Rebecca's Christmas. A tale of evil from real life by Ann-Louise Hansson

 

Rebecca's Christmas

A tale of evil from real life

By Ann-Louise Hansson

 

 


Ann-Louise Hansson
is the mother of Rebecca Hansson who was taken into care by the social authorities in Värnamo. This article was previously published in the Contemporary Magazine (Samtidsmagasinet) Salt no. 3, February 2000. The original article can be found on the NCHR's scandinavian language page where it is published with the kind consent of the editors and the author.

Translated into English by Åsa Ljungquist, journalist at SALT.

The bold text that follows here is the commentary of Salt.

 

We would like to believe that we live in a State governed by the rule of law. We do not. May be only a minority of people are the victims of abuses of power, but the numbers are greater than one would imagine. And the majority, who like sleep-walkers keep on living in the belief that one can resist arbitrary interventions and spitefulness from the authorities, have great difficulty in accepting the truth or do not wish to know.

This is about taking children into public care. This is not about pitiful children whose parents are mentally ill, or alcoholics or drug-addicts. Instead this is about the taking of "normal" children of "normal parents" into compulsory state care.

These repulsive practices have become an industry for pseudo-scientific psychologists and dishonest, money-devouring treatment homes and foster parents. Does that sound like an exaggeration? It isn't. The general reaction of those who have become acquainted with this reality is that of consternation over the wretchedness of it all.

Salt is going to lift up this stone. We are going to investigate the economic motives behind the business, the absolute powers of the social workers and the connections to the feminist establishment with its deep aversion towards normal family relationships.

We start here by publishing a text of a citizen and mother whose only child was taken from her. There is no need for comments to her story. We intend to publish a follow-up of Rebecca's case in the coming number of Salt, which will be dedicated to the theme: Consciousness of right and security before the law.

I am a single-mother. You have no idea how many prejudices the social workers have against us and our children. When I was 29 years old I got the most precious gift a human being can get. I gave birth to my daughter Rebecca. That was six years ago. It was the happiest day of my life.

I used to work as a nurse's assistant. After my maternity leave, I felt strongly against putting her in a day-care centre. I am of the opinion that children at that age should not be away from their mothers for whole days. Since I was a single-mother I applied for social subsidy to be able to provide for my daughter and myself. I know that a lot of people, mostly those with good economy, prejudge us social subsidy-takers. But think of this: the difference between a taxpayer who pays no taxes (due to deductions that exceed tax on income) and a subsidy-taker is minimal. They both use the situation that other people pay taxes. I used that situation in order to give my daughter a good childhood.

But I wanted to work at the time Rebecca started school. That's why I started educating myself to be a secondary nurse. When the catastrophe blasted our lives I had managed eleven out of twelve semesters with a good grade. As I said, I was receiving social subsidy. And when you do that, you come in the hands of power-crazy social workers who believe that they have the right to decide everything about one's child and one-self. They also believe that all small children should spend every waking hour at a day-care centre.

I, for myself, had very bad experiences of the abuse of power and ruthless treatment that social workers for children have been guilty of. I grew up with my grandparents. When I was born my mother had problems in her marriage. So I was placed at my grandparents'. They were wonderful people and I had a very happy childhood in their care. My mother visited me frequently during my whole upbringing.

But when I was fifteen years old the first disaster came into my life. Both my grandparents passed away within a couple of months. From that time until I was eighteen, the social authority passed me between six different foster-homes, some more horrible than others. It was a terribly unhappy period in my life.

I am a self-confident person. And, foster-parents and social workers dislike such a person. They prefer to deal with those who they can force to total obedience. Ever since the social services, which claim to see after "the child's best", started sending me around to different terrible foster-homes, I have had a well-grounded suspicion against the civil servants of the social services. And now when my daughter and I lived of social subsidy, there were conflicts between the social workers and me. And I said what I felt about them and that wasn't very pretty things.

I have not had problems with getting along with other people. I had a large circle of friends and acquaintances. I live close to my mother and my siblings and we were in nearly daily contact. Rebecca played every day with her cousins and her best friend who lived in the house next to us. Relatives and friends and the nurses at the child care centre always praised me because my daughter was so nice and clean and well dressed and well taken care of. And I was often told that we had a beautiful relationship,

Rebecca and I. We were living in a modern three-room apartment. My daughter loved toys and her room was full of toys. In the papers from the social services it was turned against me: Rebecca "got everything she pointed at".

