Why Norway should back down


Source: The Hindu by Vegard Iversen

There is something deeply disturbing about the superiority and moral authority in the attitude of the country’s Child Protection Services to child rearing practices of immigrants; it harks back to darker, less civil and, one would have hoped, long bygone times.

The ongoing case in which the Child Protection Services (CPS) in Stavanger, Norway, have placed two Indian children in a foster home raises important questions about not only the judgment of the representatives of a so-called model state, but also their lack of respect for the possibility that many questions around child care and upbringing may not have definitive answers and therefore a moral basis for passing verdicts about the right and wrong of a wide range of parenting practices.

In a column in the leading Norwegian newspaper,Aftenposten, on February 17, Professor Nina Witoszek at University of Oslo brought to light a similarly distressing case involving two Polish children, Tomasz and Maria, also forcibly taken away from their parents and placed in Norwegian foster homes by the CPS in Stavanger. Prof Witoszek has seen the case papers and compares the behaviour of the CPS with a Politburo policing and enforcing strict parenting norms at the expense of emotional support and empathy. This case also illustrates how, under the powerful mandate of the CPS, malign gossip can suffice to prompt the forcible removal of children from their parents.

DEPRIVED OF FAMILY NETWORK

Turning to the case of Avignan and Aishwarya Bhattacharya and their parents, Anurup and Sagarika, there are too many disturbing claims already in the public domain to remain indifferent. Sagarika Bhattacharya, at the time of the CPS intervention in May 2011, cared for the two children, the boy then aged three and the four-month-old daughter, while Anurup was employed in the oil industry in Stavanger. Both parents were deprived of the family networks that under other circumstances they would have been able to mobilise and draw generous support from. Anyone familiar with and sensitive to the struggles of the Bengali or any diaspora, whether portrayed by Jumpa Lahiri, translated on to the screen by Mira Nair or through other literary, academic or cinematic works, would know that South Asians heading for distant shores leave behind and exchange the often remarkable warmth of their native folks for destinations and locals who may come across as reserved, if not outright hostile.

Stavanger, when compared to the buzz, informality and everyday tamasha of an Indian town, is clean, comparatively cold and remarkably uneventful. And one has to be rather unimaginative or just bereft of human experience to not realise that the transition from the familiar to the new and on this occasion very different, carries with it a genuine risk of trauma. Post-natal depressions are common enough in women: add to this the challenges associated with settling down in an unfamiliar culture, the likely social isolation of in particular the mother and you end up with a potential vulnerability that it is hard not to spot. Into this domestic arena of potential vulnerability, then, march the representatives of the omnipotent CPS.

The Norwegian welfare state is reputed to be working exceptionally well for the average Norwegian, including, admirably, families with strongly disabled children. Maternity and paternity leaves are generous and women’s position in Norwegian society is hard to match. These are achievements and exemplary arrangements that Norwegians are rightly proud of and taxpayers are happy (and can afford) to pay for.

There is a catch, however, since for modern nomads like myself, the Norwegian state, whenever it is encountered, is not only harder to negotiate but often founded on logic that it is hard to fathom. And not unlike the behaviour of the CPS in Stavanger, this incarnation of the state can be cold, beastly and more often than not, completely incompetent. Such are the rules and they are not unique. Every year, my retired father has to go to the local police station, document his income during the last 12 months, and write a financial guarantee so that he and my mother will have the opportunity to meet their Indo-Norwegian grandchildren. Indian authorities are decades ahead of their Norwegian counterparts when it comes to making life easier for multi-cultural families like ours.

These are issues that the average Norwegian barely reflects upon and may not even be aware of. Yet, it is against this background, which contrasts with the euphoria surrounding the Norwegian welfare state which is promoted, often with a missionary zeal, that the actions of the Child Protection Services in Stavanger belong and need to be examined.

INDIA, FAR AHEAD

As a member of an Indo-Norwegian household that on its way from Norway to India had a 10-year stopover in the U.K., for me there is no question about which of these three states suffers from the greatest disconnect to the modern world. This is not surprising. India with all its imperfections and unresolved challenges also with respect to child welfare is, because of its unique experience and history of nation-building, on the path to becoming a successful multicultural enterprise. Britain’s colonial history has had the fortunate side effect of nurturing bonds and cross-cultural understanding that have turned out to be a great asset in an increasingly interconnected world. Yet, even there the murder of the black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, in South London in April 1993 necessitated a reality check — a painful, introspective stop followed by the Macpherson inquiry. The verdict: the recognition that the Metropolitan Police Service was ‘institutionally’ racist.

There is something deeply offensive about the idea that the Child Protection Services in a town on the Norwegian west coast, unlikely to possess any knowledge about India at all, perceives itself the best judge of the interests of two small children of Indian parents. By commenting on eating and sleeping arrangements, the number of toys, whether the parents may have had an argument (and, yes, melodrama is a facet of Indian family life), the CPS has entered a territory where the prospects for reasoning are endless but the hope of arriving at normatively anchored conclusions, as some of my colleagues would put it, is converging on zero. Even more disturbing is the impression of the sense of superiority and parochial moral authority that permeates the handling of this case, echoing attitudes associated with darker, less civil and, one would have hoped, long bygone times.

Two families with small children arrive at Norway’s shores with aspirations, I imagine, of a better life. And how does one of the richest countries in the world treat them? It is hard to think of anything quite as despicable as the humiliation and de facto annihilation of two potentially vulnerable families we are witnessing here. Take a moment to reflect upon what the representatives of our state, the CPS and the courts have done to not only the Bhattacharyas and the Polish family but also our image of ourselves as citizens of a dignified, fair and generous society.

As in the landmark Stephen Lawrence case, there are enough hints of ugly undercurrents to suggest the need for a thorough reality check: an independentinquiry into the mandate and practices of the CPS (say, by Human Rights Watch), a recognition of the need for intense monitoring and scrutiny of the CPS including how cultural diversity in parenting practices and family support systems is respected and handled, the role of the police, the composition of the courts (note that in both these cases, the lower courts threw out the case suggesting there was nothing to answer) and so forth. There is, at the same time, a larger question of how Norway comes to terms with and catches up on developing public institutions that cater not only for pucca Norwegians but have in-built checks and balances that allow for a better handling of multiculturalism and can help to prevent tragedies like these.

(Vegard Iversen is Norwegian, and is a visiting scholar at Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University)

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CHILD WELFARE MODELS – CASE FOR UPHOLDING INTERNATIONAL ORDER AND CULTURAL SENSITISATION

White paper on an Indian expat family’s incident with Child Protection Agency in Norway

Issued by Abhigyan & Aishwarya Rescue Mission (AaRM)
Contact: Anurup Bhattacharya, aarescuemission@gmail.com, +47 40433302

The Barnevarnet (Child Protection Agency) in Stavanger, Norway has placed two minor Indian nationals under its protective custody after the lower court ruled in favour of The Barnevarnet’s proposal. The main outlines of the decision were:

  1. The two minor Indian children (boy born 12.10.08, girl born 04.12.10) shall stay in two separate Norwegian foster homes approved by the Barnevarnet until they reach 18 years of age; and
  2. The Indian parents shall have 1 hour meeting for one time in a period of 6 months – six months – with their children

This article, in brief,

  1. Explores the philosophical underpinnings of Child welfare (Philosophy);
  2. Questions the legitimacy with which the Barnevarnet has usurped custody of minor Indians

    (Legitimacy);

  3. Explores their rationale for deviating from the norm where Biological parents decide on the best

    course of action for their children (Barnevarnet’s Rationale); and

  4. Acknowledges the actions taken so far by various parties and further proposes more actions to the

    various Stakeholders (Recent Developments and Call for Action)

Philosophy

Barnevarnet’s philosophy appears to be guided by the belief that human beings, for healthy development, need: proper food, security and shelter, pretty much like sheep. For humans they further believe that one should add education and a dollop of vacation in the Mediterranean. If a child is at risk of being deprived of any of these elements then the State should seize custody of the child, eliminate the risk factor and provide for the goods.

