The Folly of Sweden's State Controlled Families
The lawyer, Mrs Siv Westerberg's lecture to The Family Education Trust.
London, 19th June, 1999.
Thank you very much for your invitation to come here and talk about the situation in Sweden. I am a founder-member of an organisation called 'The Nordic Committee for Human Rights', which consists of other lawyers like myself, university lecturers, doctors, teachers and many other professionals. We are all very worried by the situation in Sweden with regard to the family. We are doing our best to establish contacts with other countries where a similar trend, against the private family and in favour of the state-controlled family, seems to be developing. I want to tell you about it.
Sweden has, during the last decades, developed into a kind of socio-medical totalitarian state. A totalitarian state where families are deprived of the right to care for and educate their own children; and are deprived of the basic human right to both family life and private life.
The European history of the twentieth century has some horrible examples of how a democracy can turn into a totalitarian state. Mostly such a transformation is brought about by armed soldiers and policemen in uniform. Those soldiers and policemen use brutal physical violence against anyone who refuses to obey their orders. For every citizen in those states it is immediately obvious that those brutal servants of the state are their enemies. It is immediately obvious to the citizen that this is the end of freedom. From then on they know you are permitted just to say things or do things or even think things that the totalitarian state permits. Otherwise something very bad will happen to you.
But the development in Sweden towards a socio-medical totalitarian state wasn't like that. In fact the army and the police have very little power in Sweden. Instead, the government achieved their totalitarian power by using persons whom the ordinary citizen believes to be their friends. Where other European dictatorships once used policemen and armed soldiers to make the citizens obedient, the Swedish authorities use doctors, nurses, midwifes, teachers, pre-school teachers and child-care assistants to do their dirty work for them.
The Swedish authorities chose to 'medicalize' a lot of different features of daily life and to describe various kinds of quite normal behaviour as 'pathological'. For instance, a fond and protective mother has been described as having an 'unhealthy, symbiotic relationship', with her child; it was enough to render her an unfit mother. Or take, for example, the fact that it is sometimes untidy in a house where a family where four small children are living. In Swedish court proceedings, that can be developed into a theory that the mother must have some psychiatric disease and that the children's health is jeopardized when the house is untidy; because an expert, a child-psychiatrist, says so.
And for the ordinary citizen such a method is almost more dangerous than using armed soldiers and police. If you were a Jew in the nineteen-thirties in Nazi-Germany, you knew very well that the Gestapo was your enemy. You knew that it was wise to avoid having anything to do with them. But in Sweden they use officials whom you, in the beginning, believe are your friends.
Because most people believe that the midwife in the maternity welfare clinic, the doctor you consult when you or your children fall ill, your children's teachers, the social officials that poor people meet when they have to ask for some economic support at the end of the month, - you believe that they are your friends, not your enemies. Initially these professional people are friendly; they seem to be really interested in you and your family's wellbeing.
They are so friendly and nice to you that you get confidence in them. So you confide in them concerning your family's life. You tell them that, as the mother of four small children, you are sometimes terribly tired and exhausted from all the jobs you have with the children. In that moment you can't even dream that a few years later you will get those words thrown back in your face in a court proceeding. A court where the Swedish authorities are going to deprive you of your right to care for your own children. Court proceeding where the Swedish authorities intend to take your children into forcible care and send them to a foster-home.
And often your words have been distorted. Now it is, " years ago Lisa Svensson told her doctor that she wasn't up to looking after her children". In a state that took the rule of law seriously, and followed court procedure, you would get the chance to cross-examination witnesses. The mother's lawyer would be given the chance to look seriously into the eyes of that doctor and ask him: " Did Mrs Svensson really utter those exact words to you? Before you answer my question, please, Doctor, remember that you are giving your evidence under oath". And than that doctor would very likely say: "Well, what she actually said was that she was very tired."
But in Sweden, cases concerning taking children into forcible public care aren't heard in the civil courts but in the administrative courts. And there you very often are not given the chance to cross-examine witnesses and experts. The proceedings in these administrative courts seem to me to be more or less a parody of impartial court proceedings. The proceedings are a mixture of oral and written evidence and 'hearsay' evidence is permitted. From the moment that I, as the lawyer of those unhappy parents who are going to lose their child to the Swedish State, enter the courtroom, I feel that not only the social authorities, but also the court, is against me. The judge and the officials from the social welfare centre are talking to each other in a very cordial manner. It is obvious that both feel that they are a part of the same very powerful authority system.
During the last twenty or thirty years Swedish families step by step have lost the basic human right to family life and private life. In thousands of families this has lead to thousands of parents losing their children. The Swedish Statehas taken their children into forcible care and placed the children in foster-homes; mostly very bad foster-homes too.
The biological parents are permitted to see their children for just a few hours, just a few times a year; even then, under close supervision by social workers and /or the foster-parents. If the children were very small when they were taken into forcible care, they will soon forget their parents. And children and parents will soon become strangers to each other.
The social workers and the foster-parents strengthen this situation. They regularly tell the foster-child what bad and dangerous people the child's biological parents are. If you tell a small child things like that over and over again the child will soon believe you.
Pretty soon the child will say that it doesn't want to see the parents anymore, because it thinks they are dangerous. And so the foster-parents and the social workers tell the biological parents that they are not permitted to see their child at all, because their child is afraid of them. To prove this, the social workers and the foster-parents take the child to a psychiatrist - who derives his or her main income from co-operation with the social authorities. It thus follows as night follows day, that the child psychiatrist will write a doctor's certificate asserting that the child's mental health will be jeopardized if the child is obliged to meet its biological parents.
All such theorising is pure nonsense. No scientifically acceptable method exists, whereby psychology or psychiatry can forecast what would happen to a child's feelings in these circumstances. It is a cruel lie. The question of how often a child should be allowed to see its parents after it has been taken into forcible care, is not a medical question at all. It has been 'medicalised' simply in order to make the decision seem reasonable and 'scientific'.
If there is a dispute between the biological parents on one side, and social workers and foster-parents on the other side concerning the access - and very often there is such a dispute - that dispute should be resolved by an impartial court - not by a child psychiatrist. There should be extremely strong reasons for deciding to prevent parents from seeing their own child less than once every week. And there should also be extremely strong reasons for supervising children and parents when they meet each other too. How is it possible to retain personal family bonds when somebody is listening to every word that children and parents say to each other? And here I am sorry to have to tell that I have never heard of a foster-child in Sweden who was permitted to see its parents as often as once a week. In most of the cases I have encountered, the parents are permitted to see-their own child for just a couple of hours once every second month or still more infrequently.
In the very few cases I have heard of where parents and children were permitted to see each other slightly more often - it is never as often as once a week - all of those cases had a happy ending. That is to say, the child moved back to its biological parents and the family was reunited.
Neither is it typical for the foster-parents and the social authorities to accept that it is in the best interest of that child to move back home to its own parents. On those rare occasions when it happens, it is invariably for another reason. Namely, that the child escaped from the foster-home and ran home to its own parents. And when the child had done so a number of times, both the social workers and the police gave up forcibly fetching the child back to the foster-home.
