The International Day of The Child - 2002

 

 

The International Day of the Child

 

October 7, 2002

 

The International Day of the Child is being celebrated for the 49th year. The objectives are to ensure children their right to childhood and to develop in the best possible sphere of confidence and safety that we as adults are able to offer them.

 

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted twelve years ago and contains a comprehensive list of general rights for all children in the world.

 

In article 3 the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states:

 

"In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures
."

 

Article 5 emphasizes the respect of the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.

 

The child’s right to keep its identity is secured in Article 8, and its right not to be separated from its parents or, if already separated, the right to continuous contact with its parents, in Article 9.

Applications by a foreign child or his or her parents to enter or leave a country for the purpose of family reunification shall, according to Article 10, be dealt with in a positive, humane and expeditious manner. Article 12 assures the child who is capable of forming own views, the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child. For this purpose, the child shall be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting it. According to article 16 no child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence. The right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation is ensured in Article 32.

 

The statutes of the Convention oblige the State that are signatories and that have ratified the Convention. Sweden and the Nordic countries were among the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Regardless of this, several thousands of children in the Nordic countries (admired by many as being in the frontline when it comes to children's rights) may experience that the social bureaucracy and administrative courts have deprived them of all these rights ensured to them by the UN Convention and the European Convention. Instead of acting in the best interest of the child the authorities have interpreted these Conventions in a bureaucratic and child hostile way, furthermore fuelled by a positivist conception of justice, (i e the view that everything is relative and that there are no fixed values or laws and that the justice system first of all is political, not judicial).

 

As a consequence, children are being subjected to unnecessary intrusion in their privacy and family life. These children suffer real abuse initiated by the incompetence and lust of power of social workers as well as abuse by the unknowing or "system serving" judges in the administrative courts.  On top of this come the well-paid and calculating foster parents - (in February 2002 the media exposed a case where the municipality of Nybro had placed a mentally retarded youngster in a foster home in Sävsjö at the cost of 10 000 SEK i. e $1000 per day or 3.65 million SEK per year) - who often subject their foster children to physical, mental and sexual abuse in the foster homes.

 

Quite a few children are subject to concealed adoptions, i.e. the surrender of infants to childless couples who even get paid for the pleasure of having children at the same time as every effort is made to shield or isolate these children from their natural sphere of parents and relatives.

 

In an article in the Gothenburg Post of 30 September 2001 titled "The care of juvenile delinquents is a failure" professor Sven Levander states:

"Their social background was mostly a real catastrophe and several of them had repeatedly been pushed around between their natural parents and foster parents. One of the youngsters had experienced 18 foster homes. How can the society continue placing children into foster homes when these fail time after time? It is irrational."

 

The General Director of the National Board of Health and Welfare, Kerstin Wigzell, and the Minister of Social Affairs, Lars Engqvist, have on several occasions, levelled serious criticism against the social services and expressed deep concern for the children and youngsters who come in contact with the system. However, so far, there are no changes in sight.

 

In a radio interview on November 17, 2001, the Minister of Social Affairs, Lars Engqvist, said inter alia the following: "Even if 20 % of the children that are taken into care have no parents (...) I know that many are being placed despite the fact that there should be alternatives available so that they can remain in their homes, that support could be given to the family, to mother or father or to the children, in accordance with the Social Services Act. That is so simple that one really must fight to make the municipality invest money to achieve the same."

 

Earlier this year an investigation into child poverty in Sweden was presented. The investigation focused on the family's income and other material things. However, the greatest poverty that affect children in Sweden and our Nordic neighbouring countries, that of being forcibly removed from their parents and their relatives and made to live in foster homes among total strangers, where they are a source of income, was not addressed in the investigation.

 

On several occasions European Court of Human Rights has found Sweden, Norway and Finland guilty of violating children's and their parents' right to private and family life by forcefully abducting children. The states have been compelled to pay considerable compensation to the families attacked.

 

But the Nordic system of forcible abduction of children remains unchanged. The children, their parents and relatives, who are victims of the child protection agencies/social services, are subjected to extreme suffering and violations that are tantamount to torture. Such treatment of children is unworthy of the Nordic welfare states that like to classify themselves as civilised, democratic societies under the rule of law.

 

Therefore, let the International Day of the Child, October 7, 2002, mark the starting point for a better respect for the basic Human Rights of the children in the Nordic welfare states and that of ALL children.

 

 

Ruby Harrold-Claesson

Attorney-at-law

President of the NCHR

 

 

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