The social services were at me to force my daughter into a day-care centre. Finally I agreed and placed her in a day-care centre. When she had been there a few months, she had had tonsillitis four times. Day-care centres are seats of infections, and it strikes especially small children without immunity. Moreover, Rebecca had learnt some behaviour that I didn't like. I decided to remain at home with my daughter until she started school. I took her from the day-care centre. But I had miscalculated. The social workers accused me for "breaking the deal". And there were new arguments between the social workers and me. And their revenge wasn't late. When Rebecca was four years old she was taken by force according the Law of the ward of young people. I was accused of being mentally ill and considered a danger for my daughter. I was accused of having "relationship-disorders".

Rebecca and I were placed by force in a home for treatment in Vimmerby. Two psychiatrists examined me. According them I wasn't mentally ill! My daughter was examined by a child-psychiatrist. He explained that she was a completely normal child. One may think that the custody of my daughter now immediately was ended, and that we were given the permission to leave this terrible place.

But no! This crazy merry-go-round had started, and it was unstoppable. Around every child taken by force in Sweden people are gathering like flies around a lump of sugar, people that are about to make money on this child. These include psychologists and therapists and assistants and contact-persons and support-persons and so on.

In this home for treatment I was exposed for endless and meaningless talks with different persons who had their living out of these quack-treatments. You taxpayers have no idea what a waste of means these treatment-homes are. These treatment-homes, often driven in some kind of limited company by unscrupulous private persons or ex-social workers, grow like weeds. This treatment-home was paid between 1500 and 2000 SEK each day for my daughter and me. If one considers that there were nine mothers and sixteen children living there, one can imagine how the millions are rolling. For no good!

When I arrived at the treatment-home, I asked if I could finish my education during the time there. The social services said definitely no. They added that if I defied this no, Rebecca would immediately be taken from me and placed in a foster-home. Faces with this devilish blackmail-method, I had no choice but to interrupt my almost finished education, that should have guaranteed Rebecca's and my future maintenance.

Of the nine mothers that were in this home for treatment, there was only one mother beside me who didn't have addiction problems. I have never been even near alcohol or drugs or criminality. And no one has ever accused me of such things. I belong to a Free Church community. At present I work full-time there. I am in charge of the coffee service, cleaning, telephone service and things like that, in the church and its activities.

These addicted mothers in the treatment-home had their drug abuse as their main topic of conversation. Every now and then Rebecca and I had to witness the staff coming home dragging a mother that had been found blind drunk at some restaurant in Vimmerby. Every responsible parent teaches their children never to have anything to do with drug addicts. Abuse is known to be very "contagious". But my daughter and I had to live with addicts!

When you bring nine mothers (of which most are addicts) and sixteen children to live together, it will, of course, be chaos. If one child runs from the table at dinner every child will run from the table! How will they get proper nourishment? How long would you, who are reading this, put up with living in such a place? I believe most of you would have packed your bags and left within a week. But I couldn't. Because the imminent and frequent threats were these: if I left the "treatment" Rebecca would immediately be taken from me and be placed in a foster-home.

So Rebecca and I spent two years, under these terrible circumstances, in a home for addicts! When you live like this day and night the children naturally start fighting with each other. And of course every mother takes her child's side! And the mothers start quarrelling among themselves and there will be conflicts between mothers as well as children. And that was what happened in this treatment-home. And for these conflicts I was blamed. The fact is that I was the only one with strength enough to criticise the conditions in the treatment-home. The other mothers were junkies, totally addicted to their drugs. They had lost all their ability for taking initiatives. And lost their self-respect. And they let themselves be humbled and humiliated by social workers, therapists and psychologists.

But I have always been a self-confident person. And I don't want my daughter or myself humiliated. And I don't want my daughter to be beaten by older children; children who in strange environments like this treatment-home get frustrated and aggressive. So when I criticised the conditions, it was turned against me. I was blamed for being the cause of the conflicts. I was told that neither the staff nor the mothers wanted me to stay in the treatment-home. I was told that Rebecca and I could go home.

