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Norway: Parents lose European Court appeal over children’s removal

February 2021

Christian parents who had their five children removed by the Child Welfare Services in Norway have had their case dismissed by the European Court of Human Rights.

Ruth and Marius Bodnariu claimed that the Norwegian state had infringed their rights and discriminated against them because of their Pentecostal beliefs.

But judges at the European Court have ruled that the family had not yet exhausted all the possible domestic remedies in Norway.

Roger Kiska of Christian Concern said, ‘The decision is a blow to the family, who argued before the European Court of Human Rights that any further remedies in Norway were illusory at best.

‘They would not risk further punishment and separation of the family by going back into the system that had so ill-treated them.

‘Asking them to go back into the proverbial lion’s den would have been cruel, and something Ruth and Marius Bodnariu would never put their children through.’

The children have since been reunited with their parents, and the family has resettled in the father’s native Romania.

The case began in Norway in November 2015 when Child Welfare Services took away the couple’s five children. The parents were accused of smacking, which is illegal in Norway.

The case gained much international attention, and critics said social workers in Norway are often too quick to separate children from their families, with too little justification.

The children were split between three different sets of emergency foster parents. Marius and Ruth had an eight-hour round trip to get to supervised meetings.

Christian Concern’s Roger Kiska says social workers’ notes are replete with evidence of animus and negative preconceptions towards the family’s religious beliefs.

Within Norway itself there has been growing concern about the conduct of Child Welfare Services agency – known in Norway as Barnevernet.

In an open letter of protest to the Children’s Minister, 170 leading Norwegian professionals involved in child protection – lawyers, psychologists, social work experts – say Barnevernet is a ‘dysfunctional organisation which makes far-reaching errors of judgment with serious consequences’.

Psychologist Einar Salvesen, one of the initiators of the letter, says: ‘There is a lack of what I’d call the human factor. A lack of empathy.’

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