Thus, it is my considered opinion that the reason the social authorities prevent parental access to their biological children, is because they know the child will escape back home if they are allowed to retain the bond with their family. Social workers and foster-parents know very well that if the child is given the chance to compare the care, grounded in true love, that the child gets form its own parents; with the care the child receives in the foster-home, the child would prefer to live with its own parents.
But when those enemies of the parents, the social workers, have a doctor's certificate as proof that a the child will suffer psychologically if they see their parents often enough to know them, the parents very seldom have any possibility of getting the court to change its decision. A real 'unhealthy symbiotic relationship' has developed where the courts are the willing slaves of expert opinion whilst the experts are dependent upon social workers for much of their livelihood.
The question at the front of your minds may be, why are social workers and foster-parents so eager to take children from their parents in this way? The answer, I am afraid, is largely financial. If the foster-parents lose the foster-child, who moves back to its own parents, the foster-parents lose the very high income they have from the fosterchild. What is more, a large part of their income is tax free which is a considerable benefit since taxes are so high inSweden. A few years ago I calculated that in Sweden a fostermother having three or four fosterchildren will have a higher income than a university professor has after tax.
As for the motives of the social workers who provide the source of this lucrative income - other people's children - for the foster-parents, their motive is also largely financial. There simply would not be anything for social workers to do if they did not constantly 'talk up' the supposed problems of 'child abuse'. Sweden has no real poverty; a homogenous population and very few real social problems. Practically speaking, there should be very little for social workers to do - unless they make work for themselves. This they do by means of remorseless propaganda against ordinary families. They tell us in reports and surveys how people are neglecting or ill-treating their children on a hitherto undreamed of scale. And why didn't we hear about this in times past? Because we didn't have wonderful social workers then who could uncover these abuses!
It is a simple technique and effective. Unfortunately, it is also difficult to refute except by individual cases which, taken together, show beyond any doubt, that the principal perpetrators of family and child-abuse inSweden are the social workers themselves.
But now some of you might be wondering whether all this forcible taking of children into care and sending them to foster-homes affects also ordinary middle class families in Sweden? Do those children who are forcibly taken into care by the state, have parents with severe mental illness; or problems with drugs or alcohol? The answer is, No.
I, and other Swedish lawyers who specialise in helping parents against the social authorities in child-care cases, have estimated that it is only in about ten percent of cases that the parents have problems with alcohol, drugs or mental illness. The remaining ninety percent are quite ordinary families who never had any such problems.
So how do they fall into the clutches of the social Services? Well, in Sweden, there is a special emphasis on targeting the so-called 'poor'; as well as a disproportionate number of immigrant families. The social support system for poor people has been so good for many years, that poverty is never a reason for a family being without food, clothing or a roof over their heads.
The process whereby poor, but steady and conscientious, families lose their children often starts in the following way. The father or/and the mother goes to the social welfare office to ask for some economic support. Usually they immediately get economic support. But at the same time they get a social worker into their lives. And that social worker starts mixing into the family's life, for instance asking why the wife is a housewife? Why doesn't she go to work in a factory and leave her four small children for eight or ten hours a day in the kindergarten?
Then those poor people feel hurt and humiliated. They might tell the social worker that it is none of her business. The social worker then gets annoyed. She is used to having power over those people to whom the social services give economic support. She is not used to opposition from them. So there is a dispute between the poor family and the social worker. Finally the social worker takes her revenge by finding fault with the family's way of caring for their children and she arranges for the children to be taken into forcible care.
When uncontrolled power is given to almost any person, that power will be abused. Naturally enough, social workers would like to use their power against middle class families too. The reason they mostly confine their abuse to poorer families is that they are both more common and more likely to have asked for the economic help which brought the social worker into their lives in the first place
However, middle-class families in Sweden are coming up against the social authorities in increasing numbers. As you might know, Sweden has had a social-democratic government for most of the twentieth century. The social democrats do not like private schools, private hospitals, private kindergartens or private homes for aged people. So, for a long time, they have made different kinds of trouble for those who attempt to initiate business in any of these areas. The result is that Sweden has very few private alternatives to public care when it comes to both the young and the old; far less than in other Western European countries. That means that even the ordinary middle-class family has no choice but to turn to the social authority for a kindergarten for their pre-school child, or a home for their grandmother when old.
And so even the middle class family has to meet a social worker sometime. Every time you do that in Sweden there is a danger for your children because there is the risk of dispute. For instance, say you have a criticism to make of your child's teacher at the kindergarten she attends. Your child is unhappy there so you tell the school social worker. She will be annoyed because she works in a monopoly and isn't used to criticism. She strikes back. If your daughter doesn't like the kindergarten, there must be something wrong with your daughter, not with the pre-school teacher!
And the fact - it is immediately a fact - is that if there is something wrong with your daughter, it is your fault! You haven't given her the right care and education. The social authorities start an investigation of your family. In a few days two social workers come to inspect your home. They ask you and your husband the most personal and intimate questions about your life. If you tell them it is none of their business, those social workers will strike back.
They will write a report that you and your husband don't understand what is in the best interest of children and that you refuse to co-operate with the social authorities. And in another few weeks you get a letter calling you to a meeting in the social council. They will meet and decide then that your children should be taken into forcible care and placed in foster-homes.
So, for the last few years it has not been only poor people asking me to represent them. Amongst my clients there have been teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers and managing directors who have all had their children taken into forcible care. I have taken nine cases to the European Court - more, I believe, than anyone else; and have won seven of them. However, it has had no effect on the authorities or on their policies. They have not even complied with the intention of the European court to return the children to their parents.
So, when I tell you that the Swedish authorities deprive families of their right to rear and to educate their children as they want, you must remember that the ordinary middle class family in Sweden is living under a real threat that if they do not do exactly what the authorities tell them. They risk losing their children.
But now you might say, why can't you appeal such ridiculous and wrong decisions to a court in Sweden? Well, you can appeal, but your chances of winning are very small.
If a child psychiatrist or psychologist told the truth to the court, that there is nothing wrong with a child who doesn't like school, that particular 'expert' would never again be invited to work for the social authorities. Thus the major part of their career would be terminated. Neither could they hope to make up the deficit by private practice since most of their clients would not be able to afford to engage them. Catch 22.
How about the judges then? you ask. Do they really believe all that bogus science about the damage parental love can do to a child's health? Well, the Swedish state orders judges, policemen, social workers, teachers and so on, to go to lectures and conferences where they have to listen to lectures from psychologists and child psychiatrists. They have to listen to a load of pseudo-scientific rubbish, spiced with Freud and phoney theories about normal childish behaviour. Unfortunately, even quite intelligent people can be propagandised in this way by those whom they believe are better qualified to know these things.
About five thousand Swedish children are at present in forcible care in foster-homes and institutions. Add to that about ten thousand children who are taken "voluntarily" into care. That is to say, their parents are told that unless they sign papers which say they gave up their children voluntarily, they will never see them again.
Thus Sweden has about 15,000 children in care out of a population of 8 million. Britain has 40,000 in care out of a population of 58 million. If Britain took children into care at the same rate as Sweden, there would be more than 100,000 children in care and, I hope, a big fuss made.
So this taking of children into care is a big business in Sweden. And for the persons who execute this care it is a financially very good business too. So, lots of foster-parents, social workers and child psychiatrists would lose their income if this terrible policy came to an end. Therefore, all those people who depend financially on this system, will use every legal and illegal means to allow this business to continue.
