Erik Strand, August 16th, 2014
In May 2012, the Norwegian website forskning.no, a website presenting sundry science and research news, publsihed an article about the Norwegian CPS.
The article presents a research project by Gunn Astrid Baugerud at the Institute for Psychology at the University of Oslo. She found that in eight out of ten cases where the CPS remove a child from its family, this is done by an acute placement.
Acute placements are regulated in § 4-6 in barnevernloven, the law regulating the Norwegian CPS. The second section of § 4-6 says that “If there is a danger that a child will suffer severely by staying in the home, the leader of the CPS administration or the prosecuting authority might immediately decide that the child shall be placed outside the home, without the parents’s concent.
With an acute placement, the CPS comes and takes the child away without any prior announcement. In ordinary placements, the family is supposed to be informed in advance.
According to the article, Baugerud is the first scientist who has been allowed to be present and study placements done by the CPS. She found that children who were taken away in acute placements, were much more stressed than children who were taken away in planned placements.
After the placement, Baugerud interviewed the child twice, first one week after the placement and then three months later. This was done to find out how well the children remembered the situation, and to see if there was any corelation between the stress level and how well the children remembered the situation. The yiungest children whom Baugerud interviewd were three years old. All the children remembered the event almost as clear after three months. The children remembered the event even when the scientist asked questions which could mislead them.
Baugerud says that stress activates the nervous system and makes the body secrete the hormon cortisol. This is a natural and necessary reaction, but long lasting secretion of cortisol might harm the immune system and brain structures necessary for the memory. In this way the children’s memory development might be harmed.
One of the explanation Baugerud gives for the high frequence of acute placements is that the CPS waits too long before they propose for fylkesnemnda (governmental entity which decides whether the CPS shall take over the care for the children) that the CPS takes over the care for the CPS. Given what we know about the lack of judicial security in Norwegian CPS cases, one should not take for granted that there is a real concern that the situation in the home is severe enough to justify a placement, acute or planned.
The observation that the CPS over time has been concerned about the situation in the home, justified or not, does in all circumatances raise serious questions about the necessity of creating stress for the children by effectuating an acute placement in as many as eight out of ten cases.
In the article, we are informed that Baugerud herself has experience from the CPS and knows what she talks about when she says: “Acute decisions are done because of a serious acute situation, but in many instances these are cases where the CPS has been concerned for a long time, but where the CPS has not presented the case for fylkesnemnda.”