Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bringing Up Children The Nor Way? No Way, Norway!

Ah, the great Nor Way! A way of bringing up children that appears neither to help the children nor the parents, yet, it is the way, the Nor Way! It plucks children from a mother’s breast and a kindergarten they run probably all to spot that child with the slightest difference. They have decided what is normal and any behaviour that deviates from that is abnormal and must be made normal by removing from the parental influence into the waiting arms of foster parents. Those foster parents, of course, must have the best parenting skills on this earth.
What are those best parenting skills? I really have no idea. How can I? I am only the mother of offspring who have grown up to be good human beings and also a scientist and a manager and who are loving and caring and stay in regular touch with me by calling me almost every day and share most of their joys and sorrows. This contact of the daughters with their mother too must be pretty abnormal in many societies and could be ground for thinking that my children should have been taken away from me and put in foster care.
Well, I too am guilty of the four sins that Sagarika and Anurup Bhattacharya are and many more .
Sin No. 1 Feeding my children with hands/fingers. I did that on so many occasions and never once thought it was a crime. The worst part is that I knew of the so called correct practices, had studied them in my Child Psychology and Child Care classes. I had not only read but also owned that book on Child Care by Dr Spock, yet, I decided not to follow him. 
Sin No. 2 Children sleeping with parents.  In spite of there being separate rooms and beds for the children we allowed the children to sleep with us as a treat on special occasions.
Sin No. 3 Erratic behavior of child in school.  Haha, I distinctly remember the vivid description given  by my daughters of the incidence when my elder daughter  all of seven years found her three year old younger sister crying in her KG class and grabbed her hand and took her to her class. How could she let her little sister cry! That they mostly topped their classes and were leaders and went on to represent their schools and be school prefect etc  is another matter. But as far as erratic behaviour  is concerned, yes, many a times.
Sin No.4 Four month old baby did not look at the mother. Well, we never put them to this test. But I do remember an even more interesting case. Had I been in Norway, I am sure my child would not have been allowed with me another minute. My husband had been transferred to Mumbai. My fifteen months old daughter and I were staying with my parents in Pune till he found a flat to rent in Mumbai. My daughter was very attached to her father (which does not automatically mean that she was not attached to me) and cried for him every night. When he managed to rent a flat and we were finally going to Mumbai by train, she was very happy and excited. As our station was nearing my husband started arranging our luggage and went near the door to look for a porter. My daughter thought he was again leaving us and started screaming. She just wanted to get off my lap and run to him. Anyone looking for finding faults in my parenting skills and those not even looking out for them would have thought I had kidnapped my daughter.
Well, these four were similar to the sins of Sagarika and Anurup. Mine must have been 400. My  daughter refused to sleep and I never could follow Dr Spock and put her in her bed in a separate room and let her cry herself to sleep. I carried her in my arms the whole night and sang lullabies.    When she refused to eat I roamed about the house with her in my arms and a bowl of her food and feeding her while singing songs for her. However wrong that method might have been in the eyes of various cultures, it worked for both her and I, she was healthy and happy and we are both happy enjoying the best relationship a mother and daughter can hope to have.
We in India and probably in most parts of the world have parents and children who are individuals. We are not made in factories and are not uniform like peas in a pod. We don’t really go by a book alone while raising our children and go by what we have learnt in our society and by common sense. That might not be good enough for Norway, so I suggest they should just tell people from other cultures with different value systems and ways of bringing up children to just pack up and go home and not kidnap their babies, especially when neither the babies nor the parents are their citizens.
Norway has a program to ensure the welfare of its children. Any parent who does not come up to its exacting standard is not allowed to keep the child and such children are handed over to foster parents or institutes to bring up. I am very sure that the idea behind this must have been very good and idealistic. But as usually happens in most cases, the system becomes greater than the people it was created to serve. The state must be spending a great deal of money and effort on running this foster care system. Would it not be better if a small part of it was spent on educating and helping the biological parents to become the kind of parents the state wants them to be. It would save both the parents and children a lot of heartache.
It is possible that Sagarika is not the ideal ‘ Norway’ mother. Maybe, not even an ideal mother in any other way. Yet, if she was breast feeding her baby, there could not be any better feed for her baby than her mother’s milk. Or has that country come up with some better feed? Can there be a warmer place than a mother’s arms?
They say Sagarika shouted at the police station so she is not capable of looking after her children. What is wrong in a distressed mother screaming at her tormentors? She seems docile to me. If someone had tried to snatch my child from my arms, they would have had to almost chop my arms off to get at my child.
This whole saga of children being snatched from their parents is very sad. The intentions might be great but we all know that unless the parents are absolute sadists or suffering from dangerous incurable mental health disorders, there is no reason to take children away from them. Norway has to show some proof that children brought up in foster homes do better in life than those brought up in their biological families. I have only found (on the net and it could be wrong) what
Research on children and young people in foster care