It was a big relief for me. Finally my daughter and I would go home to our own cosy home in Värnamo. Rebecca would see her cousins and her best friend again. They had been waiting eagerly for her. And I would finally live a normal life with my daughter. I would resume my education. Resume my daily associations with relatives and friends.

Filled with joy I packed our bags on May the 4th 1999, to return home.

When we stood there, with our bags, ready to leave, the staff for some reason asked us to go into separate rooms. I was told that Rebecca would be moved to a foster-home with a secret address. I was told that I was completely forbidden to contact my daughter. I was told that I immediately had to leave the treatment-home.

From the other room I heard Rebecca's desperate cries: "Mummy! Mummy! Help me! Help me. You won't leave me, will you?" I was stopped from entering the room where Rebecca was. Rebecca held on to the doorframe hysterically screaming for help from her mother. I was shoved into a taxi, which drove away from the treatment-home and my despairing daughter.

Well, "the child's best" takes strange forms in welfare country and social-state Sweden.

Despaired, I returned home to an empty apartment in Värnamo. The desperate cries of my daughter kept ringing in my ears night and day. Rebecca was sent to a secret foster-home. I was informed by the social services that they had told Rebecca that I was sick. Sick? I had certificates from two specialist-doctors in psychiatry that said I wasn't sick! But if Rebecca had got that information, and didn't get a phone-call from her mother (since I didn't know where she was) she might think that her mother was dying or dead.

My despair got worse. In different ways I tracked down this secret foster-home. I found out that it was a family living on the countryside with three children of their own, a boy of 12 and a girl and a boy in their teens.

When two months had passed without a sign of life of my daughter, I just couldn't stop myself. Despite the prohibition of contact I went unannounced to the foster-home. It was a warm day in July. When I got there and Rebecca saw me in the yard, she was overjoyed. She ran right at me and threw herself in my arms and shouted happily "mummy, mummy". When I held Rebecca I felt that she had lost weight. I have always been very careful about my daughter's health. I have been careful to go to the health controls at the child care centre. I was careful about her nourishment. Her weight increases were always in function of her age. And I have always been praised for her being so healthy and well taken care of, at the child welfare clinic. I was terribly frightened when I saw her at this moment. My daughter was wearing just a nightgown. She was thinner. She looked gloomy. She had rashes in her face and I felt that she was warm and had a fever.

I turned to the woman in the family. She stood right next to Rebecca and me when Rebecca flew right in my arms and hugged me. I said something about Rebecca being feverish. The woman confirmed it without further notice. She mumbled something about Rebecca "should be helping with the hay". At this moment I saw that Rebecca was full of bruises on both arms and legs. A child having bruises on the legs in the summertime is not strange. Children often fall during games and hurt themselves. But Rebecca had bruises on strange places, like her arms. So I asked her: "Rebecca, did you fall and hurt yourself?"

Rebecca said, "No, it's the boys that pinch me and hit me". The woman, the mother of the boys, didn't object to Rebecca's description of the origin of the marks in any way.

After some time the boys and the fifteen-year old girl appeared in the yard. None of them made any effort at saying hello to me. A strange way to raise children, I thought. I have always been careful to teach Rebecca to be polite to people that visited us in our home. None of them asked us to come inside. So Rebecca and I stood in the yard and talked and hugged each other. The woman stood next to us.

After some time an Alsatian dog came at us. Rebecca got really scared and tried to seek shelter by jumping into my arms. I said "Isn't it nice that there's a dog here, Rebecca? You who like dogs so much." Rebecca answered "Not this dog, because he bites me so much". I asked Rebecca where the dog bit her and she answered "all over". I now saw that Rebecca, besides the bruises, had scratches and wounds in some places. The woman, listening to us talking, didn't object in any way to Rebecca's statements about dog-bites.

At this moment I recalled one of the main accusations against me when the social services and the courts decided to take my daughter by force according the Law of the ward of minors. Namely this: I have, like Rebecca, always been very keen on pets. Before Rebecca was born I had cats as well as canaries in my apartment. But it is sometimes quite difficult to make cats house-trained, especially if there are several of them. So it happened that they peed on the floor. When I moved from the apartment the landlord accused me of ruining the floor. And he demanded me to pay for a new floor.