Human beings do require all the things that sheep require. However what sets apart humans from sheep is: human beings are planted in cultural soil of a lineage of ancestors.

Human beings thrive on risk taking otherwise there would be no progress. One cannot choose his or her parents. The element of chance goes a step further; parental culture and resources shape the parental vision for their progeny which basically sets the context of an individual’s achievement and long term standing in life. We value and support parental discretion and choice in preparing productive members of the society. We value the diversity that such parental choice brings.

It is mandatory to intervene if there is a threat of child’s access to the sheep elements but the modus operandi of intervention should be strengthening of parental resources so that they can better exercise discretion and choice for their progeny. Social forces in India do not allow the State to intervene before Familial and Social mechanisms are exhausted.

Barnevarnet’s decision seriously fails on our philosophy and values as it:

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uproots two minor children from their cultural soil, where they stand to completely lose their Bengali language, bonding among siblings, cousins, kith & kin, religion, traditions, Indian food, parent’s professional and social network, and Indian Citizenship. The decision poisons the Indian minors’ cultural soil even before they have started to draw from it.

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 fails to promote parental discretion and choice and seeks to cast the children in a pre-meditated State’s (a State where the Indian minors are Alien, where they are not eligible for Citizenship, where the minors’ Parents do not enjoy franchise, where they would otherwise be illegal inhabitants after March 2012 ) conception of healthy individuals. The decision kills diversity that we greatly value.

Barnevarnet has fundamentally failed to first clearly appreciate and articulate the Best interest of these Indian minors alien to Barnevarnet’s country and culture.

Instead, in the garb of some psycho-babble canned argumentation, the Barnevarnet has moved ahead with its standardized processes, inappropriate interventions, brute force, arrogance of State authority and disrespect to the minors’ Citizenship and cultural milieu. We continue to explore the legitimacy of their action.

Legitimacy

Barnevarnet made the whole set of episodic observations by being present in the home of the parents. They gained entry in the pretext of providing ‘help’ to the parents with their minor boy, mother’s pregnancy and their situation in general. The ‘help’ was not offered through a written letter nor were the terms of this ‘help’ disclosed. It would be a reasonable expectation that the ‘help’ would be confined to solving the challenges being faced by family and personal data collected during such visitation would not be used for any other purpose. Given that, as we explore later in this article, there was very little ‘help’ on the aspects that the family faced problem, it appears to be only an excuse to clandestinely collect personal data to build a case for seizing custody. It amounts to blatant invasion of individual privacy and a State sponsored mechanism to influence and collect children (as per the data from SSB, Norway, almost one fifth of children born in Norway receive some form of child care measures). Barnevarnet fails to live up to the requirements set forth in Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.”

The minors have been resident in Norway because of their Indian biological Father’s work. In normal circumstances they would be considered illegal immigrants if they were not to co-terminate their stay in Norway along with their Father’s stay. These children do not enjoy all the State privileges that Norwegian minor citizens enjoy either directly or indirectly in the form of State support to parents. How could a State award itself the right to decide on a transient skilled worker’s whole life based on a couple of years’ of Work visa? It is just imbalanced. How could a State have a policy of not offering citizenship (Norwegian) to such minor children of immigrant workers and yet make decisions that impact their whole life? By sending the children of immigrant worker parent to a foster home for eighteen years is almost like tethering the immigrant to stay inside Norway for those eighteen years. It amounts to a gross violation of Article 13(2) of UNDHR which provides that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”.

The minors have not only been taken away and placed in foster homes but also the parents are allowed only to have two meetings a year of 1 hour each. Article 26 (3) of UNDHR asserts that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” Could Barnevarnet explain how do the parents get to exercise their right in two meetings a year? A great deal of education happens in the course of family spending time together, extended family meeting and children getting to know their parents’ networks. The parents are well educated, by any global standards, themselves and fully capable of guiding their children.

In such a circumstance it appears a little dubious – why should the Norwegian State not first exhaust the possibilities of deporting the Minors if their alien temporarily resident (for work) parents fail to follow the law of the land of providing adequate support and care to the Minors? If the parents fail, the minors are responsibility of the country they are citizens of i.e. India in this case. Albeit population growth rate in

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Norway is low and there is dearth of new trained work force specially hailing from minority communities, this does not seem to be an honourable way of meeting that end. Mind you, the minors are not asylum seekers or refugees from a war torn country.

Indeed some Norwegian State resources have been spent on the case in the form of various ‘interventions’ and preparing the court suite. Does that resource spend create a title on the minors in favour of the Norwegian State? The resources come from tax payers’ money and the minors’ father has already contributed towards it. Article 16 (3) of UNDHR states: “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”. It is therefore paramount that any State should do all that is within its means to preserve Families and not break them while they formulate child welfare mechanisms. The matter does not even seem to be in the radar of considerations with which Barnevarnet contrives its mechanisms.

Alien minors with incapable parents are almost similar to minors without parents. No body owns children in the sense of the property like real estate but they still are a property in the sense that they provide a responsibility to the responsibility holder, they provide joy and they are future contributors to the country and society. What does pocketing somebody’s lost wallet amount to? If we find someone’s abandoned property, pet or child then the usual legal and civic expectation would be that the finder makes some effort to contact the owner and return the property. If the owner is incapable then property is returned to the next in kith and kin. This is what we do and what we would teach our children. This is our value. What value does Barnevarnet espouse through its action?

Article 25 (2) of UNDHR states: “Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.” As we explore later in this article by providing completely irrelevant and inadequate assistance Barnevarnet strips an innocent Mother of her motherhood and strips the children of their natural family.

Articles 5 and 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) lay emphasis on the need for prospecting the child’s roots, identity, nationality, and family relations. Precedents within Norwegian common law also provide for placing the children with the next of their kith & kin when parents fail in their parental duties. Barnevarnet has not commented on the measures it took to prospecting such rights as envisaged in the CRC.

Article 20(3) of the CRC further stipulates that when considering solutions (for alternative child care), due regard shall be paid to the desirability of continuity in a child’s upbringing and to the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background.

In our opinion Barnevarnet has been legitimate in its action in so far as identifying an impending child development crisis (in its opinion) and moving the court but it has transgressed the legitimacy by not keeping either of the following as an option:

  •   offering the parents to make suitable arrangements for the minors outside Norway;
  •   offering the parents to leave the country with their minors;
  •   offering custody of the children to the next of kith and kin;
  •   offering custody to an Indian government / non-government organization specializing in child

    welfare; or

  •   offering custody to Government of India.

    Barnevarnet’s zeal in adhering to its contrived solution of Norwegian foster homes for Indian children just does not smell right. It even appears counter-intuitive if the objective is children’s best interest.

