Removing children from their families always the last resort: Minister of Children and Equality Solveig Horne
Nov 2, Oslo: Minister of Children and Equality Solveig Horne, at the High level Conference "Towards Childhoods free from Corporal Punishment" in Austria, stated that Norway's child welfare service is only there as a safety net to protect children and help parents and that reports of Norway placing more children in alternative care than other countries, and that families with a foreign citizenship or background is especially targeted, is not true.
"We have recently seen that the Norwegian child welfare services are criticized repeatedly in many countries.From international media you could get the impression that Norway places more children in alternative care than other countries, and that families with a foreign citizenship or background is especially targeted. This is not true," she said,before adding that placing a child outside the home against the will of the parents, shall always be a measure of last resort."The child welfare service should always try to help the parents in their role. However, sometimes assistive measures are not enough to protect the child."
Similarly, she also emphasized on the need to create a global understanding on the issue.
While speaking at the conference she stated that the Norwegian action plan called, 'A good childhood lasts a lifetime,' which was launched in 2014, and it is a joint effort between the Government, different NGOs and representatives of young people themselves.According to her this plan targets the following areas:
- Prevention and Good Parenting
- Responsibility of the public authorities
- Child and youth participation
- Cross-professional collaboration and the voluntary sector
- Right help and treatment at the right time
- Research and expertise
"Our common targets on ending violence and exploitation against children is a part of our ambitions and efforts to reach the 2030 SDGs as the world agreed upon last year, " she said before adding that children are individuals with their own rights.
She further stressed on the fact that adults have a responsibility to provide for their protection. Violence against children, including corporal punishment, has been banned in Norway since 1972, and parents are convicted.
"We have clarified the law in 2008 to make it undisputable that any slaps of children are legally impermissible.In Norway, we have come a long way through legislation. This has had an important impact on how we raise children. Still, we have challenges.Recently I attended the opening of a unique government supported foundation in Norway," she said.
She further stated that it is important to strengthen the work regarding preventive efforts against violence against children, before stressing on the fact that good parenting is the most preventive strategy.
"A major development in Norway over the last few years has been the strengthening of the Family counselling service. The service includes counselling, guidance and therapy. It is a low threshold service at no cost for the users. Offered to couples, families or individuals that experience difficulties, conflicts or crises within the family," she said.
I call it our hidden jewel – available to families at a very early stage. Small challenges and problems, being solved with professional help before growing and getting more complex and difficult to solve for both the families and the services helping them.
Through the family counselling service parents can receive positive parenting program, courses like Circle of security and other methods for parental support.
Positive parenting method is also used with minority-families and in shelters where abused women and men seek help.
We have experienced good results with this method.In addition, the government has expanded the mandate of the family counselling services, which will now devote more resources to prevent violence and abuse.
Selected family centers will build up a high degree of expertise on violence and assist other counselling services.
When talking about corporal punishment of children, it is important for me to underline that the Family counselling service is only one of the public services that provide parents of concrete alternatives to violence as a part of their children's upbringing.
The cooperation between the different services in the municipalities is important to prevent and combat violence and abuse. We are testing this kind of cooperation with good results.
Meanwhile, she also informed that the government also needs to ensure some safety nets for parents or children that need help:
- Over the last years, we have established ten Children's Houses that conduct medical assessments and formal interviews of abused children.
- We have implemented the internationally acclaimed parenting program Nurse Family Partnership, as a pilot trial. The target group is young first time mothers – and fathers – at risk. Parents will receive assistance by specially trained nurses, during the period between early pregnancy and the child´s second birthday.
The OsloTimes International News Network