Brev 16 februari från Lena Hellblom Sjögren till Petitionskommittén i Bryssel efter inbjudan dit den 9 februari 2017
Lena Hellblom Sjgren, Ph.D., chartered psychologist
Mon Mogattu 76
Committee on Petitions
April 4, 2016
Stockholm 16 February. 2017
Dear Members of the Petitions Committee,
Again I want to express my gratitude for inviting me to your Petition Committee.
As I understand it, I might have expressed myself too vague or without sufficient facts. First, some self-evident facts that I forgot to point out:
” There are children in need of protection from clearly observable damages and/or objectively confirmed harmful conditions.
” To place these children in need of love/acceptance and good care in homes with total strangers who get paid and take orders from the social services – and more and more from the consultants employed by the growing number Stock Market companies making profit in this field – may not be the best way to help these children.
” There are many good and very well-meaning social workers in Sweden.
” This should however not lead to the conclusion that children should be taken from their parents and extended family when a social worker thinks the child might be at risk.
Now, I would like to try to explain the background for the violation of the human right to family life that is taking place in Sweden on an everyday basis.
1. The social services reform, Law 1980:620, took on great significance for the larger part of the Swedish population. From then on the municipal social services fall under the regulation of a general targeted-oriented law, called the Social Services Act (SoL) which came into force on January 1, 1982.
2. This law is not detailed or precise. The employees within the social services, called social secretaries, are given the freedom to interpret this law which makes them responsible for the inhabitantsﾴ well-being. This change has been characterized as making the citizens in the modern social welfare state into clients.
3. Another law introduced in 1990:52 called LVU, regulates when the state/society can take children into forced custody, called compulsory care.
4. This law is neither detailed nor precise, but rather generally targeted. The social workers are given the freedom to decide to take children by force from their mother/father or both. At the same time they are supposed to help and give advice to the families involved (two functions that ought not to be united).
5. The interpretations made by the social worker handling a case and her investigation and recommendations to the municipal social welfare board will be the decision of the local politicians sitting on this board, in almost 100 % of the cases. This is called the democratic decision of the municipal social welfare board.
6. This social council’s decision then in almost 100 % of the cases constitutes the foundation for the Administrative Court’s decision to take a child into forced custody.
7. The investigation made by the social worker is not well-founded as she (87 % females) has no reliable measures and no standardized methods to use, no national guidelines to follow, and no demands regarding how to make authentic documentation.
8. The social worker has a 3.5 year academic education, but no license to practice social work. She has no legal or professional responsibility and cannot be sued for malpractice as she has no established body of knowledge to fall back on and has been given the power to interpret the laws she refers to in her work.
9. You can summarize the results as malpractice within the social services being the rule, not the exception, as Article 9 in the Swedish Constitution law is not followed. The wording of this article is: ”All work performed by authority professionals must be impartial and observe objectivity and impartiality.”
10. Malpractice within the social services when children are removed from their families is the rule, not the exception. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights was not included in the social workers’ education, and it is not something the social worker refers to when doing her investigations.
11. Malpractice within the social services is the rule, not the exception, because the detailed and precise article in SoL, Article 5, is not followed. Article 5 stipulates that, for children who are considered to be at risk the social workers shall have as their primary consideration if the child can be received by a family member or other close relatives. The intention is that the child should not lose his/her family roots.
12. The social worker mostly lacks knowledge in areas of vital importance for making the investigations and the recommendations she is making; during her 3.5 years training she learns a little of everything, but not enough of anything that is required for a good enough practice.
13. The social worker has the power to ask a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, or a psychologist to investigate something the social worker wants to have investigated. She gives her interpretation of the problem to these experts, who – like the judges in the courts – think that the social workers have made thorough investigations and know the facts and have ”weighed the pros and the cons”. She then has the power to decide if she wants to include what the doctor/psychiatrist/psychologist has found – or not – in her investigation and as a basis for her recommendations.
