by Elsa Christensen
It is Ascension day, Thursday the fifth of May, this year. A mother walks through the gates of Vilde “Home for Mothers,” never to return. She takes her son with her, a boy of about five months. The next days will be the first days that the mother and the baby get to be together without any public surveillance in a governmental institution, surveillance by the CPS.
Mother and child had survived five months away from home, observed day and night in an institution with video surveillance. Their performance of day-to-day tasks had been continuously monitored. In addition, daily notation of facial expressions, mood, and development were recorded. And then there was the IQ testing.
Why was this Mother’s freedom to be in a normal social setting taken from her? When she was thirteen years old she was at school with her twelve year old sister. The authorities came in with the CPS and forcefully separated the two sisters who tried desperately to hold on to one another. The police also took their three other siblings.
“I was fine when I lived at home,” the mother remembers.
From that day, the five siblings never lived together, nor did they get to live with their parents as youngsters. The siblings were spread out, and the girl of thirteen was forced to live in a CPS institution. The other children in the institution were experimenting with several kinds of drugs. The loss of everything that was familiar to her made her seek consolation in the drugs she was offered. Her addiction followed her the next thirteen years. Then she got pregnant.
The day after giving birth, it was explained to the mother that the CPS could help. She was told this because the goal was to remove her child from her. This fact was hidden from the mother.
Proposal of Help #1: Two CPS employees came to see her the day after she gave birth. They told her that the child was going to be moved to a foster home.
Proposal of Help#2: The CPS promised the mother on the same day that they would not take the child if she agreed to admit herself for observation at the Sudmanske “Home for Mothers.”
The mother accepted the help; she had no choice if she wanted to keep her boy. Most people would call this coercion. The CPS called it “voluntary acceptance of help.”
Proposal of Help #3: Two days before Christmas, at midnight, the institution staff met with the mother. Instead of the expected discussion of her progress, she was informed that her son would be taken from her as a part of the third proposal of help. Up to this point, she had been breast feeding the boy.
The mother felt powerless after losing her living child, and she did not know where the CPS had taken him. She knew was that the boy was taken from the person he belonged to and was a part of.
Proposal of Help #4: After two weeks the mother was offered another proposal of help. The little boy would be returned to her immediately if she voluntary admitted herself for observation in the Vilde “Home for Mothers.” This was 500 kilometers from her home. Most people would call this coercion. The CPS once again called it “the voluntary acceptance of a proposal for help.” After four months of continuous observation, the mother ended the fourth help proposal on her own initiative on the fifth of May.
For many decades, up until the 1970’s, children of wanderers such as gypsies, were taken by force from their parents. The CPS was assisted by the police to give these children what the government said they needed: a childhood without parents and siblings. They would be housed in institutions. Between a fourth and a third of these children born between 1900 and 1960 were treated this way. Girls were IQ tested and sterilized. This was also done to some boys. In addition, whole families were interned in labor colonies. There, among other things, they were taught a “regular life characterized by tough discipline.” This was said to be “voluntary,” but clear threats to take away their children gave parents no other choice but to except this existence. “This is our near history. The last labor colony was closed in 1989. The last sterilizing was done in 1964. Later on, the government had to pay compensation for the abuse, and asked for forgiveness for destroying lives.” (Nina E. Tveter)
Does the mindset behind these actions live on?
Twenty-four years after the last forced sterilization in Molde, Norway, and about the same time as they closed Svanviken labor colony in Nordmøre, the sociologist Kari Killén got her Ph.D. It is this degree that made it possible for CPS to become as it is today.
After a study of only 17 children, Killen shaped the future CPS, a CPS based on measures of the parents’ functions. Killén told the social workers to evaluate “which parents can help children to survive!” (Molde, Norway, 19.02.2009)