Norway returns kids in high-profile custody case

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Norway returns kids in high-profile custody case
The couple became a rallying point for Barnevernet's critics, some of whom are seen here at an April protest in Oslo. Photo: Ole Berg-Rusten / NTB Scanpix

A Norwegian-Romanian couple in Naustdal whose battle with the Norwegian Child Welfare Services spurred protests around the globe will get all five of their children back.


The Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet) in Naustdal Municipality has agreed to return the five children it took from Marius and Ruth Bodnariu, the couple’s law firm Stiegler announced on Friday. 
Marius Bodnariu is a Romanian citizen while Ruth Bodnariu is a Norwegian. The couple had their five children removed by authorities last November after officials accused them of domestic violence. 
The Bodnarius went to court to get back the children, who had been placed in three different foster homes in Western Norway. In April, the Fjordane District Court ruled that the couple should get back custody of their youngest child. Now the parents will be reunited with their other four children as well.
Under the agreement announced on Friday, the Bodnarius will have their children returned but will have to continue to cooperate with local officials to create a stable and safe environment for the family.
“I’m glad to hear that the parents and Barnevernet have come to an agreement and will cooperate so that the children can move back in with their parents. Now we will respect the children and the family by complying with their request for peace,” Minister of Children and Equality Solveig Horne said. 
The Bodnarius had their youngest child returned in April. Photo:
The Bodnarius had the youngest child returned in April. Photo:
Case protested worldwide
The Bodnariu family’s case become a rallying point for both Romanians and the international Pentecostal community worldwide. 
In an interview on Romanian television, the couple admitted to occasionally spanking their children and pulling them by the ears even though they knew that such methods are illegal in Norway.
Many of the couple’s supporters have argued that the children were removed from the home due to fears of Pentecostal indoctrination.
Although theirs is just one of many cases in which parents have accused Barnevernet of kidnapping their children, the Bodnariu family’s situation played a big part in coordinated global protests in April that brought tens of thousands of people to the streets of more than 50 different cities to protest against the Norwegian agency. 
For months, the Bodnariu case has been a major news story in Romania and a high-level Romanian delegation including travelled to Norway to push the Norwegian authorities to reverse their decision in the case.
One of many
But their case does not stand alone and Norway has also seen its diplomatic ties with other nations tested over Barnevernet’s actions. In February 2015, Czech President Milos Zeman compared Barnevernet to the "Lebensborn", the welfare centres set up by the Nazis in order to boost the "Aryan race".
Relations between Norway and India soured several years ago over the case of an Indian couple whose children were taken away, while citizens of Russia, Lithuania and Brazil, among other countries, have also accused Norway of abusing authority and ruining families.
Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský, a leading voice amongst Barnevernet’s critics, told The Local that the reversal on the Bodnariu case shows that Norway has clearly been affected by the negative global attention. 
"This news really made my day and I am convinced that this was possible mainly due to huge international pressure and protests worldwide," Zdechovský said. 
Through their lawyers, the Bodnariu family said they look forward to a return to normalcy. 
“The family wishes to thank everyone who has supported them throughout this very difficult time,” their lawyers’ statement said. 
While the Bodnariu case may now be put to rest, critics of Barnevernet plan to continue to protest against the agency. Organizers told The Local that a demonstration has been scheduled in Oslo for June 11th and some 2,000 people are expected to attend. 



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