Serious neglect… no cultural bias: child panel head

Norway Child Welfare Services blamed family for impacting child's 'psychological health'.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Published:January 25, 2012 3:52 am

Norway custody row: Norway’s Child Welfare Services (CWS),which has been accused by an Indian couple and their families of unfairly separating their two children from them for the past few months,is said to have observed the elder of the two children — a three-year-old boy — for months before deciding on action.

It was only after the observation and multiple interviews of care-givers,play school teachers and neighbours that the CWS is said to have concluded that the child was showing “unorthodox behaviour” and the parents were guilty of a “very serious case of neglect” subject to “serious deficiencies in daily care” of the child.

It is learnt that the atmosphere in the family had impacted the “psychological health” of the child,the CWS is understood to have told the family court.

The father,Abhiroop Bhattacharya,is employed with an oil company and the mother,Sagarika,is a home-maker. “The neglect of the two children was evident after interviewing several stakeholders over several months by the child behaviour experts,” a source told The Indian Express.

A report prepared by a reputed expert appointed by the CWS led the family court,an independent body outside the control of the Norwegian government,to take a decision that the son,Abhigyan,along with his 11-month-old sister,Aishwarya,should be put under the care of foster parents.

These foster parents were chosen after “thorough scrutiny”,and not only were they “experienced” but also “well-trained” by experts.

Responding to the criticism of “feeding methods” and “sleeping arrangements”,the head of CWS in Stavanger,Gunnar Toresen told The Indian Express,“The impression given is that Norwegian authorities have intervened on the basis of cultural prejudice and that the case is a result of cultural insensitivity and as such an insult to India and Indian way of life…. As head of Child Welfare Services,I most strongly deny that this case in any way is based on cultural prejudice or misinterpretation.”

“I am unable to give any comments regarding the particular grounds in this case because of our duty of confidentiality,” said Toresen.

“The decision to remove the two children from their parents’ custody was taken by the County Committee (the family court) on November 28. The committee’s decision was unanimous…. in the ruling of the court,there are no references to the explanations given by the parents to the media as grounds for the ruling,” Toresen said.

The two children are currently in the custody of “non-Bengali-speaking parents”,sources said. But they are not being given any food,which is culturally banned as per Hindu beliefs

Cultural disconnect between the children and their foster parents is forming the basis of counter to the order of the family court,which was upheld once. Sources said this has emerged as a “legitimate concern” for the biological parents.

Also,the biological parents have questioned the report of the expert on the basis of which the family court gave its decision. The Norwegian authorities have appointed a “new expert” who is right now making an “independent assessment” of the children before submitting his report.

The two sides are now in “dialogue” and they are waiting for the court hearing at the District court to take place at the “earliest”,sources said. The Norwegian government is also going to foot the legal expenses of the Indian couple,who have filed their second appeal.

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