A brief guide to Swedish child welfare

A brief guide to Swedish child welfare

February 19, 2011
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Swedish child welfare is often said to be for the children’s sake, often they refer to “the best interests of the child,” yet quite often it doesn’t work that way, but rather becomes a business enterprise instead. This article is meant as a fact sheet for whoever is interested in the darker side of Swedish child welfare.

The aims for the Swedish child welfare are detailed in Socialtjänstlagen (2001:453), abbreviated SoL in Swedish; its official English name is the Social Services Act, abbreviated SSA. In article 5, paragraph 1, this is stated:

“The social council shall

– work for children and youth to grow up under safe and good terms,

– in close cooperation with the homes see to it that children and youth who risk developing unfavourably receive the protection and support they need and, if the concern for the best interests of the minor justifies it, care and fosterage outside one’s own home”

Care outside one’s own home takes place either in familjehem, which directly translates into “family homes,” and is how one refers to foster families today; or in HVB-hem, “homes for care and living,” which are the modern orphanages and are run by staff. If things go really bad, you can be placed at an ungdomshem, “youth home,” after the social services feels you’ve not been behaving properly at an orphanage. These are prisons, sometimes surrounded by barbed wire, but in spite of this, you don’t have to commit a crime to be placed there.

Even though it’s the social council that plans the proposed care, it’s intended to be voluntary, in accordance with the Social Services Act. If a voluntary placement can’t be arranged, the child or his or her parents just don’t understand what’s in the “best interests of the child,” the authorities can resort to using Lag (1990:52) med särskilda bestämmelser om vård av unga, LVU, or as is its official English name: Care of Young Persons Special Provisions Act, or CYPA for short, the law on forced care for minors. Paragraphs of significance here are the environment paragraph, § 2, which enables care placement due to “physical or mental abuse, improper exploitation, lack in care or any other condition in the home.” This paragraph is used if the social council can spot some form of weakness in the family structure or in the people that otherwise reside in the home.

  • § 3, the behaviour paragraph, lets the social council take a minor below the age of 20 into care due to “abuse of addictive drugs, criminal activity or any other socially destructive behaviour.” A study from the late 90’s found that the diffuse term “socially destructive behaviour” was the one used the most to justify care placements. Hence in Sweden, you don’t have to commit a crime to be deprived of your liberty, it’s enough that you act in a way that a social worker finds strange.
  • § 6, immediate seizure; this paragraph lets a single social worker without presenting any written warrant or anything of the sort call the police and demand that they take a person into care. The law prescribes that an administrative court is to try the care placement within a week, but this isn’t very adhered to.
  • § 12, special youth homes. “For care of minors who due to some reason stated in § 3 need to be under especially careful supervision, there shall be special youth homes.” Notice the lack of any requirement to have committed a crime.
  • § 14 gives the social services the right to hide a child from its parents and not let them know where the child has been placed.
  • § 22, preventive measures. This paragraph enables “medium force,” open measures that the minor can be forced to attend if it’s felt that he or she might at a later stage otherwise fall under the criteria of § 3.
  • § 24, removal prohibition. If you’ve agreed to voluntary care, the social services can extend the care forever, until you reach the age where you can’t be taken into care any more.

In Swedish child welfare and social care aimed at preventing crime, actual breaches of the law and actual guilt don’t matter very much, rather one discusses various forms of personal “problems,” which can include such things as depression and self-injurious behaviour. Even a long history of violent crime is rather described as “behavioural problems” to be treated than as the wilful acts of this individual. Sweden has abandoned the old moralistic perspective which all societies have otherwise adhered to, and become a therapeutic state where everything is to be corrected through care, whether someone has done something in the past or could potentially do something in the future. Naturally you end up having to do a lot of treatment since people then have nothing to gain from taking responsibility for their lives – this has no impact on whether they’re taken in for “care” or not.

In practice, this means that one doesn’t apply any form of “differentiation,” to use a professional term, apart from the division between LVU and LSU (the law on secure youth care; these placements have to be determined by a court of law). At the youth homes, there are certainly different rooms for LVU and LSU placements, but they still reside under the same roof and are subject to the same care. So a self-destructing teenager “guilty” of perhaps truancy or self-injury can be placed with rapists and killers. Eddie Jönsson, a 17-year-old man who in January of 2004 along with his friend clubbed two 18-year-old girls to death, what’s usually referred to as dubbelmordet på Hallandsåsen, the double-murder at Hallandsåsen, was sentenced to secure youth care and placed at a youth home which he ended up running away from.

