System failed Norway teen who starved to death

The Norwegian Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet) failed to protect a 13-year-old girl who was found dead in Valdres, local officials said on Tuesday.

System failed Norway teen who starved to death
The girl's mother, shown here with her lawyer Aasmund Olav Sandland, still faces criminal charges in the death. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix
The county governors of Oppaland, Oslo and Akerhus concluded in a new report that child welfare officials in both Bærum and Valdres violated the law in their handling of the girl’s situation. 
“This is a very serious report,” Børge Tomter, the head of child welfare services in Bærum, said. 
Children and Equality Minister Solveig Horne also expressed alarm at the report’s conclusions. 
“It is important that municipalities now follow up on these offences so that they don’t affect other children,” she said. 
The 13-year-old girl was found dead on New Year’s Eve in a cottage in Beitostølen and most likely died from emaciation, according to the autopsy report.
The county governors concluded that child welfare officials were made aware of the girl’s situation, which included eating disorders and reports of bullying at both the Gullhaug primary school in Bærum and later at the Mølledammen junior high school.
Concerns about the girl were improperly handled by officials, the report concluded. 
There is still an ongoing investigation into school officials’ handling of the bullying reports. That investigation is expected to be concluded in mid-April. 
Mother still faces charges
The 13-year-old girl and her mother lived in Bærum until the mother reported a new address in Øystre Slidre Council last November. After the girl’s death, the mother was charged with gross negligence resulting in death, but the court ruled against the police’s request to hold the mother in custody. 
Police believe that the mother failed to help her daughter when she was in mortal danger. Police attorney Mari Lauritzen Halse confirmed on Tuesday that the charges against the mother remain unchanged.
Her lawyer, however, said that the county governors’ report is proof that the mother should not face criminal charges. 
“This report strongly supports the mother’s own information,” Aasmund Sandland said. 
The report did not signal out any individuals for failing to intervene on the girl’s behalf and instead pointed to a general failure of the system. Officials were criticised for failing to properly investigate reports about the girl’s welfare and that the girl herself was not involved in investigations. 
Child welfare officials in Bærum and Valdres have been given four weeks to respond to the report’s conclusions.