Hope is a boat that never sinks.
I started with a quote from one of my favorite artists, Anne Grete Preus. It’s from her song Hun lærer fuglene å synge/She teaches the birds to sing. As I see it, Preus sings about the human freedom to be who you are in many of her songs. That has been a theme in some of the posts I’ve written about child welfare authorities as well. We want freedom to live a little differently. We want freedom to live healthy. We want freedom to live un-Norwegian. We want freedom to fight for our children with the resources we have. Many of us are poor, but we are still resourceful. We’ll reach farther than far for our children to thrive. We show up when the teacher calls the parent for a conference. We call the school, The Children’s and Young People’s Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic (known as BUP in Norway), The Educational and Psychological Counseling Service (known as PPT in Norway), GP etc. We take the kids to various activities so they can have a good, healthy upbringing and develop. We pay for an expensive special diet and vitamin supplements when we don’t get any support from the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV). We do this because my daughter’s brain works better then and it makes sure she functions better socially and academically.
This is the invisible bond between parents and children; The Child Welfare Service (CWS) often will break. Foster parents do not have this bond. But we are exposed to great trials, and the threat never disappears. Therefore, the hope is important because it keeps us afloat.
I think I read a comment on another blog recently where the person who wrote this agreed with the criticism of child protection, but believed that it is not only centered on special groups. I think it was a comment on the questions I posed to Solveig Horne. I agree that it is appropriate with a general criticism of a CWS who is completely out of control, but I have committed myself strongly in cases where culture, disability, poverty etc. is used against the parents. Maybe we can divide all welfare families into groups, because I think we all fall a little outside the norm in some way or another. In this post I will look at how disability is treated in child protection.
When examining children with disabilities in child care, it is not a bad idea to start to with the government. It has given a promise on its website that sounds very good:
Before placement of disabled children in foster care, the municipality shall have clarified what services for the child that is covered by other legislation, such as the Social Services Act. If the current foster home is located in another municipality, municipalities must have resolved the issue among themselves. This is to avoid confusion about who is responsible for various services to the child.
Responsibilities around the child shall be included in the foster care agreement. The same applies if the child’s disability is discovered or arose only after the child is placed in a foster home. Child welfare services in such cases must implement the foster care agreement with the foster parents and possibly renegotiate this in light of the new situation that has arisen.
If there is disagreement between the child welfare and foster parents about how an agreement shall be interpreted, including, among other things, what child welfare services has promised the foster parents with regards to children who are also entitled to the Social Services Act, one can possibly ask the county mayor’s office for advice on how conflict can be resolved, but the county can not resolve the conflict.
A part of the problem is actually described above. It’s not always clear who is professionally responsible and who has financial responsibility. As a consequence many foster parents and children don’t experience the CWS as a helper. I had to rub my eyes the first time I read the last paragraph, until I read through it several times. Let me see if I get this straight. The County may give advice, but can’t do anything. We also know that The CWS may guess and overrule reports and diagnoses from the hospital. The CWS is essentially a collection of professionals that go far beyond their field of competence, and in that regard, they are incompetent. Maybe that’s why they tend to overreact. I’m a little kind when I express myself this way, because I really think the system very deliberately plans to take children, and then break the bond between parents and children. It’s is one thing when they make a bad decision in a stressful situation, but when they subsequently maintain this attitude and actively prevents parents in maintaining the strong bond that parents and children have, it bears little resemblance to the mandate they have received from government. I guess it’s not a political goal, Solveig Horne?
A study from the Norwegian Institute for research on welfare (NOVA) shows that disabled children are not well enough maintained in child protection. Foster parents feel that they are not followed up well enough, children find themselves being tossed around like balls in the system, while the various agencies argue over who should pay.
It doesn’t apply to child welfare directly, but the Norway Disabled Association writes in a submission to the NOU 2009: 18 Right to Learn:
Many students do not get the personalized training they require in schools. At the same time there is extensive segregation in the Norwegian schools, students with disabilities are gathered in reinforced units, in separate groups and classes.
Lack of inclusion in Norwegian schools has large consequences. First and foremost for the students concerned, not being part of society, but also in relation to other students, teachers and others who get entrenched attitudes which implies that it is ok to separate students with disabilities. Disabled children, segregated in school, later have difficulty being included in the Norwegian society. It should have been a main point of the report.
So this is a problem to begin with. I can confirm that myself, both as a teacher and father of a child with an autism spectrum disorder. It is a struggle to get help, and child welfare does not help when they at best contribute to confusion.
We who have children with learning disabilities know it’s a hard fight to get the help we require. A diagnosis of recommended actions by BUP is not the end of this fight. It’s just the start. It is one of many reasons that the CWS should try other measures before they separate children from their parents. Biological parents have in fact knowledge of their child, diagnoses and experience of the difficult navigation through public services. If we are talking about real neglect it’s justified to start over in a foster family, but there are many cases where child protection simply does not act in the best interest of the child. All this is lost then.