    Barnevarnet’s Rationale

    Irrelevant criteria

    Barnevarnet start with their exposition on the pretext of seeking custody of the children by discussing ‘Family circumstances’. They make a note that the family does not speak Norwegian and have little network

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outside the home. It is difficult to understand the relevance of speaking Norwegian to the case. Stavanger primarily thrives on the international community that is contributing to Norway’s Oil & Gas industry. The place is full of expat professionals who do not speak Norwegian, are here to stay for a couple of years and then move on to their next destination wherever work takes them. If knowledge of Norwegian is key to bringing up foreigner children in Norway then that should be a condition of granting the Work visa. Further they make a note that the family has limited social network (implying local social network) Naturally a foreigner skilled worker’s social network would be limited – this is true of these expat parents as much as it is true of thousands of other expats. They fail to recognize that we are today living in an internetworked world and the social network that the couple is in touch with over the Norwegian borders. Barnevarnet making a note of these aspects reveals that not only it is misguided about the variables it places importance on but its vision is also rather parochial.

Context

The context, within which the episodes unfolded, that finally lead Barnevarnet to mistakenly conclude that they should seize custody of the minors, has a special relevance to appreciating this case. The whole series of episodes transpired between Nov 2010 and May 2011. The mother delivered the minor girl in December 2010 and by the time the baby girl was 5 months old, still on mother’s breast, she and her 2.5 years old brother had been taken away by the Barnevarnet. Pregnancy is a tough time for any woman. Even simple googling would reveal the complexities of pre-natal and post-natal depressions and their impact on a woman’s ability to function and behave normally. It is understandable if a lay person who is witnessing pregnancy for the first time is ignorant about this but better knowledge is expected from an agency that has been appointed saviour almighty of all the children by State. We later see that the Barnevarnet seems absent-minded to this crucial pillar of the context.

One more aspect that has been key to the whole saga relates to the development needs of the minor boy. People (parents, medical community, Barnevarnet, kindergarten) agree that he has special needs but when one asks the question – why – the medical fraternity still leaves it unanswered. There is only speculation about the reasons that lead to his condition. For the sake of simplicity we could term it as Quasi-Autism. Whereas the Barnevarnet is cognizant of the minor boy’s condition, they expect an unreasonable level of understanding from parents in their description of the condition and in their ability to meet the demands of the situation that boy creates as a result of his Quasi-Autism.

According to Barnevarnet parents have described the boy’s behaviour as ‘stubborn’, ‘naughty’, ‘disobedient’ and ‘arrogant’. It is expected that people who are not trained in the science of Autism or similar conditions would only describe what they experience. They would not say – ‘our boy displays characteristics similar to a from Asperger syndrome’. It is difficult to understand why Barnevarnet expected a Geophysicist and an Administration professional to not only to be able to understand, and explain what medical fraternity has not been able to explain but also to be able to react to in a professional manner.

Pretext

Barnevarnet in their pretext fundamentally paint mother as a person with low intelligence who has poor ability to ‘mentalize’. This is an irresponsible portrayal of pregnancy related depression. The psychologists who have examined the mother do not think that the mother suffers from any debilitating mental condition. One expects more responsibility in use of clinical terms while describing people from an agency like Barnevarnet. It amounts to harassment and persona assassination apparently to fulfil one’s own single- minded motivation. Barnevarnet do not provide a reference to what tool they used to measure her level of mentalization capability. They attribute this low ability to ‘mentalize’ as the cause of Mother’s disorganized manner of meeting her children’s needs.

Barnevarnet are a little more generous in ascribing intelligence to father, they say father has a greater capability of ‘mentalization’ than mother (and probably lower than the Barnevarnet’s observer?). However they add a pinch of salt: they state that father neither has the time nor the tools with which he could

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compensate for mother’s incompetence. They agree that the father has a greater ability to relate with the boy that meets their expectations. It is true that the father has been stressed for time being the sole bread earner and being a foreigner skilled worker. Foreigners do not enjoy the State sanctioned privileges that Norwegian citizens enjoy to create more time to provide a helping hand at home.

‘Help’?

It does not require an expert to decipher the aspects on which the family circumstances warranted help. A couple that is parents to two small children fundamentally needs more hands. They need someone who can cook for them, clean for them, baby sit for them, shop groceries for them etc. In the case of this family they also needed help with understanding their boy’s special needs. When work load is manageable people have manageable stress and they perform with their optimal intelligence and skill, when work load is unmanageable people fumble and behave awkwardly. Barnevarnet did not provide help on any of the aspects identified above. Instead what they provided can at best be described as policing and turning the family into observation objects.

Barnevarnet’s help – termed Initiatives by them – was i) Marte Meo measures for enhancing mother new born daughter engagement; ii) Morning routines; and iii) Evening routines. Of these three Evening routines were never implemented because the custody was seized before the time for envisaged Evening routines was reached.

Marte Meo is a jargon for video recording events and viewing them again. The methodology is used widely but its effectiveness has not been researched adequately. One could ask the question: How much analytical re-viewing a mother who has just come out of pregnancy can do?

The morning routines basically amounted to Barnevarnet advisor and observer directing depressed and pregnancy weakened mother to follow a military precision schedule. Get up at this time, feed at this time, reach kindergarten at this time etc. They have been totally blind to the resources that were at the disposal of mother at that time. When all she needed was a helping hand who could clean for her or dress up the boy for kindergarten while she breast fed the girl, she received advice, glares, and disapproval. A simple review of motivation and individual performance theory would tell us that it is no surprise that the object of observation – mother – fumbled and erred in the policing glare of Barnevarnet. The mother tried to avert the ‘advice’ but Barnevarnet either did not understand even the overt cues or were not equipped to provide the nature of help that the mother really needed. Instead in mother’s words they took a personal disliking to her.

The evidence

Barnevarnet allege that mother has a disorganized demeanour. Their allegation relates to her feeding, her safety measures for her daughter while changing nappies and the manner of providing attention to her children. Given that none of the events were disastrous – her conduct could at worst only be termed as fumbling, further given that the mother was not in the best of her health and the fact that she had someone constantly breathing down her neck, the evidence Barnevarnet provide has no validity. Their assertion that the mother has failed to carry out their advice has no meaning given that they did not equip her with resources to carry out that advice.

Another ludicrous evidence that Barnevarnet provide mentions that the minor daughter looks at other people’s faces in presence of mother. Norwegians are stereotyped to be cold in the way they receive other people. Eastern cultures on the other hand are stereotyped to be more gregarious – people from such cultures seek contact. Probably some of that is related to the minor girl’s genetic constitution?

Barnevarnet express concern over 2.5 year old boy sleeping with his father and the fact that the parents had not bought a separate bed for him. This observation points to Barnevarnet’s ignorance and closeness towards other cultures. 2.5 year old boy sleeping with his father is very very normal in many cultures outside Norway. In fact even in modern western parenting literature co-sleeping is advised as a form of

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bonding. In countries like India children up to 7 – 8 years could continue to sleep with a parent, grand- parent, uncle or aunt. Buying a bed was never a problem for the parents, they just did not want to give up their cultural tradition. Even if they were not able to afford a bed, it does not become a cause for action because even resource poor parents have the right to bring up their own children. You could offer a bed to them but they may decline to accept your ‘help’.

They also express concern that the family did not have enough space in the living room and enough toys for the boys and then they mention though the situation improved later. Whether they had enough space or toys is an irrelevant criterion for seeking custody of the children. Children grow up in the space and resources that their parents have and have the vision to provide to their children. Sometimes parents do have the resources but just do not have the foresight to make them available in the right format. If one is on friendly terms one could suggest how parents could change the format of their resources but no one likes to listen to such suggestions from a policing body.