When I say 'illegal' I mean, for example, that it is not unusual in Sweden for social workers and foster-parents simply to refuse to give a child back to its parents even after a court has decided that care should cease. It sounds incredible, but it happens.
The Swedish government also uses more subtle methods to ensure that it retains an ideological power over the education of every child in Sweden. One method is the financial system in Sweden.
During the last thirty years the tax and benefit system has, step by step, been changed so that today it is more or less impossible for a family to live on just one income. That is a fact both for people with a low income, for middle class people and also for families where the husband has a rather high income. Swedish law requires that every adult is responsible for his or her own support. So a few years ago, Sweden abolished widow's pensions in general social security insurance. Nowadays a housewife whose husband suddenly dies, is obliged to go out to work.
For some time now, the Swedish courts in divorce cases have not awarded the wife any maintenance from the ex-husband. Not even if she has been a housewife and mother for twenty years. With a very high divorce rate, who would be a housewife in such a country?
Therefore every woman in Sweden is more or less forced to have gainful work outside the home - even if she is the mother of seven children. What do you do with your small children, their care and education, if you have to work away from home eight hours a day? This terrible system, that forces every woman to be away from her home and children all day, was completed around 1975.
As for what happened before 1975, the system was much the same as everywhere else in the civilised world. A woman with children was a housewife with a family that depended on the husband's income. It was husband and wife who decided their children's care and education and also the question of who should look after their children if they decided to work. That is impossible today. They don't have the right and, besides, all the grandmothers who were once so much part of the family unit, are now having to work themselves, to earn a living.
Before 1975 a well-qualified person, even after tax, had a good living and could afford to employ a nanny or an au pair to take care of the children and the housework while they worked. Today in most Swedish middle class families, it is impossible to have domestic help. Taxes have been raised and there has been a levelling of all salaries. So after tax there isn't so much difference between the salary for a qualified job and the salary for an unqualified job. So, for instance, a teacher or a young doctor, paying tax, would not be able to afford the services of paid domestic help.
So both people with low incomes, and professionals have no choice. You have to leave your small children for eight to ten hours every day in state governed care. In statistical terms, a child is in a day nursery from the age of one year till the age of six years, will encounter, on average, 275 different grown up people who care for them. As for their own parents - they are lucky if they see them for more than one or two hours a day.
By this means, everybody is delivered into the embrace of the state and its servants. By this means too, the state has succeeded where many other tyrannies have failed, in controlling the family. That is to say that power over the most important aspect of their lives, has been taken out of the hands of ordinary men and women and has been invested in employees of the state.
It is a tyranny which ever way you choose to look at it. Like the forced sterilisation programme pursued by the Swedish government, unnoticed, for forty years so this one will run and run, unopposed by a Swedish public that is too intimidated to protest.
It is in the hope of alerting educated opinion outside of Sweden that I come to speak to you today. You may not be able to do anything for us in Sweden since that is our responsibility - but, at the very least, I hope that you will recognise the simple techniques by which the state can seek to gain power over its people. In resisting such moves here, you may be able to isolate and shame Sweden into putting her own house in order.
Lawyer, Med. Dr, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Treasurer for NKMR.
Mrs. Siv Westerberg, Lawyer, was born in Borås, Sweden as daughter of Bror and Magda (Karlsson) Öman. She is married to Dr Per Westerberg. They have two sons, Carl and Gösta and one daughter, Eva. Siv Westerberg's address is: Skårsgatan 45, S-412 69 Göteborg. Tel: + 46 - 31 - 40 29 88 (office), 40 82 96 (home) ; Fax: + 46 - 31 - 40 66 83.
Sweden: Parental Inquisition
There’s an old saying that once you reach the top, you can only go down.
For the nation of Sweden, however, reaching the top was only the beginning.
Sweden has long been regarded as a model nation, whose policies and laws are at the cutting-edge of international thinking on children’s rights. Sweden was the first nation to completely ban corporal punishment, the first to make sex education a mandatory feature of its educational curriculum, and the first to offer working parents free child-care for all children between the ages of 1 and 12. Thus, it should come as no surprise that on June 29, 1990, Sweden became the ninth nation in the world - and the first industrialized Western country - to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
And apparently, such innovations were only the beginning.
The modern regime in Sweden enjoys broad discretionary authority over parents, and is presently engaged in what Swedish lawyer Ruby Harrold-Claesson has termed a “parental inquisition.” The inquisition is broad, affecting educational decisions, child-rearing practices, parental discipline, and even the removal of children from their homes. The state wields incredible power, guided solely by its own “insights” into the child’s “best interests.” Against such power, no child or family is safe.
Sex-ed: No exemptions… period
When it comes to schools teaching children about the birds and the bees, American parents are used to two familiar words: “opt out.” Even parents who do not take advantage of parental exemptions are aware of their availability.
Apparently, that option has become outdated in Sweden.
In March 2008, Sweden’s government sought to take its trend-setting policies on mandatory sex education to the next level by eliminating all exemptions for parents - including parents with religious and philosophical differences.1 According to the state, all students, irrespective of religious or cultural beliefs, should receive instruction in the same subjects, and parental “exemptions” were being used as a ploy to keep children in ignorance. “Our belief in a tolerant society,” state officials wrote in a local paper, “should never result in us covering our eyes when women are the victim of attacks or being denied their rights with the excuse that it is a part of their culture or religion.”2
According to the state, the changes were primarily aimed at Sweden’s large Muslim immigrant populations, many of whom claimed religious exemptions for sex-ed classes.3
Although the proposal prompted a national debate, particularly among the nation’s major newspapers, nearly all of them came down firmly in favor of the government’s position. According to one paper, “religion has its given place in people’s lives. But in school, religious convictions ought to be studied, rather than be in control.”4 Another paper opined that eliminating the parental exceptions would be a good thing because it would give individual students “more power to decide for themselves whether or not they want to attend lessons which their parents find objectionable.”5
No more “time outs”
The idea that parents are ultimately responsible for raising their children is a foreign concept in Sweden. According to the state Ministry of Education and Science, local communities believe that it is “the responsibility of society to satisfy the need for child care,” and to look out for the “best interests” of children.6 In fact, Sweden’s laws specifically require that all decisions affecting children must be made in accordance with “the best interests of the child.”7
Unfortunately, this “highly developed view of the child”8 often works to the detriment of the family as a whole, especially when it comes to child training and discipline. In 1979, Sweden passed a law banning parents from using “physical punishment or any other humiliating treatment” to train their children.9 According to the Nordic Committee on Human Rights, the Swedish courts have applied the ban broadly, criminalizing everything from slaps and spankings to “time outs” and sending children to their rooms.10
As a result, Swedish parents “negotiate” with their children11 instead of providing training and discipline. For the parents who choose to buck the trend and brave the risk of training their children, however, the likely outcome is criminal prosecution and punishment at the hands of the state.
