Sweden, European country very well known by social politics and high taxes, is a home of less then 10 million people. Swedish child welfare is often said to be for the children’s sake, often they refer to “the best interests of the child,” yet quite often it doesn’t work that way, but rather becomes a business enterprise instead. This article is meant as a fact sheet for whoever is interested in the darker side of Swedish child welfare. Daniel Hammarberg, a sociologist from Sundswall in Sweden, describes why this system is a total failure.
Every year, over 20,000 children are seized by child welfare in Sweden. In a country that is regarded to have come so far in its welfare development, is this really necessary? On average, more than 15,000 children reside in foster care in Sweden, or a little more than 1% of the total underage population. Why this high number?
We know that the conditions within foster care are very bad, and that in spite of the efforts done to glorify these interventions with slogans such as “the best interests of the child,” children are in jeopardy when they are placed. Sometimes the conditions are so unsatisfactory as to make the children take their own lives; We learned in the news back in 2009 about how two young girls, Sophie Lohede and “Elin,” had committed suicide after completely unnecessary institution placements. Sophie had been institutionalised because she had fallen behind in school; “Elin,” because her mother had agreed to a “voluntary” care placement a couple of years earlier, which both mother and daughter were now seeking to put an end to. In spite of this, the social services placed the 13-year-old girl with juvenile delinquents at an HVB institution, which made her take her own life there after 18 days of physical and sexual abuse.
The problems within Swedish child welfare are very serious, and one can’t rely on the parliament and the social services to find the solutions themselves. The system itself is only looking for fixes that would create more job positions within its own ranks – some talk about how the system must become better at investigations into the conditions the children are living under, others suggest giving the children their own social services contacts and so on. Yet the system doesn’t want to return the children to their own homes, since these care placements are the very key to the enterprise. No children to seize – no children for foster families who want them; no children to seize – no income for the orphanages. What’s needed is to question the very system itself, and see that the vast majority of care placements are completely unnecessary, that they have but little to do with the actual welfare of the children.
For many years, children, their families and advocates, professors, psychologists and journalists have been demanding a complete overhaul of the Swedish child welfare system, focusing on the suffering unnecessary child seizures have brought on for biological families in Sweden. The European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg has found Sweden guilty of violating the private and family life, on a number of occasions, but the government has never imposed any penalty on the civil servants at fault. For a guide to Swedish child welfare, see this link.
William Billy Campbell