Bodnariu kids to go home

A Norwegian-Romanian couple whose battle with Norwegian Child Welfare Services spurred global protests will get their children back

The Local

The Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet) in Naustdal Municipality has agreed to return the five children it took from Marius and Ruth Bodnariu, the couple’s law firm Stiegler announced on June 3.

Marius Bodnariu is a Romanian citizen while Ruth Bodnariu is a Norwegian. The couple had their five children removed by authorities last November after officials accused them of domestic violence.

The Bodnarius went to court to get back the children, who had been placed in three different foster homes in western Norway. In April, the Fjordane District Court ruled that the couple should get back custody of their youngest child. Now the parents will be reunited with their other four children as well.

Under the agreement announced on June 3, the Bodnarius will have their children returned but will have to continue to cooperate with local officials to create a stable and safe environment for the family.

“I’m glad to hear that the parents and Barnevernet have come to an agreement and will cooperate so that the children can move back in with their parents. Now we will respect the children and the family by complying with their request for peace,” Minister of Children and Equality Solveig Horne said.

Case protested worldwide
The Bodnariu family’s case become a rallying point for both Romanians and the international Pentecostal community worldwide.

In an interview on Romanian television, the couple admitted to occasionally spanking their children and pulling them by the ears even though they knew that such methods are illegal in Norway.

Many of the couple’s supporters argue that the children were removed from the home due to fears of Pentecostal indoctrination.

Although theirs is just one of many cases in which parents have accused Barne­vernet of kidnapping their children, the Bodnariu family’s situation played a big part in coordinated global protests in April that brought tens of thousands of people to the streets of more than 50 different cities to protest against the Norwegian agency.

For months, the Bodnariu case has been a major news story in Romania and a high-level Romanian delegation traveled to Norway to push the Norwegian authorities to reverse their decision in the case.

One of many
But their case does not stand alone, and Norway has also seen its diplomatic ties with other nations tested over Barnevernet’s actions. In February 2015, Czech President Milos Zeman compared Barnevernet to the “Lebensborn,” the welfare centers set up by the Nazis in order to boost the “Aryan race.”

Relations between Norway and India soured several years ago over the case of an Indian couple whose children were taken away, while citizens of Russia, Lithuania, and Brazil, among other countries, have also accused Norway of abusing authority and ruining families.

Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský, a leading voice amongst Barnevernet’s critics, told The Local that the reversal on the Bodnariu case shows that Norway has clearly been affected by the negative global attention.

“This news really made my day and I am convinced that this was possible mainly due to huge international pressure and protests worldwide,” Zdechovský said.

Through their lawyers, the Bodnariu family said they look forward to a return to normalcy.
“The family wishes to thank everyone who has supported them throughout this very difficult time,” their lawyers’ statement said.

While the Bodnariu case may now be put to rest, critics of Barnevernet plan to continue to protest against the agency. Organizers told The Local that a demonstration had been scheduled in Oslo for June 11 and some 2,000 people were expected to attend.

This article was originally published on The Local.

It also appeared in the June 17, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Norwegian American Logo

The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.