Barnevarnet refer to some instances of shouting and loud discussions among parents and suspected violence on the boy by mother. Loudness is a relative idea. Scandinavia in general is quieter than the busy streets of Kolkata and it’s difficult to be discreet when one is stressed. The suspicion of violence fails to account for need for temporary threat of restraining force while dealing with children. The mother admits to showing boy her slap but maintains that she has not hit him.

Barnevarnet provide another evidence where mother force feeds the minor boy and without explaining what food is all about to the boy. May be mother could have done it differently, we don’t know but it’s a general tendency among some parents to force feed their children and as we mentioned earlier not everyone is a stage artist who can provide a demonstration of ideal toddler feeding to observers.

Barnevarnet refer to interaction between the minor boy and her mother and state that she was rejected by the boy at several instances. They also state that their interaction was better at some instances. Given that mother had just given birth to a girl, one cannot ignore the possible contribution of sibling jealousy in causing boy’s behaviour. It is natural that the mother cannot provide the same level of care with a new child in her lap to the older boy.

Information withheld

The Barnevarnet is totally oblivious to the stress its demands on and pestering of the parents for meetings and routines caused. They do not state how readily the couple went through the interventions with them. Infact the parents state that the Barnevarnet’s team were arrogantly insistent and callous of parent’s time commitments on any activity but meeting Barnevarnet when they wanted and where they wanted.

Barnevarnet talks about poor emotional connect between minor boy and mother but are silent about the various videos and photographs that show the family in a different light.

Barnevarnet is disturbingly silent about the fact that they interviewed the children’s paternal and maternal grandparents, who had come down to Norway from India for taking over the responsibility of the minors. They do not disclose why they did not consider placing the children with the grandparents as an option. After all it is the same grandparents who have produced a Geophysicist that is contributing to Norwegian economy. Even within the confines of Norwegian Law there are precedents that allow for placing custody with Grand Parents in case Parents are unfit.

Barnevarnet’s performance

May be Barnevarnet has done some good to Norwegian society by placing numerous children in foster homes. There is no concluded evidence that these children have as a result fared better generally in life. Befring (2004) reported that it may be estimated that almost one third of the children under care faced some form of sexual exploitation. Clausen and Kristofersen (2008) have found that young Norwegian adults

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from care background (both foster homes and residential care) have severe problems after the transition to adult life.

What kind of questions and complexities these children, who get placed in the foster homes, could be facing internally within them is probably answered even by someone with Psychology 101 knowledge. Children of the German soldier fathers and Norwegian mothers born during the period of German occupation of Norway during 1940 – 45 are still general denigrated by some as tyskerunger.

Norway considered exporting about 8000 such children after the German occupation was over. A large number of tyskerungers suffered many years of abuse , sexual exploitation , compulsory psychiatric treatment and forced adoptions , which has driven many to suicide. This information is gratis from Wikipedia. Where was Barnevarnet?

NRK a leading channel in Norway reports about Barnevarnet’s organization of a clandestine operation: smuggling back a Turkish child placed in a Norwegian foster home. The child had been sent to a vacation with his foster parents to Turkey. While in Turkey the Turkish court had issued an order placing a ban on exit of the child. Barnevarnet then sponsored a multi-million Kroner operation to smuggle the child back. Leave aside the legal and ethical aspects of the matter, the operation was apparently kept secret even from the Norwegian Ministry of External Affairs. The Barnevarnet appear to be first among equals.

How children fare in life is to a certain degree a matter of chance. Barnevarnet does not seem to enhance those chances at least for many of them. We could grant good intentions to Barnevarnet but something in their philosophy and structure seems to be defeating the purpose. Fact of the matter is any system is prone to errors of wrong inclusion and exclusion. Moreover it is also extremely difficult to simulate the organic bonding and love that families are able to create outside in an ‘all expenses paid for’ type of commercial environment. Therefore one needs extreme caution and a credible alternative before disturbing a family. If the odds that you create for the children are not going to be any better than what they currently have, leave them to their chance in life.

Bringing up children is a job of love; the Norwegian system is fuelling it on their riches. Every foster family is paid half a million Kroners for one foster child, child maintenance and vacations to the Mediterranean. The whole ‘industry’ is supported by child care workers, lawyers, judges, kindergarten workers, health station workers, and psychologists. Without the intention of discounting the good work done by majority of them it’s not unwise to at least suspect a nexus of vested interests that such a system could foster.

It is no surprise that simple googling exposes strifes Barnevarnet has landed itself into with numerous countries – Poland, Russia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, etc. Why does a country that has otherwise strict immigration norms show such eagerness to take over custody of foreigner children? Why not just send them back? Should we understand that the actions are genuinely driven by an innate desire to be a good son of God? What message does one draw? To do a noble deed and help someone in need? What do we say to the hapless voyager who may get trapped in a snow storm near the North Pole? Leave the kids back home, dear? According to a 2011 report by the Norwegian Statistic Central Bureau, children from immigrant parents have a three-time greater likelihood of being removed from their homes than other children. How many immigrant families have been enrolled as foster families?

Barnevarnet suggests that the minor children appear content in their foster homes and are developing well. Who can test the veracity of their claim? Instead, we should also ask if externally perceived contentment of

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infants and toddlers is a valid predictor of their life-long standing. Children everywhere are content without the bitter medicine. Are they developing because of Barnevarnet? Or with time, when things would have become easier for parents, they would have developed irrespective of Barnevarnet? They have already lost their language, their religion, their food, acquaintance of their loved ones, so whose metrics of development are they climbing?

Recent Developments and Call for Action

The case of hapless Minors has received overwhelming coverage in the Indian media. People are astonished; they are outraged that someone could even think of taking such an action. There have been street protests in Kolkata and almost all leading Indian newspapers and TV channels have covered the incident. The UN shares this astonishment. As reported in NDTV, a 2005 UN report criticised Norway for the number of children that the State placed in foster homes, disrupting organic family structures.

The case has also received coverage in Norwegian media, where Barnevarnet’s insensitivity and whimsical interpretation of laws has been criticised. Understandably the coverage has not been as wide as in the Indian media. There was a Polish case, a Russian case, a Turkish case and now an Indian case. It’s business as usual.

Government of India has woken up after a long time. The children were moved to foster care in May 2011. Understandably no one wants to cause a raucous in diplomatic circles over trifles. However earlier low- profile attempts by India were completely cold shouldered by Norwegian authorities. Then, the President sensitised the Government and the Indian Minister of External Affairs has had conversation with his counterpart.

As per latest reports in Media, press release, Barnevarnet Stavanger has called, foster-care ruling grounds explained by Indian parents to the media, as bluffs. Instead Barnevarnet assert a serious case of neglect. Our independent analyses, of Barnevarnet’s allegation document as presented in this article earlier, offers a different conclusion. It is not true that there is no mention of feeding habits or sleeping arrangements in the allegation document. It is true that the variables that have been chosen to present in allegation document provide a means to infer possible prejudices. It is also true that some clinical terms and canned psychology has been used insincerely and in gross violation of human rights.

Finally, on 25th January 2012, Barnevarnet has given indications that they would be willing to offer custody to the children’s Uncle. There are talks about a tripartite agreement between Norway, India and the Indian expat couple. It is hoped that this episode will come to an end soon. However, as we discuss next, the issue remains far from being solved.

