The Lithuanian media has lately caused some stir with stories about Lithuanian expatriates in Norway who have had their children "taken away" by childcare services. Norway's Ambassador to Lithuania Leif Arne Ulland says that his country takes children's welfare very seriously and makes no distinction between Norwegian families and those from other countries residing there. However, he adds, no child can be taken away from the family without a court ruling.
Leif Arne Ulland
© DELFI (E.Fuks) nuotr.

While there has been disproportionately much hype in the Lithuanian media about Lithuanians in Norway who had to deal with child welfare services, Ambassador Ulland says he is aware of only a handful of such cases.

"It is true that we have a very small number of cases where Norwegian child protection service have intervened and removed children from Lithuanian families against their will," he tells the Lithuania Tribune. "I am aware of four such cases. That is not a high number in a Lithuanian population of over 50.000, but for those involved it is of course not a good situation."

Ambassador Ulland cautions that Norwegian ministries and government authorities cannot interfere in individual child welfare cases nor can they comment on such cases that are handled exclusively by municipal institutions.

"The Norwegian Child Welfare Act applies to all children in Norway, regardless of citizenship. The basic principle of the act is that the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration and every year 10 thousands of cases are handled successfully," says Ambassador Ulland.

However, he adds, placements outside the home, against the will of the parents, are measures of last resort and can only be decided by the court system.

"Norway is, however, in the process of ratifying the Hague Convention of 19 October 1996 on parental responsibility and protection of children. Once this is done, we will have a good basis for solving child protection cases when children have ties to more than one country," says Ambassador Ulland.

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