14. The investigations made by the social workers are of two kinds: A. after reports of concern for a child, so called child investigations, B. when a court has asked for an investigation regarding custody, habitation and/or visitation, so-called custody investigations. The social workers making the custody investigations often belong to a special division called ”the Family Law Division”, but they all belong to the municipal social services. Between colleagues they change information and also copy from each others’ writings, thus making it very easy to spread for example a false diagnosis, and biased hearsay information, that when repeated over and over again becomes the ”truth” about a child or a parent.
15. As mentioned above, the social worker takes no consideration to the childﾴs or the parentsﾴ human right to family life. As the human right to family life is a not existing materia in the investigations and recommendations by the social worker it is a matter of no concern for the courts that make their decisions based on the investigations and recommendations made by the social workers.
16. When a child is believed (is not obviously harmed/scared) to be in need of protection measures are often taken by the social services for such protection before any investigation is made. Before any physical, psychological or sexual abuse or some very harmful life conditions, have been observed or found, the measure to place the child out of the childﾴs family, or, as is often the case, place a mother who claims the father has abused her and/or the children, together with the children in a womenﾴs shelter, can in itself be very harmful and traumatic. Often the child has in these cases to break up from school and their usual life and get treatment as being abused which is harming to the child if the child has not been abused. (There are no menﾴs shelters.)
17. When the social worker makes her investigation after having placed the child or the mother with the children in protection from the parent/-s believed to be dangerous they cannot, of course, find out how it is for the child to be with that parent/these parents in their daily life, due to the fact that the preconditions have been drastically changed. What is observed is thus the reactions to the changes made. The words spoken of the child in protection after mostly a lot of questioning by foster parents or helpers with preconceived ideas about what has happened in the past are often a repetition of what the child has heard in these questions, or if the child has been placed in a womenﾴs shelter, by the other adults and children being protected in the same place. With this background, the childﾴs will is not necessarily the real will of the child.
18. The research-based knowledge that children placed in strangers’ homes away from their own family are worse off than adopted children but even worse off than children kept in their risky homes, seems not to be known. In a longitudinal study ([i]) of about 700 children diagnosed to be in need of being placed out of their risky home environment, about one-third of them were placed in foster homes. Nearly one-third of them were adopted and a little more than one-third of them stayed in their risk homes. When, after several years, these children were followed up by looking at their school results, if they had been registered within psychiatric care, with drug addiction problems, or had been registered as criminals, and also if they had committed suicide the result was that the children left at home were best off. Second best on all these measurable variables were the adopted children. Worse off were the children who had been placed in foster homes.
19. Statistics tell us that children once placed in foster care are re-homed over and over again until they are 18 (sometimes 20) and that placed teenagers very often (in about 50 %) run away. To my knowledge, there is no research showing that children are better off in life after having been placed in foster care. So why is this fact not considered when making risk assessments, and before taking decisions to remove a child from the childﾴs family? If there was a medicine that could cure cancer, but at the same time cause worse pain to the patient, would that medicine be prescribed with state support on a large scale?
20. In 2006 an ”Abuse and Neglect inquiry” was appointed (officially: ”The Swedish Inquiry on Child Abuse and Neglect in Institutions and in Foster Homes, 1930 – 1980”). In the final report (SOU 2011:63 /State Official Investigation 2011:63/) for the 866 persons interviewed about abuse and neglect that had occurred before 1980, 763 of the 798 who were placed in foster homes (96 %) told about abuse and neglect.
21. It is stated that ”the contents of the files often lack an overall structure, uniform concepts, and definitions”. From what I have seen, these problems still exist. It is a fact that children in foster care are still being abused, not in the least psychologically, physically and heavily neglected regarding love/acceptance, school and medical care. [ii].
22. Those who had suffered were officially given an apology by the State and were promised to be given some compensation. But it turned out that they had to make applications and document their suffering. Only half of the 5300 who made such applications passed the inquiries made by a special assigned authority, which has recently been criticized internationally. It was for example pointed out by Patricia Lundy, professor in Sociology, from Northern Ireland that the compensation procedures making only half of the applicants ”qualified” for compensation have traumatized them a second time.