This incident, that occurred about seven years ago, before Rebecca was even born, was made a big number by the social authorities. And the courts obviously swallowed the story whole as evidence that I was an unsuitable mother. Isn't Sweden fantastic! For "the child's best" a child is taken from its mother due to the fact that the mother's cats peed on the floor seven years ago. And the child is placed in a family that has a dog that bites the child all over. And the children in the family hit and pinch the child so it gets bruises! This is the sort of activity that is being financed by your taxes, dear taxpayers. You pay taxes to satisfy "the child's best".

After some time in the yard, the woman told me I had to leave. They were going to gather in the hay. Besides, there was a prohibition of contact. I wasn't allowed to see Rebecca. She said that the social authorities had told them to call the police if I came. She said that if I left immediately they wouldn't call the police this time. So I had to leave.

Rebecca wouldn't let go off me. The last I saw was her, fighting to hold back her tears.

My sweet, beloved daughter! You were doing so well at home with your mother! And now you are skinny and feverish and beaten blue. And the social authorities have told me that you wet your bed and have nightmares. You, who were free from napkins when you were two and since then haven't wet your bed at home. You always slept so well at home with your own mother.

A couple of weeks ago there was a phone-call on my cellular phone.

Afterwards I've realised that it was probably someone that dialled the wrong number. But the one who called ­ and spoke rather indistinct - said a name that reminded me of the foster-family's name. So when I hung up I thought that it might had been the foster-parents that called. Maybe something had happened to Rebecca? Maybe she had an accident and they wanted to speak to me?

So I defied the prohibition of contact and called the foster-home. It was around seven in the evening. A boy answered. I didn't say who I was. I just asked it his parents were at home. The boy answered no, they were at work and hadn't come home yet. I heard Rebecca's voice in the background. I said that I would call later and hung up. I called two more times that night. The last time as late as after nine o'clock. Same answer every time. No, only the children are at home. The parents were at work. Even at nine I heard Rebecca's voice in the background.

I have found out that the foster-father is a driver and the foster-mother works at a warehouse. So at Christmas time she probably had to work overtime. It gives good money. And at the same time they receive a big amount of money every month for taking care of a six-year old child, who they leave without supervision.

Who sees to it that my little Rebecca gets dinner? Who sees to it that she brushes her teeth before she goes to bed? I was always so careful with that. Who reads her a bedtime story? The two boys that pinch and hit her?

My poor little Rebecca! No one would blame you for being unhappy and scared and wetting your bed!

The prohibition of contact remained despite my appeals, for several months ­ an eternity for a six-year old. I realised I had to change my legal representative. I engaged a lawyer who specialises in representing parents whose children have been taken by the social authorities. This lawyer has succeeded to getting Sweden sentenced for violations of human rights at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, because Sweden prevented contacts between children and their parents.

My new lawyer started the "home-for-Christmas offensive " to get Rebecca home. She managed to get the

District Administrative Court
in Jönköping to have a hearing in the case. We demanded an immediate end to the care order according to the "law on the ward of minors" and at least an immediate end to the cruel prohibition of contact. And above all we demanded that Rebecca should celebrate Christmas at home.

The verdict was delivered on December the 10th. It was the deathblow for Rebecca and me. The court rejection all our demands.

How can a court of law totally ignore the fact that Rebecca is being mismanaged and maltreated in the foster-home? How can a court of law accept ­ as a proof for the necessity of depriving Rebecca her mother ­ stupidities like the social services' statements about my cats peeing on the floor? Is this proof enough that I am unsuitable as a mother? How can a court of law accept a frustrated and medically uneducated social worker's diagnosis about my mental health? I have two certificates that say I am mentally sane!

My dear little Rebecca! Your mother's heart bleeds when she thinks of that her little girl was not allowed to celebrate Christmas at home with her mother and her nearest and dearest.

Thank you for reading this! My advice to families with children: Never put your foot inside the door to a social welfare office! You never know how it will end.

 

 

Rebeccas Jul

The Edner Case

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