UN

There is a clear deficit between the text and context of CRC. The CRC by itself has not resulted in protection of the rights of the Child in all situations. There is a need to recognize the complexities of rapidly globalizing world and enhancing appreciation, respect and tolerance of diversity that Earth houses. Actions well within the borders of countries have oversees implications. While it is natural that, law of any land should draw from the typicality of its socio-eco-cultural milieu, it should not be inflexible to accommodate variety.

CRC leaves the phrase ‘Best interest of the child’ rather loosely defined and vulnerable to finicky interpretation. It may be close to impossible to define best interest for the numerous typicalities that every

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child-neglect case brings to fore but at least the case of ‘minors of immigrant workers’ does not sound to be that unique.

In fact, CRC in its 53rd session (11-29 January 2010) concludes for Norway “The Committee is nevertheless concerned that the principle of primary consideration of the best interests of the child is not yet applied in all areas affecting children, such as child custody cases and immigration cases…” Barnevarnet’s declared plan of possibly applying for the children’s residence permit on Humanitarian Grounds, seems to be a live reflection of the CRC’s concern. In fact such a move would be equivalent to declaring India as a country not fit to offer protection to its minor citizens.

Barnevarnet

Barnevarnet should first articulate the Best interest of minors of temporary immigrant skilled worker parents. This articulation should be sensitive to the fact that temporary immigrant children come from cultural milieus that are as far as India is from Norway. This articulation should provide references to UNDHR and UNCRC and show how they intend to uphold the provisions enshrined therein.

Once they have identified and made this articulation public, they should propose the steps that they would adopt in such cases for now and in future. Forcing alien minors, who are in country temporarily because of their guardian’s work, to Norwegian foster homes is opportunistic at its best and loot at its worst interpretation.

Eventually they should either seek contact with the children’s kith and kin, or Foreign government / non- government agencies to transfer custody of the children to people who can bring up children in their cultural milieu.

NGOs

NGOs that concern themselves with child welfare should write to Barnevarnet explaining what they think about their action and how they would have tackled the issue instead. They could seek cooperative relationship with the Barnevarnet and other such agencies and exchange information on philosophy, mechanisms and styles that they deploy in such scenarios.

Norway

State of Norway or an appropriate agency of the State should take suo moto cognizance of the present matter and contact India to make arrangements to deport her children from Norwegian soil.

Further they should really introspect the philosophy behind the whole program. Why is there an overrepresentation of Nordic countries in controversies surrounding child welfare issues? How powerful can a state agency be allowed to be, where does its accountabilities lie? Whose interests are they really serving? Is there a reason to smell a possible nexus?

India

India has taken initiative to contact Norway and seek a solution to this issue for this time. While in some earlier contacts with Norway in this case India used language such as ‘kindly look into the matter sympathetically’, for India the issue is not really that of asking for ‘sympathy’. For India the issue simply should have been to ask for return of her minor Citizens.

What out of court settlement is being reached remains to be seen. There are rumors that the Norway agency might have the rights to inspect welfare of children in India. India should not end up in any agreement that undermines her sovereignty to decide for and be responsible for her Citizens.

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Once this episode is settled, they should go a step further and seek a cooperative exchange on administrative software on dealing with such issues. They should bilaterally establish a protocol for such cases in future. With the number of Indian human resources enriching foreign lands, it is time India protects its interests on this front too. Hopefully the work with Norway would not be needed in other jurisdictions but it would provide a ready blue print, if need be.

They should closely follow the case and expect a time-bound, in a month or two, resolution to the matter. They should forewarn Norway about any attempts by the Barnevarnet to extend the stay of minors in Norway on ‘humanitarian grounds’.

935% rise in child kidnapping / Abductions in 15 years


Source: TheSundayGuardian

While there is much hoopla about increasing crime rate in general, a report by a Delhi-based NGO, published last week reveals that kidnapping and abduction of children have increased by 935% in the last 15 years.

According to Twenty Years of CRC: A Balance Sheet, a study by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights that analysed the 2009 report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of reported cases on kidnapping of children in India increased from 894 in 1994 to 8,945 in 2009. These numbers are even more disturbing when you consider that NCRB takes only the First Information Report (FIR) and not the Daily Dairy (DD) entries.

So is there an increase in the actual crime rate? Or is it that more people are reporting them now? A bit of both, but the latter is more likely, says Amod Kanth, chairman of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights. “In the 1990s, other than murders, not many reported a missing child. So, if a kid was kidnapped, unless he/she is from an affluent or rich family and the case got media attention, it was never reported. That’s why most cases end up as DD entries,” he explains.

“In 2008-2009, for instance, the NCRB reported that 2,982 kids went missing in Delhi, out of which 368 were found. In about a few months, due to my commission’s insistence, an investigation was conducted in each missing case and we recovered 1,700 kids. Many of those cases were converted from a missing report to kidnapping. The courts (HC and SC) insist that missing cases have to be registered as kidnapping but it is done only if the family or parents of the child raise the issue,” he adds.

There is also another problem. Policemen are often accused of being lackadaisical in their preliminary investigation of DD entries. “An FIR is filed only after the police verify the facts of the DD entry. Most of the time, they do a hotch-potch job and close the case saying they didn’t find any credible evidence to pursue it,” says Bharti Ali, co-director of the Delhi-based NGO.

Kanth concurs and adds that registration creates accountability. “Senior policemen rarely sidestep child kidnapping cases. If there is a lapse, it is only because the system is obsessed with curbing crime through numbers,” he retorts. “If a senior officer files an FIR, it adds a number to the crime rate and that’s never a good sign. When number of crimes has increased, the legal system, senior bureaucrats that policemen report to and even the media hype the numbers, without understanding how the system works. Finally, the law enforcement agencies look like culprits.”

Ali also blames the infighting between courts and commission. “They argue about who is in-charge of the case and hardly interact. For instance, when the government locates child labourers, they’re sent home without producing them to the Child Welfare Committee. How can we track them?”

Moreover, when children from rich or affluent families are kidnapped, often the accused is known to the family. “If there’s demand for money, most families pay the ransom and don’t report the case. Their only concern is safety of the child, which is understandable but on the downside, the criminals remain unidentified,” adds Ali.

Poor kids are kidnapped often for trafficking, labour, marriage, begging, slavery, prostitution, etc. “I guarantee that out of the 8,945 cases in the report, at least three-fourth hail from the poorer sections of the society. Considering how time-consuming and expensive the legal system is, it’s hardly surprising that poor families rarely report a missing child,” she avers.

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UAE and Egypt rank high in UK parental child-abduction list


Source: Dubib.com

The UAE is one of the top locations for abductions of British children by one of their estranged parents, according to information released by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Arabian Business has learnt.


Countries that have not signed up to the 1980 Hague Convention, which includes those in the Middle East, are not compelled to abide by UK court orders to return a child abducted from the UK by either of its parents, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said.

While a spokesperson from the FCO would not give a breakdown of the data by country, he did admit the UAE ranked high among the 97 countries included in the rankings and it was the highest in the GCC.

“In 2010/11 we saw the highest numbers of new child abductions cases to non-Hague Convention countries in Pakistan, Thailand, India, China, Algeria, Malaysia, Egypt, UAE, Ghana and Iran,” a FCO spokesperson old Arabian Business.