During my research I came across some cases covered by newspapers. Here are some cases where one or both parents were disabled:
VG reported a case in 2006 where a father wanted help to have more visitation with his son. The man had major health damage and was in a wheelchair after a work related accident, but the child’s mother was described as functioning well and resourceful. The child lived with his mother, so the father’s disability had no impact on the child’s daily life. But he wanted to spend more time with his child, and was aware that it could not be implemented without facilitation. He therefore contacted Bærum municipality to get the necessary help. The response was a concerned report to the CWS.
Sylvi Nilsen in Telemark is blind. The CWS took her first child shortly after birth, and she was therefore given no opportunity to demonstrate that she could take care of the child. The second child was also placed in foster care after the child’s father died. They were then separated, and it was the father who had primary responsibility for the child. In this case I’m sure the mother wanted to get her children back, but her first concern was to spend more time with them, but the CWS seemed determined to break off the bond they had. She gets to see her son twice a year, and the original concern wasn’t more specific than that the parents being blind.
In Trondheim despair drove a family into church asylum. The lawyer spoke of the family as resourceful and he thought the care for the child had been strong. So in his opinion this was not a case of an emergency situation. He also disputes the allegations of alcohol abuse and assault. In this case the mother had a disability.
This is a horrible case from Arizona. It is especially scary for me, because the same could have happened to us. We followed the advice of doctors and put our daughter on a diet, free of dairy and gluten, and we also stay away from poisons like aluminum. This has resulted in progress. Regarding the family from Arizona, all kids were removed and they got the autism symptoms back at full force. Autism can’t be cured, but diet and and vitamin suplements can reduce the symptoms. If you stop the diet, the child will get worse again.
There have been a number of cases where child protection decided they had more medical expertise than specialists in health care and superseded diagnoses and conclusions in the reports. The newspaper Flekkefjord Tidende wrote in 2011 about a premature baby who in addition had a rare disease that gave physical and mental symptoms. The family had received statements from PPT, BUP, a general practitioner and a medical professor at the neurological department at Ulleål hospital (Oslo). The CWS had not tried any other support measures, but went straight to an order to have the child removed.
I have mentioned in previous posts that the system is arranged so that children are a source of income. There are still some foster parents who want to do a good job. However, it is more difficult for them than for the biological parents. NOVA (Norwegian Social Research on welfare and aging) interviewed a few years ago young people with disabilities and experience in child welfare, foster parents of children with disabilities and employees in child care. The conclusions are not surprising, but they are at least documented.
The report notes, among other things that employees in child welfare should be more responsive to foster parents’ needs, and the special expertise they have gained about their foster children.
The report also stated that unclear responsibilities between health and social services and child welfare can lead to some not getting the help they are entitled to.
I’m not sure who is behind syk.net, but it seems to be someone with experience from CWS. He has written a paper on child welfare and disabilities. In this the writer refers to a Master of Berit Skauge. She had researched CWS-files from 2000 and 2009. The child was not heard in 40% of cases in 2000, and it had increased to 70% in 2009. The Children Act was amended in 2003 so that the age limit for children to be heard went from 12 to 7 years but that clearly didn’t change anything.
The same paper also refers to NOVA Report 17/11, otherwise the same I refer to earlier, where child wefare workers called children with disabilities “gray zone children”. They are subject to several laws, including the Welfare Act and the Social Services Act, and measures under the various laws are covered by different agencies and budget. They are in other words bickering, and while child welfare gladly tells children and foster families that they must develop bonds, but all parties are unsure of how long the child will stay.
I have previously written that the fact that child welfare is too eager to remove children, and that in many cases it is the first and only measure used. There are some cases where it appears that there were grounds for taking the child because of neglect, but it isn’t always or even most of the time, justified.
There are probably many disabled children who perceive themselves as a burden to their parents. It is physically and mentally demanding to raise children with disabilities, not least because the parents have to fight tooth and nail to get the little support that should be given when requested. I have previously advocated that families need more help, but there are many examples of poverty, for example, automatically leading to an order to remove the children. Many families could be more effective and children could get better lives in their own family if the child welfare authorities had given them some of the money they give to foster parents. I also believe disabled children could get better in their own families because biological parents have more incentive than foster parents to do what is necessary to give their children the best life outcomes posssible. It’s just a matter of showing some understanding, and relying on the competence of psychologists, neuroscientists and physicians who are not paid by the`CWS. I think, in short, many parents could have done a better job if they got some of the resources used to send chhildren to be thrown around like balls in the system.
I’d like to end with another video.This girl got serious autism symptoms after receiving some vaccines. Her parents gave her the diet that many parents with children on the autism spectrum know works. There are many child welfare workers who see this as neglect, so they take the kids. It is really impossible for these parents to do it right in the eyes of the CWS,because they see it as either too much or too little care. If CWS snatches the children and end the treatment the parents have had success with, the child has lost. There are actually not many people with more knowledge about autism than good parents. Sometimes mom and dad are already the child’s best advocates; sometimes they just need a little support.
It should be the first things employees in Child Welfare Service learn.