There are however quite a few who are placed at these youth homes without having done anything to deserve it. In Vård av ungdomar med sociala problem – en forskningsöversikt, “Care of youth with social problems – a research overview,” a study is presented of 749 juveniles who had been taken into various youth homes in the Stockholm area during the earlier 90’s. The researcher had divided the inmates into different categories – the crime profile, the substance abuse profile, the mental illness profile, the sexual problems profile as well as something he called “profile group 0.” Characteristic of this last group was that in spite of constituting more than a third of the population (255 out of 749), they hadn’t displayed worse behavioural problems than the general public. They had been placed with labels such as “emotional disorder,” “learning and school problems” and similar. The reason they had been placed there was mostly the social status of their parents – these were often former prison inmates and such. Even though these people so far had managed to get their children to behave, society took for granted that they would follow in the footsteps of their parents and didn’t give them any chance whatsoever.

Other research of interest is the one made by Bo Vinnerlung at the National Board of Health and Welfare. Of particular value is an essay he published in English, Into adulthood: a follow-up study of 718 young people who were placed in out-of-home care during their teens, where among other things he shows that 6% of Swedish minors, or roughly two in every school class, were reported to the social services every year. The surveillance state is well outfitted here in Sweden. On page eight, statistics are presented which show that for the ones who were placed for behavioural problems, only 8.2% had done well as adults with the criteria used there, compared to 70% of the general public. Among those who had been placed at youth homes under the LSU law, 70% had ended up in prison or had died by the age of 25, and not a single person was doing well. The country’s preventive social care apparently works very well.

In SOSFS 1997:15, on the application of the LVU law, one lists the reasons under which children and youth can be taken into care. Here one includes that the parents might be arguing, that a parent tells his or her child that he or she will be allowed to return home from voluntary care, that the family might move abroad, that a minor is using steroids, that one uses spanking as a way of raising one’s children and lots of other stuff. It’s simply the devil’s manual to every possible reason for taking someone into custody.

Something else to be addressed is just what hides behind the so called “environmental” reasons for care placements. Is it really abuse, or is it simply that the family is poor? In Social rapport 2006, on page 273, there’s a comparison between two different groups of families. In affluent families, only one out of 2,000 children were taken into foster care before seven years of age, while the corresponding figure for what one could call “welfare mothers” was one in seven.

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll surely enjoy my book “The Madhouse: A critical study of Swedish society.” Go here for the book hub page on my web page, or here for the Amazon page, where it’s available both in print and in electronic format.

Also see this video clip I made about Swedish child welfare:

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Daniel Hammarberg

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  • Anonymous

    I am reading "The Madhouse" now. It is shocking to say the least. I fear for the future of my own country as more young people, and especially women, have been BS'd throught the public school systems to believe that socialism is the answer for our country's problems. Clearly, the socialist inspired judicial and culteral wars on the family and on traditional moral values has been at the heart of the increase in social ills that we face today. Violent and irresponsible behavior that was almost unheard of in 40 years ago is accepted as near normal in many communities today. I'm glad we haven't gotten as far down the road to socialism/communism as Sweden has, and hope we never get to that point. In reading different chapters of your book, I was tempted to send you some humerous pictures and UTube from the US, just to point out the differences that still exist. I'm sure they would be soundly condemned by Swedish beaurocrats.

  • Daniel Hammarberg

    Thanks for purchasing my book. Yep, I'm saddened to see young Americans not very informed about the realities of socialism, merely two decades after the Berlin wall fell. Sometimes when people promote socialist policies, they point to Scandinavia and pretend that the great societies these countries were in the past is a testament to the successes of left-wing policies. Yet they neglect to mention that that's history now, these very policies have seriously harmed these countries by now, resulting in especially Sweden having to put a lot of work into polishing its image.

    Sweden has undergone an enormous social transformation, back in the 50's it was one of the safest countries in the world, yet now the violent crime rate is very high, and since a couple of years back there are regular street clashes between nationalists and marxists too, people nearly kill each other over politics.

  • Anonymous

    I have heard about violence from muslims who see the 'softness' of the Swedish judicial system as weakness and not worthy of respect. But I had never heard about fighting between marxists and nationalists. On the one hand it means that there is some hope that there are enough people with sane, traditional values who will fight for their country. But, there is apparently no political power for them, or they wouldn't need to resort to street fighting. Traditionally, marxists try to get others, like muslims, to do their terrorizing and other mayhem for them. Then they rush in after the carnage is done and take control of what remains. They are assuming, of course, that they could somehow control the fundamentalist muslims, who want to run the country as part of their own global caliphate. I think marxists are narcisistic, childish, manipulative, irrational, and highly prone to violence to silence their critics. But, what can we expect from a group of people who think that the state government (ie: themselves) are to be essentially in the place of god for other citizens. And in your book you quote bureaocrats referring to traditionalists and those seeking justice as mentally ill. Amazing!

