As I mentioned earlier today, I was going to write a translated version of the censored article during the next couple of days. Well, I guess I’ve been pretty productive today, finishing both the original article and an English translation. The following text was rejected by supposedly free and open news commentary site newsmill.se.
Our authorities have under Swedish law a very far-reaching responsibility for the upbringing of children. The legal framework and the authority they’ve got to work with is detailed in the Social Services law (SoL) and the Care of Young Persons Special Provisions Act (LVU), laws that grant the social welfare council the power to take children and youth into state custody when it’s felt that the biological parents are mismanaging their task, or when the behaviour of the youngsters is considered to make care essential. Just what is it one wants to achieve through this?
The other day when I contemplated Swedish child welfare policies – the goals enumerated in chapter 5 of SoL, and how the seizure was justified in one of the LVU verdicts in an internationally renowned Swedish errand (the Domenic case), it struck me just how vaguely defined the goals for the development of children have been established. For anyone unfamiliar with the legislation, this is the chapter of the SoL where the intended goals of a child’s upbringing are accounted for. Paragraph one reads as follows – words that on the surface may appear fairly harmless, but which in their application are a very powerful tool in the hands of the state for subjecting families to its will:
“The social welfare council shall
– work for children and youth to grow up under safe and good terms,
– in close cooperation with the homes encourage a versatile development of personality and a favourable physical and social development of children and youth,
– with special attention follow the development of children and youth that have displayed signs of an unfavourable development,”
For the legislation in its entirety, see Socialtjänstlagen. The subsequent lines detail the role of the social welfare council and make it clear that it only requires the potential of the child or youth to develop unfavourably to give the authorities the task of intervening. In this court case, one hasn’t been able to establish any harm that has come to the one taken into custody (Dominic), but ont supports the need for care through the boy’s development being in jeopardy and that he’s felt to have fallen behind in some areas of development – apart from emotional and social maturity, motor skills as well! I guess I must consider myself lucky that the social welfare council never was told that I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was nine years old when I was a child – who knows, maybe I would have been seized too otherwise?
Something that strikes you in the verdict of the administrative appeals court that I’m reading is how the social welfare council can cherry-pick things here and there to support the alleged need for care. Nothing is accounted for about what danger this delayed development is believed to mean to the child, neither how one is meant to correct it other than the standard line “he’s believed to be in need of (daily) routines, stability and being approached in a predictable manner.” I would suggest that these very things are shattered when one makes the kind of immediate seizure that seven-year-old Domenic was put through at Arlanda airport last year. But, enough about a specific case. Things you ask yourself when studying this errand and the legislation are these:
Exactly what developmental deficiencies does the social welfare council have the right to be concerned about, and what can the absence of an intervention mean to the child?
Just what developmental goals have to be reached by the child to avoid him or her being taken into state custody, and what’s the justification for these goals to exist?
Can the government do a better job of reaching these goals than the biological parents? Does any solution even exist to the stated developmental problem?
A child that becomes the subject of such an intervention may already have formed a certain image of how his or her life will turn out, based on the child’s own conditions and aptitude. If you don’t perform well at school P.E., you won’t be an elite athlete, and if you suffer from learning disabilities you won’t be a Nobel laureate. Yet the social council still provides the child with unreasonable expectations of how its future will turn out, to make the child more cooperative. One lures in the children through material gifts within the care system and attempts to convince the child that his or her parents are a mere burden. “With the social services, your life will be like in heaven; with your parents, like in hell.”
In SOSFS 1997:15 (a document on the application of the LVU law) one describes how unrealistic promises on the part of the parents can constitute abuse and therefore be grounds on which to seize a child. Why doesn’t the same apply to the government? With what right do they rearrange the child’s outlook on life in this way? Instead one ought to let people find their place in life themselves. I’m bothered by how people that are appreciated by their surroundings and are fully functional in daily life as well as have a clear potential on a free job market are still written off as disabled in Sweden. A child that would appear normal to other people, in some ways even far ahead in some areas of its development, is considered to have “special needs” when facing the social services.
Something else one asks oneself is how in such a normless society as today’s Sweden, one can still determine what’s a favourable development and what isn’t. Especially when it comes to sex and coexistence, Sweden has rebelled against traditions of all the world and declared that all sexuality is normal as long as it’s with the consent of the other partner. There you never hear about any norms having to exist to protect the health and development of individual, or that society’s needs have to be taken into account. Yet still one barges into families and labels normal behaviour as disordered; that the afore-mentioned Domenic is, or at least was until the social council entered the picture, the kind of child that goes around and hugs everyone, was considered to be signs of a disordered development. If one is to apply norms on which one judges behaviour and development, clearly they should be founded on something more objective than the arbitrary whims of the social services?