Sweden’s “Parental Inquisition”
Sweden’s government places so much pressure on families to conform with its dictates that Ruby Harrold-Claesson, an international human rights lawyer and a citizen of Sweden, has gone so far as to call their actions a “parental inquisition.”12
“The prosecution of parents in Sweden has taken the form of an Inquisition where children accuse their parents of ill-treatment,” Harrold-Claesson wrote in 2000. Laws aimed at controlling parents have “resulted in serious interference in people’s family and private lives, and has damaged the relationship between parents and children - to the detriment of the family.”13
Harrold-Claesson traces the source of the problem to Sweden’s community view of child-rearing: “In Sweden, family as an institution, which socialises children and passes on values, is not taken seriously. The status of the Family has been usurped and instead the school system and the social institutions have been given monopoly over the children.”14
Because of her opposition to official state policy against parents, Harrold-Claesson represented Swedish parents in Swedish and international courts for years, until she was barred by the courts in 1996 because of her opposition.15 She continues to work as chairman of the Nordic Committee on Human Rights, where she continues to warn others about Sweden’s “cutting-edge” policies.
“There is therefore great deception in the Swedish system which displays extreme brutality towards the parents and children,” she wrote in 2005. Sweden’s child-policy “gives rise to much suffering, but this does not appear in the official reports about the Law. Instead, [it is] portrayed to be ‘in the best interest of the child.’ This is a very dangerous law and a law that is unsuitable in a civilized, democratic society…. It opens the door for arbitrary decisions, which have proven to be devastation for Swedish children and their families.”16
Article written for ParentalRights.org by Peter Kamakawiwoole, Jan. 26, 2009.
1. “Liberals call for mandatory sex ed,” The Local (Sweden) (March 6, 2008) <http://www.thelocal.se/10298/20080306/> (accessed January 17, 2009)
Nordic Committee on Human Rights Report When Parents Become the Victims -- Harrold Claesson's report cited in the article
What Has Government Done to Our Families? Allan Carlson, author of The Swedish Experiment in Family Politics, wrote this article posted at Austria's Mises Institute
Sweden Country Report The latest UNCRC report for Sweden (Official UN Document)
SWEDEN TO PROBE YEARS OF ABUSE IN CHILDREN'S HOMES
On Sunday 27 November 2005 Swedish state television (SvT2) showed the documentary "Stolen Childhood" in which it was reported that about 100 000 Swedes have at some point in their lives lived in children's homes. Many of those people's lives today are still affected by their childhood experiences.
The TV-documentary has now resulted in the Swedish government promising an official inquiry into the serious allegations made against the child-care institutions.
"The State must make an unconditional apology to those former children's home children" said Social Services Minister Morgan Johansson.
The NCHR is pleased that the Swedish government is to launch an investigation into the conditions for the former children's home children, but as usual, Sweden is a late starter.
Other countries have already started investigating and coming to terms with the despicable conditions to which children taken into state care have been subjected. Australia seems to have been the first country to investigate the conditions under which children - Aboriginee children - who had been forcibly removed from their parents, lived. The investigations started in December 1995 and the report Bringing them home: The 'Stolen Children' report presented in 1996 - 1997 made echoes around the world. The United Nations called the system Genocide. The Australian government has failed to apologise to the victims of the past policies.
In England and Wales, the Waterhouse Commission (1996 - 1998) set up by former Tory leader, William Hague, presented its report, The Waterhouse Report, in 2000.
In 2001, former children's home children in Bergen, Norway demanded redress and compensation for the abuses that they had suffered while they were in state care. This gave rise to a land-wide investigation led by the Befring-Committee that found that there was systemic abuse in the foster homes and institutions. The victims have sued the Norwegian state for their demands and so far the government has made settlements with a few but the case is still pending.
In Ireland the government has set aside billions in order to give compensation to former children's home children. There have been several investigations made about what took place when the Catholic Church systematically exposed children to abuse. There is an enormous amount of reports and investigations and everyone who has been in certain institutions are eligible for damages. The sums vary between GB £ 3 600 and £ 214 000. On an average payments of GB £42 800 each have been made after application to the "Redress board" which ceases to exist after December 31, 2005. Survivors and their spouses and children are also granted economic support for education and leisure activities through the state agency NOVA.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has - on numerous occasions - found Sweden guilty of violating children's and their families' Human rights to private and family life. The first case was Olsson v. Sweden, 1982, which was a decisive victory for attorney-at-law and former medical practitioner, Mrs. Siv Westerberg, who has subsequently won several child care cases against Sweden in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Despite all those verdicts against Sweden we are experiencing a galloping number of cases where children are being unnecessarily taken from their parents and placed in public care.
The NCHR (Nordic Committee for Human Rights, For the Protection of Family Rights in the Nordic countries) was co-founded in 1996 by Mrs Siv Westerberg, in a desperate attempt to prevent a proliferation of cases like those presented in Stolen Childhood and the modern child care cases. See for eg The Edner Case and The Helena Lufuma Case.
In August 1998 Attorney-at-law Lennart Hane, a fierce opponent of the Swedish system, wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Social Affairs demanding compensation to the victims of the social services. In November 1998, Siv Westerberg and I, Ruby Harrold-Claesson, had a meeting with the legal secretaries at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, in order to bring focus on the fact that not only the visiting rights issues but also the separation of children from their parents should be treated as violations of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
At this point the NCHR would like to remind our readers about the eugenics debate that raged in the 1990s concerning the ca 60,000 women who were forcibly sterilised between 1936 - 1976, after being deemed unfit for motherhood because they were handicapped, according to the then modern medical and social expertise. After the sterilisation law was abrogated in the middle of the 1970's Parliament passed new laws for the social services and the forcible taking of children into public care. They couldn't stop the adults from having children, they took the children and placed them in "suitable" foster homes. The new-swedish term "family home" was brought into existence.
Once again, the NCHR is pleased that the Swedish government is to launch an investigation into the conditions for the former children's home children, but it is of utmost urgency that the government should investigate the conditions of the tens of thousands of children and young people who are living in foster homes today.
14 year old Daniel Sigström died in his foster home in Härnosand on April 24, 1992. Since then several other children have died in their foster homes. The Sigström case was investigated by the Ombudsman of Justice but despite the fact that there were over 100 serious miscarriages of justice, the Ombudsman did not prosecute any of the civil servants involved. Also, several parents, for eg The Götene Case have had to take their children and flee from Sweden to protect their families from being destroyed by the social workers and the administrative courts.
Ruby Harrold-Claesson, attorney-at-law
President of the NCHR
Chris Mosey is a journalist and researcher with close connections to the Celsius Center for Scandinavian Studies. This article was published in THE OBSERVER, August 19, 1984.
The removal of a four year-old girl from her parents has focused attention on the power of intrusion into family life that Sweden grants civil servants.
Social workers seized Victoria Busse, daughter of West German musician Timm Busse and his Israeli wife Ester, two months ago.
She was reunited last Wednesday with her parents after an investigation by The Observer. But social welfare authorities will apply on Tuesday for a new order to take Victoria back into care.
"It is now a matter of prestige for them," said Magnus Sjolin, Timm Busse's lawyer. "My client is being persecuted simply because he is fighting the system."
Busse said: "Now we have got Victoria back, we will not flee the country as many people have advised. We will stay and fight!" He is demanding an apology from the Swedish authorities and has reported the social workers concerned to Sweden's Justice Ombudsman.
For their part, the social workers will contest on Tuesday a court decision rescinding their right to take Victoria into care.