  • Daniel Hammarberg

    If you're interested in watching political violence in action, you can check out http://www.patriot.nu/film/sodermalm_2007.wmv , it's footage by a national socialist organization from when they were attacked by marxists as they were trying to sell their newspaper in Stockholm. One of the attacking marxists nearly ended up dead. But it does feel a bit strange adding this link to this blog page, one about child welfare.

    Yep, I strongly believe that the reason we've seen a rise in political violence is due to people not being given an outlet to express their views, these developments have coincided. It's definitely caused a polarization as well, where it's more about killing each other than presenting your viewpoints.

    I sure hope that by writing this book, people will come to realize that Soviet communism isn't the only socialism to fear, but that what you call "liberalism" over there is really the sort of totalitarian marxism we've got here in disguise.

  • Anonymous

    I hadn't thought of nationalists as socialists, as you have pointed out. So I misinterpreted the picture you had described. In my own mind marxists and socialists are two camps of the same basic philosophy. Much like prior to WWII with the Nazi's, who were nationalist socialists, and the communists who were non-nationalist socialists. The two camps were fighting over the same country, but the Nazi's won… till the war took them out. I guess I had assumed that Nazism was a thing of the past.

    I am changing the topic too much, sorry about that. I hope that your book helps to lead to a change that will open the court system and shed daylight on its practices, opinions, decisions, and legal judgements. Full exposure could lead to a revision of the system. Without a fair and impartial judiciary, everything else of government is just a facade. The judiciary interprets everything else and determines the actual practice of government.

  • Daniel Hammarberg

    Ah, no worries about the topic. I'm very happy to get feedback from readers, and this gave me an idea – maybe I should put up a forum where people can stop by, leave comments, ask questions and such, on matter related to my books. It'd be a place to gather for like-minded people too, a forum with the same profile as my writing. That way people provide feedback in a casual way without having to worry about just where to put it.

    Nazism has resurged a bit here with the extreme number of residence permits being given out to so called refugees, as well as the ever shrinking freedom of speech.

    Thanks for the encouragement. I understand the Assange affair has brought the Swedish justice system into the international spotlight due to allegations that his rape charges might have been politically motivated. The judiciary here has never been impartial or very strong. It gradually improved from the days of monarchy until the 1950's and 60's, but has since been in decline. Today you're really out of luck if you've got a grievance with the government here, you're not going to get the state to put itself on trial.

  • Anonymous

    I think the idea about creating a forum is a good one. It could bring more people together on the subject.
    Also, I wouldn't discount the value of shining daylight on the decisions and actions of your government, especially the judicial system. That is how citizens can understand what is going on and insist on changes to make the system fair for everyone, rather than just for a few.
    It is funny that you should mention Assange. Though I'm not a particular fan of him, the thought came to me that Sweden could use some Assange treatment (I'm not trying to suggest anything for you!). I also was quite surprized by the Swedish government's response to him. I know they are generally anti American/anti capitalism. So I thought they would be very supportive of him. Instead they seem to be trumping up some dubious charges against him, which only appears more strange when they seem so unconcerned about sex crimes in general. Maybe they are scared about their own secrets getting out.

  • Daniel Hammarberg

    I've done some of the work putting up a forum now, I made one at forum.danielhammarberg.com. So far I've mostly just set up the forum sections, but I'm going to populate it during the next couple of days so that it can hopefully become a a lively discussion hub.

    The spin on the Assange case over here is kind of funny. Swedish media is insinuating that Americans are pulling strings, that Sweden is arresting him to please the USA. Everything Sweden doesn't want to stand for, it blames on the USA.

    I personally don't know very well what to make of the Assange case, I only know that this guy has been in the news way too much. It's not the end of the world if he ends up sitting a month in a Swedish jail for some rape charge. Personally I feel that neither he, nor the rape case, have any real significance. Yet as a Swede, people ask you about it of course since it's in the news. I wish the news would be more about the child custody cases, where the state takes children away from well-functioning families without good reason; that's real abuses of power, and the politicized courts don't give the families any real chance to get their children back if they can't afford private attorneys, which is hard with Swedish taxes.

  • Anonymous

    I look forward to seeing the new forum up and running. I hope that it will be a place where people can really speak freely about their concerns. I also pray that it will become a blessing to many people, to bring them together to help each other, and bring an acceptable solution to their problems and to help them get their children back again.

  • Daniel Hammarberg

    I've put in a bit of work on the forum now, will announce its existence tomorrow or the day after that, I've added sections to discuss abuses of power by the Swedish social services and other CPS agencies around the world and a bit of this and that, relevant to socially conservative people with a distrust of government.

  • Marius Muntean ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Same as in Norway. This way of abusing and breaking families apart, it’s Nazi’s way.

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