yet again for his latest crimes. For the Swedish source to this story, see this newspaper article.
In conclusion – Sweden just might be the only society in the history of the world to manage to be both a dictatorship and an anarchy at the same time.