“According to Egelund (2009) and Backe-Hansen (2010) there is no Nordic/British research with strong enough methodology that can predict outcomes of out-of-home placements. Clausen and Kristofersen (2008) have found that young Norwegian adults with care careers (both foster homes and residential care) have severe problems after the transition to adult life. They face a larger risk than their peers to have low income and no higher education. They are more likely to suffer various illnesses and die in a young age. They also are convicted of crimes more often than their peers who have not been in care.

Despite these statistics, it is widely assumed that foster care has a very positive impact on children and young people at the time of placement and while they are staying in the foster home. Some of the problems they face in independent life may be more rooted in their problematic family histories before they came into care, while some problems too may be related to insufficient support and other forms of follow-up assistance after they have left care.”
 If this is true than why should parents and children go through this trauma of a separation?  Separation could be justified if a very large percentage of children brought up in foster care did extremely well in life, much better than those raised in their biological or troubled homes.     
says this about the approval process foster parents…….
“Approval process
Child welfare services in Norway are required to approve every new foster home. In order to avoid possible favoritism, the child welfare services in a district other than the one where the placement is to occur are required to make the final approval. This approval process is much concerned with insuring the foster parent’s general ability to bring up children as well as the suitability of the foster home for each child in question. In Norway great emphasis is placed on the needs of the individual child as a guide for the choice of the foster home. The question of matching is considered an important one and special consideration is given to the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background. A central guiding principle is that the child welfare services should have the best interest of the child in mind. The Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs has issued guidelines stressing that if someone is related through kinship with the child or in other ways has a close relationship with the child, they should be looked upon as the preferred choice – if they are judged as qualified in terms of the aforementioned criteria. The biological parents of the child should always be invited to give their opinion when the foster home is chosen. If the child is 7 years old or older, her/his feelings about the placement are by law to be elicited.

The child welfare services in charge of a placement offer specialized training for new foster parents in what is called the Pride training program. This is a course based on ten three-hour sessions. In addition the workers of the child welfare services make four visits to the proposed foster home for each child.”
Why would they talk about favouritism unless people had something to gain from becoming foster parents? Had it been a selfless service there would not have been any mention of favouritism.
If Child Welfare Services could provide ten three hours training sessions to future foster parents why can they not provide the same to the biological parents?
“The social services even advertise for foster parents to take on a foster child at a salary of over NOK 300.000 per year (approx. 40.000 Euros). Additional remuneration per extra child, often plus tax free “expense coverage” plus paid vacation on the Mediterranean, etc.
Recently foster parents have also had the monthly child benefit put at their disposal. The child benefit for a child not living with its parents was previously to be saved up in a bank account for the child, to be given over to the child at 18, or when it was allowed to move back to its parents.”
If this is true then there is something very wrong somewhere. All I can say is that parents of minors must think more than twice before they decide to immigrate to a country where your child is no longer yours. No amount of money, opportunity or the promise of good life is worth it. We must read the fine print with a very good magnifying glass before we decide to go and live in another country.
Mired Mirage

PS: Even if the children are reunited with their parents or grandparents the children Abhigyan and Eshvarya must have forgotten their parents, their mother tongue and all things connected with their culture. I hope Sagarika and Anurup Bhattacharya had the sense to become more fluent in Norvegian language  because now that must be the only language they would be able to connect with their children in.
Mired Mirage


अफ़लातून said...

सामाजिक समझदारी और बच्चों की परवरिश पर बुनियादी चर्चा के लिए आभार।

P.N. Subramanian said...

Very well written. It appears that in Norway, there are ample number of families, without issues, who get a handsome income by becoming fosters. The local administration seems to be witch hunting to help them.