In the last year, data from the FCO said a total of 161 British children were taken by one of their parents and abducted abroad. This is a ten percent rise on previous years and has led to the launch of a campaign by the FCO to combat the issue.

“We are very concerned that we continue to see an increase in the number of cases of international parental child abduction. The latest figures suggest the problem affects people from all walks of life and not just certain types of families or particular countries,” said FCO Minister Jeremy Browne.

Sharon Cooke, advice line manager for Reunite International Child Abduction Centre in the UK, welcomed the latest advice and said while sometimes there were no warning signs, there are things people could look for which may indicate their child was at risk.

“The most obvious warning sign is a break down in a relationship but other signs may include a sudden interest in getting a passport or copy birth certificate for the child… There’s often a perception – fuelled by a number of high profile cases – that it’s about fathers abducting their children, however statistics show it is mainly mothers – either intentionally or unintentionally,” Cooke added.

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Parental Abduction: Sharjah mother: I am living a nightmare


Source: Gulfnews.com

Forcibly separated from her two sons, Sharjah mother fights back for their custody from husband

Sharjah: On August 12, Arafath will turn four. But his mother won’t be around to hug him. Instead Irum Iqbal will be kneeling down in prayer – a routine she has zealously followed every evening since January 13, the day Arafath and his younger brother, Hasanath, whom she was still breastfeeding – were snatched by her estranged husband and flown to Hyderabad, India without her knowledge.

Irum, 27, is a Pakistani citizen, while her husband, Mir Zarafath Ali, is Indian.

Given the thorny relations between the two countries, the likelihood of Irum going to India and wresting custody of her children, both Indian passport holders, is as minuscule as the eye of a needle.

Yet Irum is hopeful of being reunited with them. “I have faith in Allah. I am sure my prayers won’t go unanswered in this holy month,” she said wiping away her tears.

Irum has also moved the Sharjah Sharia Court seeking a divorce and custody of her children. On August 8, the court summoned Ali. He didn’t show up. Instead, he sent Irum a Letter of Reconciliation laying down some bizarre terms and conditions for his return. Among them: Irum will give him whatever she has earned since he has been away; provide a break-up of her expenditure all this while; agree to hand him whatever she earns in future; not maintain any social networking account; visit her family only once a week and not leave home without her husband’s permission.

Irum will forego the right to take legal action against Ali if she signs the draft, says a clause in the Letter of Reconciliation, a copy of which is with XPRESS. Ali has drafted a similar letter for himself.

Irum and Ali got married in the UAE in November 2006, but their bliss didn’t last long. They had regular fights. Irum claims the fights became more frequent and intense when Ali lost his job and his family business in Sharjah suffered losses. “He started to live off my salary. When that wasn’t enough, he started selling my jewellery. One by one he sold off all the pieces. I didn’t mind that as I wanted to salvage our relationship. But when he sold the last piece, he threw me out of the house. Two days later, he flew away with my kids to India. I am living a nightmare. In the seven months that have rolled by since then, there has not been a single day when I have not wept thinking about Arafath and Hasanath. They are so small. I don’t know how they are managing without me. Hasanath is not even two years old. I was breastfeeding him when he was taken away,” said Irum who works with a telecom service provider and currently lives with her parents in Sharjah.

Irum said she was emboldened to talk about her plight after coming across an earlier XPRESS cover story (June 16, 2011) on Dubai-based Maimouna Liskauskaite whose children were snatched by her husband under similar circumstances.

“I can relate to Maimouna as I am going through the same hell. When I read about her, I rang her up. We talked about our kids and tried to console each other. It was a futile attempt because towards the end both of us were crying.”

Desperate to have her kids back Irum has now urged Indian authorities and NGOs to intervene. “This is not about India and Pakistan, this is about a mother and her children,” she said.

P.K. Askok Babu, Consul (media) at the Consulate General of India admitted the case is “complicated”.

“It was brought to our notice after Ali had left for India. Ali had approached the Consulate… he has been advised to take the legal route to resolve the dispute with his wife,” Babu said in an e-mail statement to XPRESS.

On his part, Ali denies any wrongdoing. He said he was ready to accept Irum provided she signs the Letter of Reconciliation and mends her ways. “I have seen her smoking and drinking and have photographs to prove that,” he said over the phone from India. He said he has mailed the offending pictures to the judge, but refused to send them to XPRESS. “I respect the privacy of my wife and do not want to malign her.”

Irum ridicules the queer reasoning. “If he can talk about my supposed smoking and drinking habits, why can’t he send the pictures as well?”

Parental child abduction on the rise

Parental child abduction is proving to be a growing concern in the UAE. Experts reckon this is largely because of the country’s large expat community. A parent or grandparent could face legal action if he/she abducts his/her own child or grandchild from the person who has legal guardianship or custody as established by a UAE judicial decision. But since the UAE is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, foreign governments cannot enforce their own laws here. Statistics on parental child abduction in the UAE are hard to come by, but information released by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), gives an indication of the magnitude of the problem.

According to FCO, the UAE is one of the top locations for abductions of British children by one of their estranged parents.

The US State Department also reported seven cases of child abduction (under US law) in 2009 in the UAE involving nine children, up from six cases in 2008 and four cases in 2007.

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Police seek Holland-area mother, Wendi Carpenter, on parental kidnapping charge


By Staff reports
Holland police are looking for a local woman they say left the state with her two children after she failed to show up on Tuesday for a scheduled transfer of the children to their father.
Wendi Carpenter had the two young children for visitation during the summer but had to transfer the children to their father because of a court order, according to a news release from Holland police. After she didn’t show up to the Holland Department of Public Safety for the transfer, police started an investigation.Based on that investigation, police now believe Carpenter has fled the state with the two children, Luke Carpenter and Cambria Carpenter. Wendi Carpenter is wanted on a warrant for custodial interference authorized by the Ottawa County Prosecutor.She is listed as a practicing psychologist with two different nonprofit counseling groups, Healing Waters and Lakeshore Pure Freedom, both in Zeeland. Police did not release the father’s name.

The mother and children were last known to be in Holland, in the 300 block of Pine Avenue,  around 8 a.m. on Tuesday, police said. The mother and children left in her vehicle, a 2006 Toyota Highlander, police said, but that vehicle has since been located in western Missouri. They might have left that area in a dark-colored SUV.

The Holland Department of Public Safety is asking anyone with information as to the possible location of the mother or children to call the Holland Department of Public Safety Detective Bureau at (616) 355-1150 or Silent Observer at (888) 88-SILENT.

Published by: ABP World Group  Executive Protection
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INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL ABDUCTIONS A GROWING PROBLEM


Source:Weinman & Associates

Of the 1,500 children who were victims of international parental abductions in 2010, less than 600 were recovered and brought back to the United States. The State Department estimates one-third of those children were taken to Mexico by way of border states like Texas.

The government reports a startling number of children abducted by their parents in the last decade – nearly 7,000 between 2000 and 2009. Many of the children are taken during scheduled non-custodial parent visitations and whisked away to a foreign-born parent’s native homeland.

On September 1, Texas will enact a new law making child abductions a state felony, but lawmakers and watchdog groups say it is still too easy for absconding parents with children to get away. Border officials have no nationwide child custody database and airlines are too time-crunched to check passengers carefully.

One former criminal prosecutor and judge said if a child is not intercepted before leaving the country, the chances for the child’s return to the U.S. become slim.

