Alexander's Case - A Confiscated Child

THE ALEXANDER CASE - A Confiscated Child

By Birgitta Wolf

Preface by Brita Sundberg-Weitman

Translated into English by Ruby Harrold-Claesson

 

 

Brita Sundberg-Weitman is Chief Justice at Solna District Court. In 1986 when she wrote this devastating criticism of the swedish child care system, as the preface to the book "The Alexander Case - a confiscated child", Brita Sundberg-Weitman was Appellate Court Judge. This translation has been approved by Brita Sundberg-Weitman and it is published here with her special consent.

 

 

It is easy to describe the Swedish laws governing the taking of children into care, in a way that makes them seem to guarantee security before the law. It is the courts that decide if a child should be taken into the care of the state. The politically composed social councils only need to make a simple application to obtain such a court order. And the civil servants, the social workers, only have to make such a recommendation to the social councils. Besides, there is a series of three courts that can try these cases, namely, the District Administrative Court, the Administrative Court of Appeal and the Supreme Administrative Court. During the proceedings, certificates and statements are almost always obtained from experts, namely: child psychologists or child psychiatrists. The parents can count on receiving legal aid and thereby the assistance of a lawyer who they themselves may chose. Nowadays even the child has its own lawyer.

 

These laws apply since 1982. In 1979, when Alexander Aminoff was taken into care, the 1960 Child care law was still in force. The differences between these laws are of no practical importance in this case, so there is no reason for me to burden the reader with them. If the present law were in force when Alexander was taken, it would have made no difference in my opinion. He would have been taken just the same, and placed at a secret address.

 

What I am really saying is that, both according to the old law and the present law the social workers have the real power, in these cases.

 

How does my conclusion fit in with the rules about security before the law that I just presented? Well, since I have seen the same patterns in a great number of cases, I think that I can explain this.

 

First of all

: It is the social worker who suggests that a child should be taken into care, and this capacity to recommend does mean real, great power. The social councils and the courts only gain knowledge of the cases that are put before them because of the social worker's suggestions. One can expect that almost every child risks faring badly at some stage of its life in one or another way: when its parents or one of them has suffered a crisis, either in their relationship with each other or something else, when circumstances force the family to move, with all its implications for the child to move to a new school and a new environment, or when the child is let down by a friend, or the like. The social worker receives, through a report or some other source, information about a great number of cases that concerning children that have some sort of problem. If the social worker doesn't think that the society should take any special measures or that advice and counselling for the family should be sufficient, that's the way it will be. The selection of cases that come to the knowledge of the social council as care cases is made by the social worker. This selection means separating the wheat from the char. The social worker has the backing of the state powers in her work as "political activity". (Government Proposition 1979/80. No. 1 page 130).

 

Secondly

: When making this selection, the social worker is free to do as she pleases. Neither the present law nor the law that was in force when Alexander was taken into care gives any proper guidance about what to should be deemed dangerous for a child. According to the wording of the present law it is sufficient that some "condition in the home" may bring about a risk that the child may not receive "an all-round development of his/her personality and a favourable physical and social development". We can certainly all agree that it is dangerous for a child to be exposed to ill treatment or neglect. But is it also dangerous for a child that its mother has "bawled out" various civil servants or that she wants to give her child a privileged schooling or that she writes newspaper articles? There is information in the social workers' investigations about Alexander that indicate that they took such things about Eva Aminoff into account as grounds for taking Alexander into care, even though they also mention or insinuate a series of other reasons.

Thirdly

: The facts upon which the courts make their decision to take a child into care is a report that was written by the social workers who recommend that the child should be taken into care. In Alexander's case the courts did not examine whether the information in the investigation was correct and accurate, even though the information was based on lies, gossip and libel, according to Eva Aminoff. It appears that the courts usually make no examination of the facts, which I find remarkable and in truth and fact provides no protection for the children in question. A social worker who has the personal conviction that a mother is unsuitable as care-giver - perhaps in accordance with the hypothesis that anyone who "bawls out" a civil servant must be very uncontrolled and therefore can be presumed to be violent towards her child - will naturally convince the social council and the court that there are strong reasons to take the child into care, and she has every possibility - conscious or unconscious - to write the report in such a way that it will convince everyone that a care order is necessary. Ever since accountability for civil servants for abuse of power was removed in 1979, and judging from the way the precedents have been after the "reform", a social worker does not run any risk of being made accountable in court for subjective reports that are made as the basis upon which a child is taken into care, not even if the report is made up of nothing but pure lies. The majority of the social reports that I have seen in different matters are openly one-sided in that they only focus upon what reflects negative traits and characteristics of the child's parents. This is also true of the report in Alexander's case. All people have at least some good traits, however.

 

Fourthly

: Child psychologists and child psychiatrists who are engaged to do evaluations usually assume that the social worker's report is accurate. That makes them interpret their own findings from the picture that the social worker has painted of the parents. In Alexander's case neither of the two experts that were heard in the courts had met Eva Aminoff before they gave their testimony! - If the social report is incorrect, the testimony of the experts will collapse like a house of cards, and so do the decisions of the courts, in those cases where they allow the experts to influence their decision.

 

Fifthly

: In cases like these, the Administrative courts seem only very seldom to be able to bring themselves to meet up to the demands for impartiality that must always be the guidelines for a court. In Alexander's case, neither the Administrative County court nor the Administrative Court of Appeal bothered themselves to hear the witnesses that Eva Aminoff had called upon to confirm that the social report gave a misleading picture of her. And - to strengthen my allegations more generally - in the book "To separate children from parents" a chief justice in an Administrative County court (who besides, was a former Ombudsman of Justice and Supreme Court judge, that means a judge with a very prominent position) writes that he sees cases like these to be "mediating between two interests to protect", on the one hand the child's interest of protection and on the other hand the parents' interests that "the society will not interfere with their family life and take their children from them without a very serious reason". With such a view one fails to see that in fact, it is not only in the child's interest that the society has strong reasons to separate children from their parents.

The Alexander case was the first child care case that I did study. Reading it was a shock for me - at first, I could not believe that things like this could happen in Sweden - and since in the end I had to believe my eyes, it made me write an alert article in the Swedish Daily. The year was 1981. The article gave no other result than that Eva Aminoff was slandered and I myself was declared ill advised and not serious. I had come to realise that here was something, for one reason or the other, where there was an unwillingness of the "establishment" to look the truth in the eyes.

The following year, 1982, the former mayor, Jarl Hjalmarson took an interest in the case and, being the constructive person he is, he tried to make the chairman of the social council to bring about at least an impartial expert meet with Alexander. Even his efforts were to no avail, despite the fact that he had the full support of the chairman of the social council.

After that the case show itself to be all the more sick and at the same time totally hopeless. When in the spring of 1984, I heard that Birgitta Wolf had in fact been allowed to see Alexander, after Eva Aminoff in her desperation turned to her - internationally known as Angel of the prisoners - I was thoroughly amazed. I had, of course, seen Birgitta Wolf in Lasse Holmqvist's TV-program "Here is your life" and I had got the impression of her to be a warm, intensive and efficient person, but I would not have thought that even she would be able to achieve this which seemed to be totally impossible: a closer view, even though a limited one, of Alexander's situation. But this story is wholly and solely Birgitta Wolf's! Let me just add that her successful contribution in this case must be attributed to her unfailing energy and long experience of how to come to grips with civil servants that have something to hide.

May 1986.

 

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Destroying the Family, Swedish style

Spectre of children's Gulag haunts Sweden

Taking children into care in Sweden

The Edner Case

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