Busse, 25, says Victoria was taken from him purely on hearsay evidence that she was beaten. This was given to the authorities in anonymous telephone calls from his Swedish neighbours, with whom he had a long-running feud.
He told The Observer that when the case was settled and he had received an apology, the family would leave Sweden for good, possibly for Britain, "where there still remains justice for the individual."
Victoria is one of thousands of children who have been forcibly removed from their parents by the authorities in Sweden, on evidence that would not be acceptable elsewhere in Western Europe.
Figures of children in care are hard to come by but in 1981, 12,378 children were taken from their parents, 1,398 of them forcibly.
The total number of children in care was 24,000. The authorities say that, since then, the law has changed and that in 1982 only 943 children were forcibly taken into care. This remains an astonishing total in a country with a population of only 8,500,000.
Busse says, and is supported by official documentation I have seen on the case, that Victoria was taken into care purely on the evidence given in anonymous phone calls by his neighbours. "I do not get on well with my neighbours," he admitted. "Both my wife and I have artistic temperaments."
He also says that the social workers are bemused by the fact that he and his wife do not want Victoria to go to a day care centre.
Until she was taken into care, Victoria was looked after by her father while her mother worked in a laundry. "It might be a little unconventional but I am studying music, so it suited me to be at home,' said Busse.
Ester Busse, 24, said : "I want to work but I want Victoria to be brought up by us, not by the Swedish state.
After the neighbours complained, two social workers visited the family's three-room flat in Brandbergen, a dormitory town in the Haninge area near Stockholm, and ordered them to take Victoria to hospital for medical examination.
"I panicked," said Busse. "I had read that such a hospital examination was always the first step to them taking your children from you."
The family took a boat from Sweden to Finland, then another boat to Hamburg where German police informed them that an order had been made in Stockholm taking Victoria into care.
Busse sought legal advice then took Victoria for an examination by Professor Helmut Bochncke, a respected children's doctor.
His report concluded: "The child is completely believable, speaks English, and answers without inhibition and freely. There are no signs whatsoever of illness or injury. The child's nature speaks clearly against a disturbed relationship with the parents. The child is open, candid and happy."
Armed with the report, the family returned to Sweden. "I deeply regret it now," said Busse.
On 25 June, social workers Eva Björklund and Inger Wolf accompanied by two plainclothes police officers took Victoria to hospital.
After a week of medical tests, Victoria was sent to Edshöjden children's home, 25 miles from the Busses' home.
The final medical report on Victoria by Dr Gunnar Braathen, described her as "healthy and talkative." It said: There was no sign of fresh or old fractures ... no sign of maltreatment."
The social workers said Victoria could return home next month if the Busses agreed to abide by a nine-point 'work plan.'
This required the parents to attend a local psychiatric therapy group once a week for at least a year. Victoria should also be enrolled at a day care centre, staying there for a minimum of seven hours, each day. In the interim, Ester Busse, 24, would have to join her daughter in the children's home "to get insight into her role as a parent."
An official investigation has been ordered into allegations by Busse that Victoria was mistreated by one of the staff at the Edshojden children's home. He says he took pictures during one visit showing burn marks and scratches on her body.
A Family's Flight
From the Welfare State
By Jacob YOUNG with JOAN WESTREICH in New York and DONNA FOOTE in London
From Newsweek Number 47, © November 21, 1983, Newsweek, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission and protected by the copyright laws of the United States. The law prohibits copying, redistribution or retransmission of this material without express written permission from Newsweek.
To his parents, Alan Lilja was a happy, healthy baby. But staffers at the state-run Swedish day-care center Alan attended saw a very different youngster, one who showed little emotion, avoided playing with other children and seemed to be treated coldly by his father, Karl. In October 1982 a Stockholm court said that Alan's health and development were at risk - and ordered Karl Lilja and his Polish-born ex-wife, Bozena, to turn their son over to government welfare officials. Rather than surrender their baby, the Liljas fled from Sweden and began a year long journey that took them to Norway, Poland, Finland and the United States. Now the Liljas must leave America or face deportation back to Sweden - where authorities may try again to take custody of Alan.
The case of Alan Lilja, now three, has touched off a heated controversy in Sweden over the country's laws regarding the welfare of children. Authorities from local social boards who suspect a child's "health or development" is threatened can take custody of a child before the courts have heard the charges in the matter. In theory, this allows social-welfare workers to remove youngsters immediately from homes where their lives may be endangered by negligent parents. But it also gives the state broad powers to intervene in family life, and about 25,000 Swedish children are now in the government's care - nearly half of them against the wishes of their parents. Swedish officials say the rules reflect a deep concern for the well-being of children. But critics charge that the regulations are too authoritarian, allowing the state to determine and enforce - strict standards of domestic behaviour. "There are probably good intentions behind the law," says Swedish appeals-court judge Brita Sundberg-Weitman. "But in Sweden there is a tendency to be intolerant of anything that is different."
Tactics: By the standards of his homeland, Karl Lilja is certainly different. In the midst of a career as a social worker, he became a born-again Christian; after joining a fundamentalist Pentecostal Church in 1977, he began studying for the ministry. In 1980 Lilja - who had already married and divorced once - wed Bozena Jadwiga, now 22. Soon after Alan's first birthday, the two divorced but continued to live together, a tactic some Swedish couples have used to take advantage of the higher welfare benefits the government provides to divorced mothers. After the court demanded custody of Alan, the Liljas left Sweden and eventually entered the United States on student visas in December 1982.
Sponsors: But since the Liljas never attended any classes, they were subject to deportation almost from the day they arrived. By contacting church and social-welfare agencies in America, Karl found a number of sponsors who provided the family with shelter and legal assistance. As late as last Fri day, Karl was hoping that a Pentecostal Church in Canada might agree to give his family sanctuary. At the weekend, even those hopes faded. It became clear that there was not enough time to make arrangements before the scheduled deportation date of Nov. 15 - and the family's supporters began raising money for plane tickets to Denmark.
The family is determined not to return to Sweden. The original order placing Alan in the care of the court has expired, but the Liljas fear that another could quickly be drafted. There has never been any suggestion that Alan was physically abused, and physicians' reports in Sweden showed him to be in fine health. The Liljas' wanderings cannot help their case with the child-welfare authorities, who could conceivably consider the family's odyssey a form of emotional negligence. But that very threat points up the continuing controversy: whatever the relative merits of the Liljas' case, should the state have such power to interfere simply because of a bureaucrat's disapproval?
The Edner case
Mrs Liz Edner, an artist, musician and graduate teacher of English as a foreign language, with degrees and certificates from both British and Swedish Universities, moved to Sweden to marry a Swedish citizen in 1972. The marriage was unhappy and childless and the couple divorced in December 1984. After her divorce, Liz Edner had a daughter, Anne Edner, also a British citizen, born on February 7, 1990.
Liz Edner and her child are victims of the local Swedish social authorities in Gothenburg, and are practically being held here as hostages. I have solicited and received the full support of the British Consul in Gothenburg, Mr Alan White, but unfortunately, the British Embassy in Stockholm has not been very supportive in this case.
The Care Order
In January 1991, the social authorities in Lundby, Gothenburg, issued an order to take Liz Edner's daughter into public care in accordance with the Law (1990:52) with special provision for ward of minors (LVU), asserting that the child was not receiving proper care.