Mexico is one of more than 70 countries that have agreed to abide by Hague Convention’s child abduction rules, insisting that children who are illegally relocated out of a country be returned to their homes. However, legal professionals say international courts get bogged down or distracted by internal conflicts, like the drug war in Mexico, and put child custody matters aside.

Parents caught running with children to a foreign land in violation of custody rules can be imprisoned for three years. Congressional leaders have introduced the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, which could potentially threaten various forms of U.S. assistance to countries that have poor records of helping to retrieve abducted children. Hopefully the government will be able to come up with an effective way to locate and return abducted children to the United States.

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What happens if your ex abducts your child?


By STEWART M. POWELL HOUSTON CHRONICLE  – July 4, 2011, 7:19AM

International parental abductions are on the rise, and many of the children never return

WASHINGTON — For nine gut-wrenching years, Texan Greg Allen has been trying to track down his daughter after her mother absconded to Mexico with the 4-year-old during a rare unsupervised visit after the couple’s contentious divorce.

“When it first happened, I was unable to function,” recalls Allen, 42, an electrical engineer and sonar expert doing doctoral research at the University of Texas’ applied research laboratories in Austin. “I went from being a single parent whose whole life revolved around raising my daughter to being a left-behind parent whose purpose in life was gone.”

Last year, at least 1,500 children were unlawfully taken to foreign countries by a parent who had been living in the United States, including children who were taken even while a parent was serving in the U.S. armed forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. Only 578 abducted children were returned to the United States.

Many of the children – roughly one-third – ended up in Mexico because of the parent’s ties to extended family or Mexico’s proximity.

International parental abductions are “sharply on the rise,” cautions the State Department’s top official on the issue, Ambassador Susan Jacobs. “When an international border is involved, an already tragic situation for the children and left-behind parents is infinitely compounded.”

Congress’ investigative Government Accountability Office has documented at least 6,966 cases of international parental abduction over the decade ending in 2009, most by foreign-born parents returning to their country of birth.

Yet, as Allen learned only too late, chronic ambiguities routinely enable parents to abduct their children and get away with it. Local police rarely take missing child reports arising from custody disputes. Customs and Border Protection agents do not check departing parents or children at airports or border crossings. Fully half of left-behind parents surveyed by the American Bar Association, for example, said ex-partners abducted their children during routine court-approved visits.

No national database

Federal authorities do not maintain a national database of child custody orders from local courts that might help suspicious immigration officers determine the status of a departing child.

Even if the paperwork were available, international airlines routinely have no more than 30 minutes to match a passenger manifest against a missing child report or a court order barring departure.

Abducting parents can face up to three years in prison for taking their child to a foreign country “with the intent to obstruct a parent’s custodial rights.”

A Texas law taking effect Sept. 1 makes the abduction a state felony, as well.

“The reality is, once an abducting parent gets a kid to the departure gate, they’re gone,” says Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, a former criminal court judge and prosecutor who has been working for more than five years to help Houston resident Marty Pate recover his daughter Nicole from Brazil. “Once a child leaves the United States, it’s very, very difficult to get them back.”

Allen miraculously spied his daughter Sabrina in Mexico City in 2003 and subsequently visited her school to talk with her teacher. But the girl and her mother, Dara Marie Llorens, fled and have not been seen since.

Even in the 71 nations such as Mexico that have signed the 1980 Hague Convention on child abduction, local court proceedings can drag on. The accord is designed to speed repatriation of abducted children under the age of 16 to their “country of habitual residence” to resume court-ordered child custody arrangements.

But court proceedings often get sidetracked, particularly in Mexican states engulfed by the drug wars such as San Luis Potosí and Tamaulipas.

“We have judges who are afraid to do anything,” says attorney Pamela Brown of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid in Weslaco, who handles about 20 international child abduction cases a year to and from Mexico. “Judges are terrified that the taking parent might have ties to the cartels so they won’t step in.”

Adds Allen: “With a civil war going on down there, child abduction is just not a high priority.”

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/chronicle/7638140.html#ixzz1R96U7CM5

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Dads warned to look out for signs of parental child abduction


30 JUNE 2011 – Fatherhoodinstitute.org

Dads are being advised on how to prevent their children’s mothers abducting them and taking them abroad.

According to a new Government campaign,  every other day a British child is abducted by a parent to a country which has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention on international parental child abduction*.

The latest figures represent a ten per cent increase in new cases handled by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2010/2011 and have been released to mark the launch of the FCO’s child abduction prevention campaign.

Evidence shows that many cases occur around school holidays when a parent refuses to return a child following a visit to the parent’s home country. In most cases these abductions are perpetrated by mothers.

Last year the FCO handled cases in 97 ‘non Hague’ countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. These are countries which have not signed up to the 1980 Hague convention on international parental child abduction and with whom negotiating the return of children to the UK can be extremely complex as there are no international agreements on returning children.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Jeremy Browne said the campaign will help people become more aware of what they could do if they think their child may be at risk.

“We are very concerned that we continue to see an increase in the number of cases of international parental child abduction. The latest figures suggest the problem affects people from all walks of life and not just certain types of families or particular countries. Finding a solution can be especially difficult if a child has been taken to a non-Hague country as there are no international systems in place to help you. This is why prevention is so important. The FCO will do whatever we can to provide advice and support but our role is limited, not least because we cannot interfere in the laws of another country.”

Sharon Cooke, Advice Line Manager for Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, welcomed the latest advice and said while sometimes there were no warning signs, there are things people could look for which may indicate their child was at risk.

“The most obvious warning sign is a break down in a relationship but other signs may include a sudden interest in getting a passport or copy birth certificate for the child; a parent expressing a wish to holiday alone with the child; a change in circumstances such as leaving employment or redundancy, selling a house or giving up tenancy. There may also be a sudden change in contact arrangements or constant difficulty in being able to see the child,” she said.

“For many people the issue of parental child abduction is something with which they may not have had direct personal contact. There’s often a perception – fuelled by a number of high profile cases – that it’s about fathers abducting their children, however statistics show it is mainly mothers – either intentionally or unintentionally.

Sharon says, “The latest figures show just how widespread this problem has become. Our statistics for January to May 2011 show a 21% increase in the number of abductions to non-Hague States states compared to the same period last year. We have also seen a 21% per cent increase in the number of parents requesting advice on prevention of abduction. This demonstrates there is a need for information on preventative steps that a parent can take and it is essential that we continue to raise awareness of parental child abduction, after all it could happen to anyone.”

“The psychological impact on children can be traumatic and for the left-behind parent, the shock and loss are unbearable, particularly if they don’t know where their child is. Even after they have been found, the fear and pain of not knowing if they will return home is unimaginable.”

“If you are worried your child might be at risk, or if your child has been abducted you can call the Child Abduction Section at the Foreign Office on 0207 008 0878 or http://www.fco.gov.uk or reunite on 0116 2556 234.

*”The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multi-lateral international treaty the aim of which is the return of a child who has been wrongfully removed or wrongfully retained away from the country where he or she normally lives, so that issues of residence (which parent a child should live with), relocation (which country a child should live in) and contact (access) can be decided by the courts of that country. “All cases that come under the Hague Convention are dealt with by one of the three Central Authorities in the UK (the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit covers England and Wales and there are two separate bodies for Scotland and Northern Ireland). To find out which countries are part of this Convention, visit http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.status&cid=24

**Top 5 non-Hague countries with the largest number of new parental child abductions in 2010/11

Country 2009/2010 2010/2011

All non-Hague countries 146 161

Pakistan 24 21

Thailand 13 13

India 14 9

Algeria 0 9

Malaysia 6 7

Further information on parental child abduction can be found at: www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/when-things-go-wrong/child-abduction.

