Wednesday 2 February 2011
Social-services workers in Sweden without warning have taken two children from their mother in a move described by an analyst as legal even if there is no evidence of problems, and an expert on international law suspects that foster families in that nation are getting rich on such placements.
Michael Donnelly, director of international relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association, told WND that the case of Natalya, a Russian citizen living in Sweden, and her daughters, Masha and Nelly, "underscores the utter disregard for basic due-process rights that should be the hallmark of a fair system of justice."
Although the case does not involve homeschooling, Donnelly has worked on several similar situations in Sweden that do involving homeschooling. WND has reported on the family of Christer and Annie Johannson, whose son, Domenic, was taken into custody in 2009, at the age of 7, for the offense of being homeschooled.
He remains in state custody and is allowed visits, under the supervision of social workers, with his parents for a short period every five weeks. WND also reported on a case in Sweden in which the mother and father were fined $3,000 for homeschooling.
The new case was profiled by the Russian RT news agency yesterday.
The agency report said a woman identified as Natalya was living in Sweden with her twin girls, Masha and Nelly, when the two girls disappeared from a music class at school without warning.
The two were held for an entire week before their mother was notified of allegations the family had "psychological" problems, which a family attorney said would suffice for social workers to send the children, 13, to foster homes.
Jenny Beltran, a lawyer specializing in family issues, told the Russian news agency, "It is considered legal because the law, it's a protection law, protection for the children. So it means that even if there is a slightest risk, even if there is no evidence, sort of there are no witnesses, there is nothing, but there is a risk of something happening, then the law, the social workers within the law are able to take the child to a social office and take them away from the family."
Said the mother, "Children are human goods to them."
A professor of international law, Jacob Sundberg, agreed.
"Say you have six foster children, well, you can make a fortune [in Sweden}," he told the agency, accusing the Scandavanian nation of operating the "big business" of foster care using doctors, psychologists, lawyers and social services agencies.
Donnelly told WND the seizure of the two children illustrates the absence of justice in Sweden's family court and child protection system.
"Just as in the case of the Johansson's whose son Domenic was state-napped by social services for no credible reason," he said. "Domenic has been kept by Swedish social services for over 18 months with almost no visitation with his parents. It is hard to imagine any justification for such cruel treatment."
The president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, Ruby Claesson-Harrold, had volunteered to represent the Johansson family but was refused by a government judge who ordered the family to take the advice of an attorney he appointed.
Claesson-Harrold also is watching the new case closely and agrees that there would be a financial motive for government workers to take custody of the children.
"Often people have relatives or friends working in social services and these friends or relatives help them to get foster children. We have cases where social services have been paid 10,000 Swedish kronor per day," she told RT. "That's about 1,200 euros per day for one single child. That is 3.65 million Swedish kronor per year – over 430,000 euros ($600,000) per year to take care of one child."
Swedish officials declined RT requests for comment, citing "privacy" policies.
The pressure was so intense in the Johansson case that the father, Christer, at Thanksgiving took his son with him after a supervised visit, let him visit family and friends, then called authorities to let them know where Domenic was.
He was jailed, given a battery of psychological tests and eventually released after two months behind bars.
The HSLDA is working with the Alliance Defense Fund on a case before the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of the family.
The case developed in mid-2009 when social services and police forcibly took custody of Domenic, then 7, over government concerns he was being homeschooled. Police raided a jetliner the family had boarded for a move to Annie Johansson's home country and took Domenic.
At the time, Donnelly had words for Swedish officials who have pursued the family.
"The inhumanity of Swedish authorities in retaining Domenic Johansson in foster care with virtually no visitation from his parents remains a grave concern for our organization," he said. "The failure by provincial and national authorities to investigate and rectify a scandalous abuse of power on the part of Gotland municipal authorities and social workers makes Sweden look more like a former Soviet totalitarian state than a Western free and democratic one."
He said there are other families, too, facing tribulation over their desire to teach their own children.
"We are pleased today that Mr. Johansson is free but will not forget that Domenic remains incarcerated in the country’s foster care system – kidnapped over a year and a half ago by Swedish authorities for no reason other than that the family homeschooled him. Swedish authorities have driven a spike into the heart of this family, continuing to inflict physical and emotional pain on Domenic's mother and father, grandparents and other relatives who have been not permitted to see him or to enjoy their rights as a family. It is impossible to fathom how a free nation that is often held up to the world as a model for freedom and justice can tolerate such callous indifference to the monumental suffering of the Johansson family for no credible reason," he said.
Gustaf Hofstedt, president of the local social services board in Gotland, earlier told WND by telephone from Sweden that there is more to the dispute than homeschooling, but he refused to explain.
"I understand the public debate has been that is a case that is only concerning the fact of homeschooling," he told WND. "But that is not the case."
Asked to explain, he said, "I can't answer that question because of secrecy."
Germany also has established a reputation for prosecuting families who homeschool their children, based on that country's Nazi-generation ban on homeschooling. One family fled to the U.S. because of the persecution and was granted political asylum over the issue.