The baby was removed from her mother's arms by police force and placed in a temporary foster-home for seven (7) months. Mother and child were only allowed to see each other under supervision, and for a few hours every other week. Liz Edner was forbidden to speak English with her child and to call her child by the pet name "Bibbi Baby" she always called her. In July of 1991 Anne Edner was placed in another foster-home. The social authorities decided very early that Anne Edner would be separated from her mother for her entire childhood and youth.
The social authorities based their decision to take Anne Edner into care on an anonymous report that they had received from a man. This man claimed that Liz Edner was drunk when he visited her at her flat. He also claimed that the flat was untidy and that she had no food in the flat, so he had to go out and buy a pizza so that the ten (10) month old baby, who was still nursing, could get something eat! N.B. Anne Edner is Liz Edner's second child. Liz Edner has an older daughter, who was born in 1969, and who has been nurtured and cared for by Liz Edner until she became of age.
However, according to the verdict of the Administrative Tribunal there was no evidence as to the fact that Liz Edner had not cared her child properly, nor had there ever been any unfavourable remarks about Liz Edner's care of her little daughter.
The baby was healthy, happy and well cared for.
The removal of little Anne from her mother induced a depression in Anne and caused Liz Edner to suffer an extreme crisis-reaction so she had a nervous breakdown. After her crisis reaction, Liz Edner was informed by the Administrative Courts in their judgements in 1991 and 1992 that she could not get her child back because she had a nervous breakdown - a very typical Catch 22 situation.
Anne in the temporary foster-home.
The case was appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court, where Liz Edner was refused a review. Liz Edner was devastated. She came to hate the Swedes and Sweden. She wanted to leave Sweden, but as long as her child was in foster care, she found herself unable to return to Britain. Unfortunately her lawyer did not file a complaint to the European Commission for Human Rights.
After the care-decision had gained force of law, Anne has had to live with two different sets of foster parents. Anne Edner's place of residence was held secret from her mother, Liz Edner, until February 22, 1993 when the social council decided to lift the ban. However, only the address, a box number, was disclosed. Liz Edner has never ever been allowed to visit her daughter in the foster home.
The paediatrician at the child health-care centre, Dr Håkan Elmén, Anne Edner's doctor was never consulted. However he engaged himself in the case informing the authorities that he was strongly against the removal of Anne Edner from her mother, Liz Edner. Psychologists and doctors spoke out against the separation of Liz Edner and her baby. The Consul at the British Consulate in Gothenburg, Mr Brian Morris, the Consul at the British Embassy in Stockholm, Mr. N. F. Green, and the Chaplain at St Andrew's Church in Gothenburg, Mr Graeme Hancocks, BD, all warned the personnel at the social authorities in Lundby, Gothenburg, that they were dealing with two British citizens. The head of the social district assured the Consuls of his considerations.
However, the warnings of the British officials in Gothenburg were of no avail. Neither did the social authorities heed the warnings issued by the language expert at the University of Gothenburg, concerning the dangers of moving a child whose language was developing from one language to another. Unfortunately, those important pieces of evidence were sent directly to the social authorities where they were carefully hidden. The evidence was neither passed on to the Administrative Courts nor to Liz Edner's lawyer. Liz Edner was not aware of the fact that so many people tried to help prevent the social authorities from unnecessarily taking her baby into care.
An anonymous report made to the social authorities in December 1990, by a man who Liz Edner had rejected, was very instrumental in the case. Judging from the reports made by the social authorities, they accused Liz Edner for not caring for her child in the right way. Liz Edner had however not had any contact with the social workers whatsoever, so they knew nothing about her private life.
1 - Liz and Anne Edner were leading perfectly normal lives until the social authorities intervened in their lives.
2 - Anne Edner was a happy, well-cared child until she was so brutally separated from her mother. See photos
Liz Edner was still nursing her baby, Anne when she was taken into care. Suddenly Anne lost her mother's milk, her home and familiar surroundings, her language and her culture and was placed among complete strangers in a foster home.
During the first weeks of separation Anne was placed in a temporary home and Liz and Anne Edner were allowed to see each other two hours twice per week, at a mothers' home 'Birkahemmet'. (The meetings at the mothers' home give the impression that Liz Edner and her child were placed there. In fact, Anne was at a secret address, and Liz Edner was still living in her condominium flat.) The child was being tortured. Liz Edner tells of Anne's heart-rending screams every time they took her from her mother's arms and carried her away. Anne was left in the temporary foster home for seven (7) months. She had started becoming attached to the temporary foster mother, after which she was again exposed to a new cruel separation at the age of 11/2 years, when she was moved to a permanent foster home. The long stay in the temporary foster home is contrary with state recommendations.
Also, according to Swedish law, taking into public care should be a temporary measure and the aim of "care" is to reunite the family. However from the outset, the social workers planned for a permanent solution. This is also contrary to Swedish law. The law demands that the social council should review the case every six months, even though appeals may be pending in a superior court. (The social workers at Lundby have informed Liz Edner that they did not find it necessary to follow the stipulations of the law because Liz Edner kept on applying for the care-order to be lifted.)
When Liz Edner realised that the intention of the social authorities was to place Anne in a home, she requested to have her child placed in an English-speaking foster home or a foster home in the vicinity of Gothenburg. This would enable Anne to attend Sunday school at St. Andrew's Church, where Liz Edner was a member, and English nursery school. This would facilitate a future removal to England. Liz Edner's requests were ignored. The social authorities refused to even take up the subject for discussion.
Anne Edner was placed in a foster home about an hour and a half from Gothenburg by train. The foster parents have low education and do not belong to the same social class as Liz Edner. After Anne was placed in the new foster home, Liz Edner was forbidden all contacts with her baby, Anne Edner, for over three (3) months. After the first period, Anne Edner and her mother were only allowed to see each other two (2) hours every three (3) weeks i.e. about 40 hours per year.
A very interesting point that I have to make is that from the day Anne Edner was taken from her mother, Liz Edner, the social workers have tried to find different ways to bring Liz Edner out of balance. The social workers decided that: "The foster home should be capable of tackling the contacts with Liz Edner. Finding a suitable family for Anne Edner is of lesser importance." This is a quotation from the social files on Liz Edner, dated April 8 1991.
The social workers have also tried to provoke Liz Edner in several different ways. For example,
1) they have told her that Anne was stateless, and they offered to obtain a foreigner's passport for Anne who was at the time included in Liz Edner's British passport;
2) by giving instructions to the foster parents to hide Anne Edner's British passport in a safe place so that her mother, Liz Edner would not be able to get it - thus withholding British Government property from its rightful bearer;
3) cancelling visits at will, and
4) by threatening to transfer the legal custody of British citizen Anne Edner to the Swedish foster parents, or to the chairman of the social council, among many other things.
The strain and stress of the situation turned Liz Edner into a mental patient confined at a psychiatric hospital - unable to leave Sweden. Liz Edner had to spend two years in mental hospitals - where she was treated with different drugs to quiet her anxiety for her child.
Limitation of visiting rights
From January 1994 to the summer of 1994, Anne Edner was allowed to visit with her mother, Liz Edner, for six (6) hours once per month. Liz Edner was released from mental hospital "on probation" in the summer of 1994. From summer 1994 to November 1995, Anne Edner was allowed to visit her mother, three (3) hours every two (2) weeks i.e. 72 hours per year.
