News Foreign policy Ministry Travel to Poland
THEY WROTE ABOUT US
Norway is going to change its practice related to taking away children from Polish families - PAP was informed by the foreign affairs vice minister Artur Nowak-Far. Each case will be reported to the Polish consul, who would assist in clarifying the given case – also with respect to cultural differences in the approach to children.
This arises from the recently growing number of Polish children placed away from their family home – in institutions and foster families – following an intervention of the Norwegian Office for the Protection of Child Rights. In 2012 the Polish consular services recorded three such cases, five in 2013 and 27 in 2014.
In an interview with PAP vice minister Nowak-Far remarked that those figures are not fully reliable, because a part of the occurring cases have not been notified to the Polish consuls at all.
The MFA decided to intervene - at the end of 2014 a diplomatic note was sent to the Norwegian government, in which the MFA asked for decisive actions to be undertaken to change the practices of Norwegian services. "We complained of lack of familiarity with the cultural context and adopting stereotypes in assessing the situation in a given family. We had a negative opinion of the interpretation of the behaviour of Polish parents in Norway" - stated the vice minister.
The Office for the Protection of Child Rights may intervene if a child cries or screams. In the vice minister’s opinion the approach of Norwegians to children differs from that of the Poles. In Norway a policeman might intervene when a mother is heard to threaten her badly behaving child that if it does not stop “she would kill it". The vice minister said that in Poland no decisive reaction of nearby persons is to be expected to such a statement made by a parent, yet in Norway it may be taken quite literally.
At the beginning of September the Polish ministry received a response to the diplomatic note, in which Norway announced a change would be incorporated to its practices. It announced that Polish consular services would be informed of each case of a Polish child examined by Office for the Protection of Child Rights.
In the opinion of vice minister Nowak-Far "this will make things much easier". "In some cases a child was taken away from the family and placed in an institution or foster family merely on the basis of premises of incidents disquieting from the viewpoint of Norwegian services, and the Polish consulate was either not informed or informed too late, when the case was already outdated" – explained the vice minister.
Meanwhile, as was emphasised by Mr Nowak-Far – a rapid response of the consul is of great importance, because at an early stage the consul can assist by easing and providing clarifications in cases in which the behaviour of Polish parents in relation to their children is misinterpreted. "The consul becomes a liaison officer between the legal system of the host country and the Polish one, and is also available to provide advice as to the potential clarification of cultural differences" – emphasised Mr Nowak-Far.
In the opinion of vice minister Nowak-Far, these can “be quite significant” as regards the approach to children. In his opinion the Norwegian law treats the rights of children in a specific way, yet the Polish regulations tend to regulate this issue in a similar restrictive way; problems may arise in the first place from cultural differences of Poles in Norway. "Norwegians are highly sensitive to the welfare of children and it should be borne in mind that in this country certain forms of behaviour considered to be normal in Poland are unacceptable in Norway, where nobody shouts at children or even raises their voice" – said the vice minister.
In the vice minister’s opinion it is natural that the Norwegians alarm the appropriate services when they suspect that in their neighbourhood something bad could be taking place, or if they hear screaming or crying of children. "If the office shares such suspicions, it may apply means securing the child’s rights to protect it from potential physical or psychical aggression in the family, which may consist in placing in an institution or a foster family for the time of the proceedings " – said Mr. Nowak-Far.
Furthermore, the vice head of the MFA also remarked that Polish parents should also be sensitive to the issue of the child’s integration with the local community. The Norwegians may find it disquieting if a child is isolated from the Norwegian community, speaks no Norwegian and is not learning it. "In the opinion of the Norwegians failure to participate in Norwegian social life is a fact that impairs the future life of the child, limits its chances to find a good school and a profitable job. And that is why such cases may also be reported to the Office " – emphasised Mr. Nowak-Far.
Thanks to changes in the hitherto practice, the Polish consult involved in the proceedings before the Office for the Protection of Child Rights "would keep an eye on the officials" and would react in the event of discrimination of a Polish citizen living abroad or if the rights of such a citizen were violated. Consular services would also inform the family of its rights and provide advice as to what should be done in the given situation.
Mr Nowak-Far also remarked that it would be up to the family whether it would decide to take up assistance of Polish consular services. The child and its legal guardian may not grant consent to notifying the consul of the child being detained.
The Norwegian Office for the Protection of Child Rights will also be obliged to inform Polish families of their right to apply to the Polish consulate.
The vice minister of foreign affairs also recommends that in contact with the Norwegian Office for the Protection of Child Rights the Poles should endeavour to clarify the situation as quickly as possible and never avoid contacts with relevant services, because that may only give rise to further tension. Each notification of the Office would be duly examined, and Mr Nowak-Far emphasises that „refusal to let the service enter your home would only aggravate the situation even further".
Source: PAP, mce/ mok/