Parental Rights Around the Globe

Ms. Trude Strand Lobben was struggling with a difficult pregnancy when, in May 2008, she approached the Norwegian social services authorities for assistance. They suggested that during the first months of the child’s life she stay at a family centre for evaluation, where she could be offered additional support. Her son was less than a month old when the centre’s staff requested an emergency meeting. They noticed that the baby was losing weight and raised concerns about his mother’s feeding routine. The authorities immediately seized the infant and placed him into compulsory care and ultimately into a foster home on an emergency basis on the ground that the boy may not have been receiving enough food. The County Child welfare board approved the seizure of the baby—granting the mother only two hours of supervised access to her son on six occasions during the year. Twelve hours per year, and under supervision. In an appeal to the City Court, the judge found that the initial weight loss may well have been due to an eye infection rather than any neglect or error by the mother. Nevertheless, the court declined to return the baby to his mother because she had “limitations” in her parenting skills, and he had special needs. Subsequently, in December 2011, the County Social Welfare board determined that the mother’s parental rights should be terminated, and the baby placed for adoption. An appeal to the High Court failed in 2012 with the appellate judges noting that the mother had not shown an improvement in “empathizing” with her son, who was psychologically vulnerable. A further appeal to the Supreme Court of Norway was unsuccessful. All of Strand Lobben’s parental rights were terminated. This is not, unfortunately, a rare or exceptional story in Norway. This country’s child welfare agency, the Barnevernet, is notorious for its extreme statist views and cavalier interference in the right of parents to raise their children. In 2015, the Bar
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