Liz Edner was released - as fit and healthy - from mental hospital in July 1995. She contacted me, Ruby Harrold-Claesson, in august 1995 in the aim of having the care order lifted, so that she could move back to England with her daughter, Anne. In the application to the social council we suggested a gradual extension of Liz' and Anne Edner's visiting rights and the ultimate lifting of the care order and Anne's return to the custody of her mother.
Upon my recommendation, Liz Edner renewed her contacts with St Andrew's Church and had her daughter Anne enrolled in Sunday school. This made the social workers and the foster parents uneasy.
In November 1995 the visiting rights of Liz and Anne Edner were suspended abruptly. The social workers accused Liz Edner of having threatened the foster mother on two occasions. The social authorities claimed however, that the suspension of the visiting rights was solely dictated by the pressing need to protect Anne Edner. However, Liz Edner had never threatened her child, Anne Edner. Neither had she threatened the foster mother. The great threat was the fact that Liz Edner had a good chance that the Administrative Courts just might decree the lifting of the care order, wherewith Liz Edner would remove her daughter Anne from the foster home. This would mean a great loss of prestige for the social authorities and a great loss of income for the foster parents.
According to the social workers, the threats against the foster mother were pronounced on September 7, 1995 and November 9, 1995. The foster home ledger gives no evidence of any threats on September 7 or November 9, 1995.
In an entry in the foster home ledger dated 19/09/95 the social worker wrote, "Eva (the foster mother) chose to leave after 11/2 hrs - Then Liz shouted after them "Today I am the living picture of a mother, next time I'm a dead picture." The only mention of the word "dead" which can be seen in this passage, can hardly be interpreted to be a threat - in any case not a threat to the foster mother.
The above information is corroborated by an entry in another ledger. There, a second social worker wrote: "Liz called just about every day before the next visit which was planned for Sept. 17, to get confirmation that E was really going to come. Because of the preceding visit which did not turn out so well, Kent (foster father) chose to accompany Anne." (My italics) NB! There is no reference to any threat here either.
The foster home ledger carries the following entry when Liz Edner was alleged to have threatened the foster mother for the second time. The entry is dated 17/10/95 and it reads: "Conversation w Eva S. The visit last week end went well. Kent accompanied Anne. Liz called several times prior to the visit - was unsure about the meeting place. She didn't know either what they were to do at the English Church. They went to a restaurant across the road (rented) for Sunday school. Parents and children together for about 11/2 hours - in English - Church coffee afterwards. What does Liz want? Obviously, they have Sunday school once a month."
The following entry in the foster home ledger is dated 10/11/95. It contains the information given by the foster mother to the social worker, relating the events that took place during the meeting between Liz Edner and her daughter at the English Church. The social worker and the foster mother were speculating over the presence of an elderly lady who accompanied Liz Edner - whether or not she was a journalist from Aftonbladet (a tabloid newspaper). The last sentences of that ledger entry reads: "Eva is affected - it is unpleasant now/with the visits - tel. calls etc. I wonder about the visits under the present circumstances. Police report?" (My italics).
Liz Edner filed counter-charges against the foster mother in November 1995. The police were sympathetic and took her statement, interrogated the foster mother, but did nothing else.
On December 7, 1995, Liz Edner received a new decision from the social authorities restricting her visits with her child to three (3) hours once per month. This new decision can be seen as the social-workers' retaliation against Liz Edner's demand to have the care-order lifted from her daughter Anne and her renewal of her contacts with the English Church and the English speaking community in Gothenburg.
It should also be noted that Anne Edner is never allowed to meet her mother alone. The foster parents are always present. Liz and Anne Edner have therefore been denied the privilege of building up a personal relationship to each other. Anne Edner has been deprived of her language and her culture. Anne Edner's grandfather died four years ago. He never met his grandchild. Anne Edner's grandmother still lives in England. She is old and becoming older every day and she has never met her grandchild, Anne. Anne Edner has never been allowed to meet her other relatives living in England either, because of the care order.
This is a clear violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Transfer of Custody
Since March 1995 the social authorities have been taking steps to remove Liz Edner from the legal parenthood and guardianship of her daughter (vårdnadsöverflyttning). The social authorities have expressed their intention to apply to the District Court in Gothenburg for a transfer of the legal guardianship of British citizen Anne Edner to the Swedish foster-parents, or to the chairman of the social council.
Transfer of the legal guardianship of Anne Edner would deprive Liz Edner of the right to apply to have the care-order lifted from her child, and she can be forbidden to see Anne. Transfer of the legal guardianship is however not a legal adoption. The child will remain the ward of the social authorities, so the foster-parents will never need to feed, lodge and clothe the child out of their own pockets and the child will never inherit them. The foster-parents will then always be guaranteed their salaries to take care of Anne. NB a foster child gives the foster-parents a steady income of around 30 000 SEK per month.
However, on several occasions, being Liz Edner's lawyer, I have informed the social authorities that they have no jurisdiction as to the transfer of the legal guardianship of Anne Edner, seeing the fact that she is a British citizen.
As I mentioned earlier, the British Embassy has been reluctant to protect the interests of these two British citizens in Sweden, saying that it is a question of residence, not of nationality. They also say that every case must be considered on its individual merits and the particular circumstances involved. I do agree with the British Embassy on the latter point but not on the former. I also agree on the fact that The Embassy must respect Swedish Laws and court decisions. However, the case of Liz and Anne Edner is in my opinion a clear breach of art. 8 of The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, also a breach of among others, art. 8 of The European Convention on Human Rights. Both Conventions guarantee the right to respect for private and family life. I also find that this case is a clear breach of International Law.
The problems that foreigners in Liz Edner's predicament face in Sweden are manifold:
- that they are at a disadvantage because they are often alone here without family-ties;
- they are often not very fluent in the language;
- Swedish lawyers do not make any special efforts to help foreigners i.e. they are subjected to discrimination.
A major problem is however, the fact that the Swedish Administrative Courts (Länsrätt, Kammarrätt and Regeringsrätten) are the willing tools of the social authorities. The situation can be explained as follows: the social workers make a decision e.g. to take a child into public care. The social council (a political body not elected but picked out among local district politicians, the chairman of which can be a janitor) decides in accordance with the wishes of the social worker. The Administrative Tribunal (Länsrätten) decides in accordance with the decision of the social council, the Administrative Court of Appeals (Kammarrätten) decides in accordance with the Administrative Tribunal and The Supreme Administrative Court refuses to judge the case.
A child can also be taken into care immediately on the decision of the chairman (ordförandebeslut) of the social-council, i. e. acting on the decision/proposal of a social worker. That decision has, however, to be confirmed by a verdict of the Tribunal. The system seems to abide under the principle of the rule of law (rättssäkerhetsprincipen) since a court-decision is necessary for the continuation of the care decision. But the system has a great degree of automatism. The Administrative Tribunal invariably confirms the care-decisions
European Court Decisions
Parents who try to challenge the system pay a very high price - health-wise and economically. It is like beating their heads against a wall. Once the social authorities start interfering into peoples' families, that is when their real problems start. Quite a few parents however, have taken their cases to The European Court of Human Rights and won against Sweden. In some of those cases Sweden has paid the damages awarded the complaining party but the parents have lost their children anyway, because the European procedure demands quite a length of time - often four (4) years or more.