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Child abduction by parents among Indian diaspora raises concern


Source: Inewsone.com , New Delhi, June 19

(IANS) Increasing number of child abductions by parents among the Indian diaspora has become a cause of concern as India is yet to join the internationalconvention on the issue, a British minister has said.

‘The cases where a parent abducts their child and takes it away to India are problematic because India does not have laws to deal with parental child abduction,’ British Minister for Equalities Lynne Featherstone said here.

The minister urged the Indian government to accede to the UN Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The British minister was here on a three-day visit to India June 15-17 to seek greater collaboration between the two countries on the issue of violence against women and gender equality issues.

According to Featherstone, the UK government receives at least one complaint per month of alleged abduction of a child by a parent of Indian origin. There are about eight such cases currently being investigated, the minister said.

The children were abducted by one of the parents and brought to India in order to gain the advantage in matrimonial and child custody disputes.

Child abduction cases by parents are high in countries which have a large population of people of Indian origin such as the UK, the US and Canada.

About 70 children were abducted by parents of Indian origin in the UK in the past eight years, according to a report.

The US State Department’s Office of Child Issues, which helps in child abduction cases, is currently working on more than 100 cases of children taken to India without the consent of the parent left behind. The State Department has said that there are few remedies if a child is abducted to India.

There are more unresolved cases of parental child abduction from the US to India than any other country with the exception of Mexico.

About 85 countries have ratified the 1980 Hague Convention on Parental Child Abduction. Under the convention, member countries undertake to return children abducted by a parent to their homes under the jurisdiction of the courts in the home country.

Parental child abduction has become one of the many issues that have been added to the agenda for inter-governmental discussions with visiting delegations from the US, Britain and Canada.

Several NGOs and activists in India and abroad have urged the government to accede to the Hague Convention.

On the occasion of Father’s Day (June 20), a Bangalore-based non-governmental organisation, Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), has demanded that India ratify the Hague Convention and reform family law in India.

California-based Rakshak Foundation has also appealed to the union government to safeguard children’s rights and make parental abduction a cognizable, non-bailable crime.

Abduction of a child by one parent violates the child’s right to live in the security of the familiar home and prevents access to both parents. More and more child custody and abduction cases are landing in Indian courts relating to foreign citizens as well as non resident Indians (NRIs).

The Supreme Court has ruled recently that Indian courts have jurisprudence on child custody cases even if the child is a citizen of a foreign country. The courts apply the principle of best interest of the child, taking a foreign court decree as only one of the factors for deciding on the custodial dispute.

There have been occasions when the father had taken away the child from the country of residence, gone to India and left the child with his grandparents while he flew to work in a third country.

At other times, it is the woman who took the child on the pretext of visiting India.

Many abducted children are told that the other parent is dead or has gone away. Often one parent tries to poison the child’s mind to the other parent, which often causes psychological and emotional problems for the child.

‘Children in such cases are voiceless victims and their right to be connected to both biological parents needs to be protected,’ according to the Rakshak Foundation.

Often child custody cases lead to the child being deprived of the love, affection and care of one parent.

‘Joint custody and shared parenting are the best solutions for normal development of the child,’ the foundation said.

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Parental child abduction still far too easy, officials say


Sherri Zickefoose, Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, June 03, 2011

Stricter travel regulations should be in place to hamper schemes of parents abducting their children and escaping to foreign countries, according to investigators charged with chasing them.

“When our children are going out of the country, there’s no bar. Some of the airlines do their due diligence, but do all of them do their due diligence? It would be better to have a binding legal document that’s notarized prior to travelling with a child,” said Missing Children Society Canada investigator Wendy Christensen.

“The issue is coming to light and more people are being affected.”

Earlier this week, the plight of a Calgary mother made headlines after police made a public plea for help in solving her year-old case.

Mona Gill hasn’t seen her toddler since he was abducted by his father and taken to India in May 2010.

Canada-wide abduction without consent warrants have been issued for Harpreet Singh Arora, 44, for whisking the estranged couple’s 21/2-year-old son Shael abroad without warning.

Their current location is unknown.

Gill is one of hundreds of Canadian parents who suffer every year from having their children abducted by the other parent.

Children taken to another country against one parent’s will unravel into costly emotional, financial and legal nightmares that sometimes never get resolved.

According to 2009 statistics from the RCMP’s National Missing Children Services, there were 237 cases of children being snatched by a parent.

Five cases in the past five years have come to Calgary investigators.

Only two cases have been resolved.

Some parents have been forced to take matters into their own hands.

The case of Calgary mother Melissa Hawach made global headlines when she hired two mercenaries and secretly travelled to Lebanon during Hezbollah’s war with Israel at the end of 2006 to take back her daughters Cedar and Hannah from their father.

But without stronger checks in Canada, more children will be lost, said Christensen.

“Airlines follow Transport Canada guidelines, but there’s no exit control in our country,” she said.

“I don’t think there’s consistency with other countries. If we were more proactive in what we do, we may be an example to other countries to show how to do it right.”

The day Gill was to pick father and son up from the airport, a note was left on her front door informing her that Arora was taking his son away to spend time with him.

Gill reported the abduction to police before she travelled overseas from June to September.

Unless Arora hands the child over himself, police say the investigation may rely on family and friends rethinking their roles in helping him.

After exhausting all other leads for the past year, the RCMP’s National Missing Children Services launched an international alert protocol. Interpol in Hong Kong and Singapore have also been alerted.

The estranged couple, who were married for four years, did not have a custody agreement in place, but there was no acknowledged dispute.

Airlines generally recommend that parents who travel solo with children carry a parental consent letter authorizing travel. The letter must be signed and dated by the other parent.

But without a warning of a custody dispute, airlines say they are helpless to stop travellers.

“Unless we have been notified in advance by the authorities that a specific parent should not be travelling with their child, assuming all the appropriate paperwork was in order, we would have no reason to suspect anything was wrong,” said WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer.

“Parents travel solo with their children all the time.”

Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said, “We are obliged by law to ensure that all passengers have government-issued ID before boarding the aircraft, with no lawful obligation for additional documentation checks before boarding an aircraft.

“All other documentation checks fall under the responsibility of government immigration authorities on entry into those countries.”

The Canada Border Services Agency is responsible for checking people entering Canada, not leaving.

One saving grace is the international treaty designed to help parents whose children have been taken illegally to another country.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction has been in force in Alberta for 20 years. About 75 countries are signatories to the treaty and more than 400 Canadian children have been returned over the years, thanks to the agreement.

Some countries do not recognize parental abduction as a crime.

“A custody order issued by a Canadian court has no automatic binding legal force beyond the borders of Canada,” according to the Foreign Affairs guide.

Investigators say all countries should require parents travelling solo with children to have permission from both parents, even though that means adding another level of bureaucracy.

“‘We have to make it difficult. We have to have something similar for international travel with our children,” said Christensen.

“It would be a start, everybody having to take onus and everybody being part of the solution.”

“People don’t look at it as a crime, but it is. We have to take steps working with Transport Canada, the airlines, border services, everyone, to have something in place so we can have confidence that if that child is leaving the country, they’re coming back.

“We need to treat our children as precious, because they’re a precious commodity.”

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