I want to see them come clean and explain how you’re supposed to be like as a human being to be considered to have developed normally, and justify these expectations with society’s needs. With the risk of not appearing politically correct, I don’t see how you can include sexuality with your own gender into this, since that would mean an end to child-bearing.
When it comes to this section from SoL chapter 5, it’s quite similar to paragraph 2 of the Law on the Hitler Youth. The difference is that while the Third Reich required children to grow up to be soldiers, and physical, intellectual and moral goals were defined, the Swedish law instead describes “a versatile development of personality and a favourable physical and social development”; in common for both of them is that the government establishes a goal for what should become of the growing generation. In today’s Sweden, one is however not entirely honest concerning this, but prefers to use phrases such as “the best interest of the child” to describe the development that makes the individual a cog in the intended social machinery.
But if one puts aside one’s suspicions on just why the state feels it has a right to set goals for a child’s development: Afore-mentioned SOSFS 1997:15, spanning some 120 pages, enumerates a great many situations where forced care under the LVU law can come in question. If the potential of the parents raising their children the wrong way, why then not make the information the social services has amassed on bad parenting easily available to Sweden’s parents, so that they themselves can learn from other people’s mistakes? Though naturally that won’t mean any tax money for foster care – the representatives of the social welfare state can no longer make a living from taking other people’s children. If your main income is from placing children in state care, you naturally have no incentive to get the parents themselves to raise their children the right way. Such an environment rather encourages you to sabotage parenthood, and if the social council spots weaknesses in a family, they will naturally seize the opportunity. For some parents in vulnerable situations, this can mean such stress that it eventually topples the parenthood over.
Earlier this year I learned of a clearly questionable LVU case on the NCHR forum; a baby of some five months of age had been immediately seized when the social council felt it had observed that this child was delayed in her development, since she didn’t make proper eye contact. At first it was deemed to have been caused by neglect in care, and the ability of the parents to manage the custody was ruled out – the child must instead be taken care of by society. After a while one realized that there had never been any neglect in the care, but now they had made up a new reason to keep the child – she had now been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum and therefore had “special needs” due to genetic factors instead of environmental ones. This didn’t make much difference to the parents, however – because of these “special needs,” she was now considered beyond the ability of these two to take care of, even if they were not deemed unfit to raise a normal child! So now she’s still in state custody, but with significantly more highly paid government employees involved in the care. It’s fascinating how the grounds for taking someone into care can change during the course of the errand.
This naturally poses another question, the one on which party can manage the parent role the best in these unusual cases. Although the social services has tons of regulation on when it’s meant to take a child into care, there are no clear solutions to the posed problems. It’s simply implicitly assumed that everything can be dealt with in state care. Just like in the old Soviet union, one believes one can solve everything through central planning. If the natural biological parenthood is the market economy, then foster care becomes the planned economy. Do we have any historical reasons to feel that central planning can remedy the potential problems of the market economy? Both when it comes to the individual participants in a market economy, as well as the parents in a biological family, these local entities understand their surroundings better. The government can never have the same correct and thorough information on what’s required to solve the problems facing the local participants. When central planning doesn’t achieve economic wealth, why would it then work in family matters? Can the social services ever have the same insight into a child’s needs and greater love for it, than the actual parents?
Speaking of the Soviet Union, there is something else in Sweden that reminds you of this since two decades back deceased state. Even in the Soviet Union, they had their own court system with a unique legal tradition that drastically set itself apart from the Western one. Most notorious of them all within this tradition was Stalin’s chief attorney Vyshinsky, who coined the phrase “confession of the accused is the queen of evidence.” The accused were given lawyers of their own here as well, but they didn’t do much to free their clients from guilty. They usually instead followed the attorney’s line and only defended their client on a superficial level. When these were charged with groundless allegations of terrorist attacks, the lawyer was content with merely presenting his client in a more sympathetic way, but never challenging the charges.
We have the same phenomenon today in Swedish administrative courts, where in LVU matters you have three parties: the social welfare council, the biological parents and the child, who all have legal counsel of their own. The social council is naturally the party that will call for care, and in practice the same is always true of the child’s alleged counself as well. Generally the parent’s counsel doesn’t put up much of a fight either, but instead try to convince these parents to accept the care. Only if the parents on their own can get the court to approve of their legal counsel can they expect anyone to actually call for care measures to be rejected. It’s true that the representatives of the social council and the child don’t pursue the same line, but it’s rare that they differ in the matter at stake – the child is going into foster care. In the Domenic case, the social council depicted the parents Christer and Annie as people worthy of revile and called for care, while the representative of the child on the other hand claimed that certainly these two people wanted to be good parents, but simply didn’t have the ability to be any, hence foster care was necessary.
Can one really read out any real goal for this extensive child welfare administration, or is the simple answer that it’s not about anything else than corruption?