'Norway took my child because of pretty dress'

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Airida Pettersen with her son in April. Photo: Facebook
09:29 CEST+02:00
A Lithuanian mother living in Norway who had her two children taken into care has speculated that social services intervened because of her daughter was dressed too prettily.

Airida Pettersen, who moved to Norway in 2008 after marrying a Norwegian man, is one of several hundred immigrants to have had their children taken into care by Norway's Child Protection Service, or Barnevernet. 

"I dress my daughter in a pretty dress and make her comb her hair," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Lithuania. "They look at me like I'm from a Third World country. In my country if you don't take care of yourself you don't get a husband."

She told AP that she had yet to receive an explanation from the CPS as to why her children were taken. 

The children have now been reunited with their mother through the intervention of a relative and are now living in Lithuania's capital Vilnius 

The child protection services in Stavanger, Norway did not comment of the specific case, but cited cultural differences when speaking to AP.
“Very many people come from other cultures with no government intervening in their domestic affairs. Then they come to Norway and the government intervenes in the family and they have no experience with this,” said Gunnar Toresen, head of the Child Protection Service in Stavanger.

Pettersen's case is not unique. According to the latest available statistics 6,737 children were taken into care in 2012, some 1,049 were immigrants or born to immigrant parents.

The actions of the Norwegian authorities have causes diplomatic disputes with a number of countries including India and Russia.

Czech president Miloš Zeman went as far as to compare Norway's foster care system to Nazi Germany's Lebensborn adoption system, expressing his anger at two Czech boys forcibly taken into care. 

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Norway's Minister for children and families Solveig Horne insists that Norway is acting in the best interest of children.
"There are some culture differences between families coming to Norway," Horne said. 

 "All children who come to Norway have the same rights as Norwegian children ... If they are neglected or abused or if there is violence in the family the (child protection) agency should protect the children first of all."

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