Inquiry Rapport fra Granskningsutvalget for Barnevernsinstitutioner i Bergen

Alternative Names
  • County Commission into Abuse and Neglect in Residential Homes in Bergen
Inquiry Type
Regional inquiry by the municipality of Bergen. Fylkesmannen (the Governor) of Hordaland County was appointed to set up the Commission.
Location
Norway; Hordaland County; Bergen municipality

Key Dates

1 July 1954 - 1 January 1980
Period of investigation
2001 - 2003
Period of operation
31 October 2001
Announcement date
June 2003
Final Report
26 June 2003
Final Report

Details

In October 2001, the County Governor of Hordaland in Norway appointed a public committee to conduct an investigation in connection with allegations of irregularities in municipal and private child welfare institutions in Bergen. Eleven institutions were investigated. The Committee's mandate was to examine the facts related to violations and neglect in the institutions. The Committee was also required to examine whether the relevant supervisory authorities performed their assigned duties in relation to the institutions and whether the placements of children in institutions were based on legally valid decisions.

The purpose of the investigation was to examine: whether children in institutions had been subjected to physical and sexual abuse; whether there were serious shortcomings in relation to the practical and emotional care that children were provided with at the institutions; whether municipal and state supervisors did not perform their duties in relation to the institutions; and whether children were forced into institutions without due legal process.

The start for the period of investigation corresponds with the time in which the 1953 Norwegian Child Welfare Act was in force (1954).

The Process
The Committee conducted its work through private session (interviews) and archival research. In accordance with Section 43 (2nd paragraph, of the Norwegian Courts Act), the Committee had the authority to request legal hearings. However, the Committee did not take advantage of this opportunity.

Governing Legislation
Circular G-48/75 of the Justice and Police Ministry, dated 4 March 1975 on "Rules for Investigation Commissions".

Governing Authority
Fylkesmannen (governor) of Hordaland County

Inquiry Locations
Norway, Bergen

Public Hearings
Public hearings were not conducted.

Private Sessions
Private session interviews were voluntary. All persons interviewed voluntarily agreed to participate. Those who had lived in institutions provided testimony of their experiences at their own initiative.

Before their interview, all informants received a letter with an overview of the topics the Committee considered most relevant to address. Interviews were semi-structured and based on an interview template. The normal procedure was that two to three members of the inquiry Committee conducted interviews and that the interviews lasted for three to four hours.

A number of people were interviewed several times because the amount of information they wanted to provide was extensive. The printed interview summaries usually constituted of 6-8 pages. Interviewees were provided with transcripts of their interview and given the opportunity to make corrections or amendments.

Most of the interviews were conducted at the premises of the Commission in Bergen. In some cases interviews were conducted in other Norwegian cities due to the interviewee's health condition or for other reasons.

Case Studies
The 11 institutions were investigated as case studies.

Written Submissions
Interviewees contributed archive material, notes, photographs, and other material.

Research
The Committee undertook commissioned research on the history of child welfare between 1954 and 1980.

Witnesses
In total 133 private interviews were conducted. Most of the interviewed persons were former residents of residential 'care' institutions. Interviews were also held with persons that had been employed at the institutions, and with persons who had been employed by the secretariat of the Child Welfare Board or had been political elected members of the Child Welfare Board.

Gender
Gender was not a key factor in the report of the Committee. The report does not identify how many female or male witnesses were interviewed.

Institutions
There were 11 private and municipal child welfare institutions (within what is the current municipality of Bergen) which were included in the investigation.

Municipal institutions included: Morgensol barnehjem, Bergen ungdomshjem og Småbarnstuen, Eliasmarken ungdomshjem.

Private institutions included: Anna Jebsen (barnehjem), Jakob R. Olsen (barnehjem)
Solgården (Frelsesarmeen barnehjem), Bergen guttehjem Garnes, Sandviken barnehjem, Kofoed-skolen (ungdomshjem), Sætregården.

Findings
The Committee considered that the framework for child care in the institutions was relatively well described and legally regulated. The Committee concluded that several institutions had deviated from laws and regulations over relatively long periods of time. For example, the staffing of the institutions has consistently been low in relation to the number of children. It was noted that the ratio of staff to children was generally better by the end of the investigative period. Through archival material and interviews with former employees at the institutions, the municipal administration and supervisors, it was found that professional competence was low. This was especially pronounced during the early period.

Practical and emotional care: Some of the children who lived at child welfare institutions experienced serious shortcomings in practical and emotional care. The care offered was in many cases insufficient, in some cases almost absent. Children experienced a lack of adult contact, especially those who stayed at the institution for a longer period of time. There was a clear lack of care for the individual child. Many of those interviewed (children and employees) noted that there was little room for school work, for example, homework.

Physical and sexual abuse: It was found that there was physical and sexual abuse of some of the children in the institutions. In some settings, physical punishment occurred for a large part of the period considered by the Committee. Several children in the institutions had been subjected to sexual abuse, abuse that had been very serious and harmful. The Committee also found that there was harmful physical and sexual behaviours between children and adolescents at some of the institutions examined.

Supervision: During the entire investigation period, there were extensive and serious shortcomings in supervision. This differed significantly from what was outlined in the regulations of the time.

Recommendations
The Committee did not make recommendations.

Publications

Final Reports

  • RAPPORT fra Granskningsutvalget for barnevernsinstitutioner i Bergen, vol. 1 of 1, Bergen, 2003. Details
  • Rapport fra Granskingsutvalget for barnevernsinstitusjoner i Bergen, Report of Investigation Committee for Child Welfare in Bergen, Norway, 2003. Details

Reports

  • Ericsson, Kjersti, Noen trekk ved barnevernets utvikling mellom 1954 og 1980, 2002. Details

Acknowledgement: this summary was prepared by Joel Löw, Department of Child Studies, Linköping University