Arne Seland, the defence lawyer who won the woman back custody over her son. Photo: Advokat-Huset.no
The young mother, whose two children were taken into care in 2012, was the following year denied the right to receive them back, despite a court resolution that the Child Welfare Service had wrongly taken them into care, because the agency claimed that the elder of the two children had said that he did not want to live with her.
The Nord-Troms district court ruled as a result that it was in the best interests of the two children that they remain with their foster parents, even though it harshly criticised the agency's handling of the case.
However, in a follow-up case this week, the court heard that the boy had kept a strong bond with his mother, despite three years of separation and had pushed continuously to be returned to her.
“They should not have been taken into care, and the Child Welfare Service falsified their reports when they claimed that the boy did not want to live with his mother,” the mother’s attorney Arne Seland told Dagbladet newspaper. “In reality, the boy has said he wanted to be returned to her all along.”
The court has now ruled that the boy should be returned to his mother. Her younger child will however remain in the custody of the state, as the child was only a few months old when the Child Welfare Service stepped in and has not yet developed a strong bond.
The mother, who has not been named, told Dagbladet that she hoped her case would encourage others to change the agency's judgements.
“I feel that I have my life back. It feels like a miracle every time I look at him. I hope this will inspire others in similar situations not to give up,” she said.
Guro Sønderland, the psychologist called in to review the case told the court that the boy did suffer emotional difficulties, but that these were the result of his traumatic removal from his mother rather than from mistreatment under her care.
“I think that the child’s negative reactions are due to a traumatic break in his relationship with his mother and that he is in grief,” she told the newspaper.
Norway's Child Welfare Service has faced a barrage of international criticism, with demonstrations planned this weekend in Norway, Czech Republic, Lithuania, UK, Ireland, Poland, Sweden, Slovakia and Turkey against what protesters claim is its heavy-handed arbitrary approach in taking Norwegian and foreign children into care.