On Sunday 27 November 2005 Swedish state television (SvT2) showed the documentary "Stolen Childhood" in which it was reported that about 100,000 Swedes have at some point in their lives lived in children's homes. Many of those people's lives today are still affected by their childhood experiences.
The TV-documentary has now resulted in the Swedish government promising an official inquiry into the serious allegations made against the child-care institutions.
"The State must make an unconditional apology to those former children's home children" said Social Services Minister Morgan Johansson.
The NCHR is pleased that the Swedish government is to launch an investigation into the conditions for the former children's home children, but as usual, Sweden is a late starter.
Other countries have already started investigating and coming to terms with the despicable conditions to which children taken into state care have been subjected. Australia seems to have been the first country to investigate the conditions under which children - Aboriginee children - who had been forcibly removed from their parents, lived. The investigations started in December 1995 and the report Bringing them home: The 'Stolen Children' report presented in 1996 - 1997 made echoes around the world. The United Nations called the system Genocide. The Australian government has failed to apologise to the victims of the past policies.
In England and Wales, the Waterhouse Commission (1996 - 1998) set up by former Tory leader, William Hague, presented its report, The Waterhouse Report, in 2000.
In 2001, former children's home children in Bergen, Norway demanded redress and compensation for the abuses that they had suffered while they were in state care. This gave rise to a land-wide investigation led by the Befring-Committee that found that there was systemic abuse in the foster homes and institutions. The victims have sued the Norwegian state for their demands and so far the government has made settlements with a few but the case is still pending.
In Ireland the government has set aside billions in order to give compensation to former children's home children. There have been several investigations made about what took place when the Catholic Church systematically exposed children to abuse. There is an enormous amount of reports and investigations and everyone who has been in certain institutions are eligible for damages. The sums vary between GB £3,600 and £214,000. On an average payments of GB £42 800 each have been made after application to the "Redress board" which ceases to exist after December 31, 2005. Survivors and their spouses and children are also granted economic support for education and leisure activities through the state agency NOVA.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has - on numerous occasions - found Sweden guilty of violating children's and their families' Human rights to private and family life. The first case was Olsson v. Sweden, 1982, which was a decisive victory for attorney-at-law and former medical practitioner, Mrs. Siv Westerberg, who has subsequently won several child care cases against Sweden in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Despite all those verdicts against Sweden we are experiencing a galloping number of cases where children are being unnecessarily taken from their parents and placed in public care.
The NCHR (Nordic Committee for Human Rights, For the Protection of Family Rights in the Nordic countries) was co-founded in 1996 by Mrs Siv Westerberg, in a desperate attempt to prevent a proliferation of cases like those presented in Stolen Childhood and the modern child care cases. See for example The Edner Case and The Helena Lufuma Case.
In August 1998 Attorney-at-law Lennart Hane, a fierce opponent of the Swedish system, wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Social Affairs demanding compensation to the victims of the social services. In November 1998, Siv Westerberg and I, Ruby Harrold-Claesson, had a meeting with the legal secretaries at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, in order to bring focus on the fact that not only the visiting rights issues but also the separation of children from their parents should be treated as violations of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
At this point the NCHR would like to remind our readers about the eugenics debate that raged in the 1990s concerning the ca 60,000 women who were forcibly sterilised between 1936 - 1976, after being deemed unfit for motherhood because they were handicapped, according to the then modern medical and social expertise. After the sterilisation law was abrogated in the middle of the 1970's Parliament passed new laws for the social services and the forcible taking of children into public care. They couldn't stop the adults from having children, they took the children and placed them in "suitable" foster homes. The new-swedish term "family home" was brought into existence.
Once again, the NCHR is pleased that the Swedish government is to launch an investigation into the conditions for the former children's home children, but it is of utmost urgency that the government should investigate the conditions of the tens of thousands of children and young people who are living in foster homes today.
14 year old Daniel Sigström died in his foster home in Härnosand on April 24, 1992. Since then several other children have died in their foster homes. The Sigström case was investigated by the Ombudsman of Justice but despite the fact that there were over 100 serious miscarriages of justice, the Ombudsman did not prosecute any of the civil servants involved. Also, several parents, for example The Götene Case have had to take their children and flee from Sweden to protect their families from being destroyed by the social workers and the administrative courts.
Ruby Harrold-Claesson, attorney-at-law, President of the NCHR, December 11, 2005.
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Thousands of Swedes who say they were subjected to physical abuse and cruel treatment in state children’s homes and foster care for decades from the 1950s won the promise of an official inquiry on Thursday.
A cabinet minister said the probe would investigate the cases, which peaked in the 1940s and ‘50s when Sweden’s zeal for social engineering included making children of single women or poor people wards of the state.
It could result in an apology and compensation similar to that given in the 1990s to around 60,000 women who were forcibly sterilized between 1936-76 after being deemed unfit for motherhood because they were handicapped.
Reuters 8 December, 2005
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - The Swedish government said Thursday it will investigate claims that many of the thousands of children placed in state foster care in the decades following World War II were systematically abused and beaten.
The Associated Press