The Swedish Government has however refrained from prosecuting the social workers, the members of the social councils and the judges in the Administrative Courts who, by taking children into public care have caused Sweden to stand trial and lose in The European Court of Human Rights. My interpretation of the passivity of the Swedish Government, in face of the innumerable breaches of the basic human rights of parents and children, is that this is just how the system was meant to operate.
My background may be the reason for my strong reactions in this and many other similar cases. I, too, am of foreign origin. I am from Kingston, Jamaica, and thus I was brought up in a free and democratic society, a former colony of The United Kingdom. In my country, people take care of themselves; no social workers dictate over our lives. I also studied Law and Political Science in Lyon, France before coming to Sweden and taking my Law degree in Gothenburg. I am very critical of the way the Swedish social system works. In fact I am not the only Swedish lawyer who is critical of the system. This is in fact a widespread opinion among specialists in International Law and Human Rights. For further information you may contact Professor Jacob W.F. Sundberg, Stockholm, Chief Justice Brita Sundberg-Weitman of Solna District Court, Siv Westerberg, Gothenburg, Peter Haglund, Falköping, and Lennart Hane, Stockholm, all practising lawyers, among others.
Unfortunately the lawyers who dare to speak out about the system or to cite Sweden before The European Court of Human Rights are all too few. Another interesting name is acting Professor Bo Edvardsson at the Social Institute in Örebro. Assistant Prof. Bo Edvardsson calls the social workers' tactics in LVU-cases against parents and their children "persecution strategies" (förföljandestrategier). One of his students, Ms Linda Ärlig, has written a dissertation on the Edner case and found that the social authorities used 56 different persecutory strategies against Liz Edner.
The fact of the matter is that the authorities which the Swedish legislature created to protect the well being and the 'best interests' of the child, have turned out to be very damaging for both children and their parents. This situation is described in detail in Prof. Jacob Sundberg's booklet 'The trip to nowhere'. (Can be ordered).
Courses of Action
When Liz Edner consulted me in August 1995, upon hearing her case, I informed her that there were two courses of action open to her:
1 - She could try to apply to the social authorities and the three (3) Administrative Courts to have the care order lifted - a process that could take two or three years or
2 - Return to England and call for her child from outside. A denial to return the British citizen child to her parent and legal guardian could be submitted to the European Commission of Human Rights as a reuniting case.
Liz Edner was very hesitant to take steps according to plan number two. She treasured every moment that the social authorities granted her permission to see and be with her child, so she was afraid of not being able to see Anne for six months or more. Besides. Liz Edner was afraid that the social authorities would have accused her of abandoning Anne, which they would use to justify their decision to transfer the legal guardianship of Anne to the foster parents. Liz Edner was also afraid that she would be denied permission to return to Sweden to visit Anne.
Liz Edner became a hostage. She is still in Sweden and she and her daughter are still at the mercy of the Swedish social authorities.
Psychiatric Care Sentence
Liz Edner was sentenced to Forensic psychiatric care with special court review in March 1996. The charges against her were that she had threatened the foster mother on two occasions. According to Swedish law and practice a person's guilt must be proved beyond every reasonable doubt. In Liz Edner's case the Courts found that the foster mother was more reliable than Liz Edner. This case is pending in the European Commission for Human Rights. The application concerns breach of Liz Edner's Human Rights as are guaranteed by Article 6 of the Convention.
The result of this sentence is this:
The same Courts which confirmed the social authorities' decision to take Liz Edner's daughter, Anne Edner, into public care and which also confirmed all the decisions of the social authorities to restrict Liz and Anne Edner's visitation rights, are the same Courts which have the power to decide whether or not Liz Edner should be granted permission to go out on her own or be discharged from the psychiatric hospital. The Administrative Courts in Gothenburg have complete control over Liz Edner's life. Such unlimited power, necessarily, gives rise to a serious conflict of interests.
Liz Edner's life is being wasted away by the Swedish social bureaucracy. Liz Edner's prime desire is to return to Britain and take her child with her. Liz Edner's daughter, Anne Edner, has been denied the right to her language, her culture and her relatives in Britain. This is therefore a violation of the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. On several occasions, Sweden has been found guilty of breaching family rights and heavily fined by the organs of the European Council.
I do hope that in disclosing my client's predicament for you I have brought to your attention a situation which affects many Swedish parents and also can affect any foreigner living in Sweden - even a university educated British citizen like Liz Edner.
Swedish couple enduring USA poverty to keep son
By John Brinkley
This article was published in USA TODAY on November 5, 1983.
Karl Lilja, his wife, Bozena, and their 2-year-old son, Alan, are holed up in New York City - refugees from the Swedish welfare state.
When welfare authorities in Stockholm ordered the Couple to surrender Alan to the state they fled the country. It was their only recourse after attempts to fight the order had been defeated and the Swedish Police were looking for me," said Lilja.
The Liljas abandoned their spacious apartment in the smart Stockholm Suburb of Bromma and arrived in New York in December. They now live in a vermin-infested room in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighbourhood.
An investigation ordered by social worker Anders Fall resulted in the ruling that would have made Alan a ward of the state. While the family was in Fall's office, Alan banged his head lightly on a desk. Because the child didn't cry, Lilja said. Fall wondered aloud if Alan might not have been better off in a mental hospital.
The investigation turned up a report from a day-care center that described Alan, then 11 months old, as "still a baby." He was "a quiet child" and was "not happy." His father, it said, was "a little strange."
Indeed, the report complained that it had been "impossible to get him to understand how we operate" and observed that Karl and Alan had "no eye contact." There were, however, no accusations of child abuse or negligence.
Lilja said Fall offered Bozena government funds to leave Karl and take Alan.
Swedish welfare authorities refuse to discuss the case, but Alan would have been among 24,000 children removed from their homes - and now ward of the state.
That statistic contrasts with 162 children under state care in Norway, 710 in Denmark and 552 Finland. In Great Britain, nearly seven times as Populous as Sweden, 15,000 children are in custody.
Complained Tuffa Birch-Iensen, leader of a group called Swedish Campaign for the Family: "The bureaucracy has gone mad. There is today an absolute industry in becoming foster parents. People earn a very good living at it"
Lilja, 42, a former social- worker, was training to be a Pentecostal Priest - before be fled Sweden. Until recently, the Liljas supported themselves by doing odd jobs, such as dish-washing - until a lawyer advised them that they were violating federal law prohibiting aliens from working without work permits.
Asked how he earned the money needed for survival, be replied, "That is a problem, yes,"
It is. The landlord Is threatening to evict the family for non-payment of rent; Consolidated Edison Co. is threatening to cut off their electricity; and they never were able to afford gas service. Their gas range collects dust while Bozena, 21, cooks their meals on a two-burner hot plate that Karl bought for $3.
And the Liljas can not think of returning to Sweden. Alan probably would be seized at the airport, said Birch-Iensen, "and they will in all likelihood never see him again."
The Liljas only hope is the verdict of the Swedish supreme court, now deciding on Alan's fate.