Inquiry Barneverninstitusjoner Benyttet av Oslo Kommune 1954-1993: Granskning av Overgrep, Omsorgssvikt, Tilsyn og Tvangsplasseringer

Alternative Names
  • Residential Institutions used by the Municipality of Oslo, 1954-1993: Inquiry into Abuse, Neglect, Supervision and Forced Placements
Inquiry Type
Inquiry by the municipality of Oslo. Fylkesmannen (the Governor) of Oslo and Akershus was appointed to set up the Commission.
Location
Norway; Oslo and Akershus County; Oslo municipality

Key Dates

1 July 1954 - 1 January 1993
Period of investigation
2003 - 2005
Period of operation
31 October 2003
Announcement date
1 December 2005
Final Report

Details

In October 2003, the County Governor of Oslo and Akershus appointed a public committee to investigate institutions in which the Oslo municipality had placed children in the period 1954-1993. 27 institutions that were investigated.

The Committee's mandate was to examine the facts related to any violations and any neglect in institutions in Oslo where the municipality had placed the children. The Committee was also required to examine whether the relevant supervisory authorities performed their assigned duties in relation to those institutions. In addition, the Committee set out to investigate whether there were legally sound foundations for decisions in relation to the placements where parents/guardians had not consented those placements.

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 period of investigation corresponds with the time when the 1953 Norwegian Child Welfare Act was in force (1954-1993).

The Process
The Committee conducted its work through private session (interviews) and archival research. In accordance with Section 43, second 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 (the Governor) of Oslo and Akershus.

Inquiry Locations
Norway; Oslo

Public Hearings
Public hearings were not conducted.

Private Sessions
Private session interviews were voluntary. All of the former residents of the institutions who approached the Committee did so at their own initiative. All people whom had resided in child welfare institutions in the municipality of Oslo, including school homes, special schools or treatment homes, were given the opportunity to present for an interview with the Committee. Most of the other informants were contacted and called for interview by the Committee.

Calls for interviews were made via a letter which also contained information about how the interview would be conducted. This information was repeated verbally at the meeting with the interviewee. Among other things, it was emphasised that the Inquiry Committee was an independent Committee, tasked with examining the quality of institutions, rather than a consideration of compensation or prosecution.

The interviews took place in the Committee's office in Oslo. In some cases, the Committee visited other cities if the informant was unable to travel due to health or other reasons. In a small number of cases, interviews were conducted by telephone or in writing. In most cases, two members of the Inquiry Committee conducted the interviews.

The interviews were semi-structured and based on an interview template. The interviews lasted for two to three hours and were audio recorded. The interviewee was given the opportunity to listen to the recording and had the opportunity to correct any misconceptions or errors along the way. After the interview, a transcript of the interview was sent to the interviewee, who had the opportunity to make amendments or corrections

Case Studies
Each of the 27 institutions were investigated through case studies.

Roundtable Discussions
The Committee had 47 full day meetings where the chairman, members and secretariat were present. After the Committee was appointed by the County Governor, a meeting was held with the Inquiry Committee of Bergen (2003), which outlined their experiences and working methods.

Witnesses
In total 314 persons were interviewed, the majority of whom, 220 people, had lived in institutions when they were children or adolescents. 172 had lived in one of the 27 institutions examined in the report. 60 persons who worked at the institutions were interviewed. 17 of the interviewees were former employees at the Oslo Municipal Child Welfare Office and/or former members of the Oslo Child Welfare Board or Supervisory Committee.

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
The investigation primarily concerned 27 institutions. The Oslo Child Welfare Board was responsible for the supervision of 25 of these institutions. The School Board in the municipality of Oslo handled the supervision of the other two institutions.

Findings
Abuse: The Committee points to four main factors that influenced the nature and extent of abuse at the institutions: the type of institution, its size and the size of the staff crew. One key factor was who ran the institution during the relevant periods. The Committee found that physical punishment was most prevalent in the large children's homes and that penalties were harsh and systematic. Physical abuse was most common during the 1950s and 1960s. In the case of youth homes, the Committee received information about a few cases of physical abuse. These cases appeared as exceptions. The Committee was not informed that physical abuses was committed against children living in infant homes and toddlers' homes. The Committee found that in almost all institutions, there had been sexual assault, but two children's homes stood out in this regard. Some of the children were subjected to sexual abuse by other children. From the period after the first half of the 1970s, the Committee only rarely received reports of sexual abuse.

Practical and emotional care: The Committee pointed out that the social framework for meals in many of the children's homes was reprehensible during some periods under examination. Penalties in connection with meals occurred at several of the institutions until the late 1970s. The Committee found that shortcomings also arose through lack of employees in relation to the number of children. Educational provision was inadequate. In general, the Committee stated that emotional care, such as personal contact, consolation and children's feelings of safety, was most deficient in the first half of the investigated period, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Shortcomings were largely due to who controlled the institution and what attitude they had. Some of the children described the institutions in which they resided as a 'storage space' for children, not a home. In several of the institutions, children were subjected to harassment, discrimination and threats from employees.

Supervision: The Committee found that the Oslo Child Welfare Board, through its supervisory committees, failed to carry out its required duties as the controlling body of the institutions. The Committee criticised the oversight of the institutions in Oslo, which was the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs and the County Council.

Forced placement: The Committee found that most placements of children in institutions were undertaken with parental consent. It was the view of the Committee that forced placements were arranged with due preparation from the Child Welfare Office and were thoroughly considered by the Child Welfare Board.

Recommendations
In view of the supervision regulation of 1 January 2004 and a new regulation on internal control for the municipality's tasks (1 January 2006), the Committee recommended close monitoring of how the policies are applied in practice, by both the municipality and the County Governor.

Related Inquiries
Barnehjem og Spesialskoler Under lupen. Nasjonal Kartlegging av Omsorgssvikt og Overgrep I Barnevernsinstitusjoner 1945-1980, Oslo 2004 (NOU 2004:23).

Barnevernet I Norge. Tilstandsvurderinger, nye Perspektiver og Forslag til Reformer, NOU 2000:12.

Rapport, Granskningsutvalget for Barneverninstitusjoner I Bergen, 2003.

Publications

Book Sections

  • Ericsson, K., 'Children's Agency: The struggles of the Powerless', in Sköld, J., & Swain, S. (ed.), Apologies and the legacy of abuse of children in 'Care' International perspectives, Palgrave Macmillian, Basingstoke, 2015. Details

Final Reports

  • Barneverninstitusjoner benyttet av Oslo kommune 1954-1993: Granskning av overgrep, omsorgssvikt, tilsyn og tvangsplasseringer, Oslo, 2005. Details

Journal Articles

  • Bolstad, T., & Tjeldflott, T., 'Overgrep og omsorgssvikt- Granskinger av barnehjem, skolehjem og fosterhjem', Norges Barnevern(, vol. 4, 2008, pp. 26-44. Details
  • Ericsson, K., 'Tause vitner eller varslere?', Tidsskrift for velferdsforskning, vol. 17, no. 1, 2014, pp. 2-16. Details
  • Hanssen, H, 'Abuse and neglect in children's homes in the past - Implications for social work and social policy today', IUC Journal of social work theory & practice, vol. 15, no. 3, 2007/2008. Also available at http://www.bemidjistate.edu/academics/publications/social_work_journal/issue15/content. Details

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