23. UNICEF, in their Innocenti Report Card 13 (2016): ”Fairness for Children. A league table of inequality in child well-being in rich countries” has made comparisons of 35 countries regarding income, education, health and well-being. Sweden is low down in this league: Number 23. Nearly 20 % of the children have reported to have daily psychosomatic health problems.
24. There has been a huge increase in the number of children and young persons being taken into the care of society. The total number 2014 was 31.952, according to the figures from the National Board of Health and Welfare, http://www.socialstyrelsen.se/publikationer2014/2014-9-1. About 10 people around every child is affected by anxieties, actions intended to result in a reunification which often leads to prestige battles where these individuals are powerless in comparison with the social workers using their authority position. But it also means that about 320 000 voters are affectedﾅ
25. A new law, intended to make it even easier for the social services to take children into compulsory care, also the growing number of children diagnosed with neuropsychiatric problems, will soon be debated and passed in the Swedish Parliament. It is based on an official governmental investigation (SOU 2015:17) called ”The rights of children and young in compulsory care. Suggestions for a new LVU.” Some of us, who have insight to the fact that no one can be cured or helped in a good way by being violated to give up his/her family and be happy with some material goods given by tax money from the state to the foster families, or other pseudo care institutions, have argued for better solutions.
26. One such suggestion for a better solution is to unite the help/advice function within the social services with already existing, well spread and well-functioning Child Care Centers and Mother Care Centers with competent and well-trained medical professionals to Family Care Centers. At the same time the decisions about taking children into compulsory care would be taken by a separate and independent authority, or, as in many other countries, by a civil Court.
27. The present law (LVU, 1990:52) reads:
ﾧ 10 Care shall be deemed to begin when the young person, because of a decision on immediate custody or care has been placed outside their own home.”
However, the best help to any child who is deemed to be in need of help should be to receive help within his or her family. Separating a child from its parents and loved ones is traumatizing for the child, and should be used only when there is a serious threat to the child’s health or life.
28. All assistance ought to begin in the family, to avoid breaking down the family, the cornerstone for building a human society according to the UN declaration on human rights.
The European Court, Strasbourg, has repeated in its child care verdicts:
”The State must unceasingly make efforts to reunite the children with their families.”
Verdicts for the reunification of children with their families are not implemented. Children are suffering. Parents are suffering. Grandparents are suffering. High suicide rates and deaths related to stress in families affected by the removal of their children and limitation of visiting rights have been noted, but it is difficult to have statistics because such statistics are not made.
29. The parents, grandparents, and children whose human right to family life is being violated have formed different groups, for example, Stolen childhood (not any more in existence after the compensation and apology from the State), Missed grandchildren, Free children, Father- child, National organization for family rights.
In Norway, the Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet) has been accused of ”state kidnapping.” According to official statistics, 1664 children were taken into forced custody in 2014; 424 of these children had mothers born abroad. We are a group of professionals who last year reported our concerns about Barnevernet, something that we now are following up. Ms Gro Hillestad Thune, formerly Norway’s delegate in the European Commission on Human Rights and from whom I forwarded the message that the human right to family life is violated on an everyday basis in Norway, is also a member of this group.
I would be most grateful if you could send me a confirmation that you have received this letter and the Recommendation letter from Mrs. Siv Westerberg.
Very truly Yours.
Lena Hellblom Sjögren
[i] Bohman, M. & Sigvardsson, S. (1980). A prospective longitudinal study of children registered for adoption. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 61, 339-355.
[ii] Mattsson, Titti, Vinnerljung, Bo (2016). Barn i familjehem. Förslag på åtgärder som skulle göra skillnad för samhällets mest utsatta. /Children in family homes. Suggestions on measures that would make a difference for the children most in need in society.
”Family home” is the opposite of a foster home and confusing, as Stefan Carlsson has pointed out (1995, p. 74), but it is the word used for the homes with foreigners where children taken from their families are placed.In Mattsson&Vinnerljung you can find a lot of relevant and good references regarding the negative outcome of child welfare clients.