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Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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Denmark wants to speed up forced adoption process to take kids from birth parents

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

March 4, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Denmark’s minister for Children and Social Affairs has authored a government proposal making forced adoptions that would create definitive separations between children and birth parents easier for authorities.

Mai Mercado said in an interview with Berlingske that the biological parents’ rights would not be affected by the new rules presented to the Danish parliament on Tuesday. The conservative politician claims that the proposal would cut red tape and legal requirements during the process to provide faster outcomes and significantly reduce costs for municipal services.

“This is all with the child’s interest foremost,” she said.

Currently, when a local authority decides that biological parents will “likely never” be able to take care of a child, a request is submitted to the Social Appeals Board (“Ankestryrelsen,” or “social anchorage council”) as well as a national government body (the state administration, “Statsforvaltningen”). Both must green-light the adoption for it to go through.

A child may not be directly placed with its future adoptive parents until the procedure is completed. In the meantime, a foster family takes care of the child.

Under the proposed new rules, the Social Appeals Board would decide alone for or against the adoption. “Ankestryrelsen” is an independent body within the state. It is attached to the Danish ministry for social affairs and integration and acts as an appeal court for decisions in the domain of social and labor law.

Since 2012, its family law division has also been charged with approving religious communities. Its decisions are final.

Under Mercado’s proposed adoption rules, the requirement for children to be placed with foster families by waiting for approval would also be dropped, allowing them to join their new pre-approved family as soon as the forced adoption procedure is put into motion.

Over the last decade, Denmark has consistently reinforced its legislation allowing for the forced separation of children from their biological parents. From 2009 to 2015, local authorities could only obtain adoption without the parents’ consent if they could prove that these would “never” be able to take care of their child. Under this system, 13 children were forcibly adopted.

In October 2015, the radical social-democratic government, supported by the conservative and liberal alliance, relaxed the rules in a controversial move that allows for forced adoption when it is considered only “likely” that biological parents will never be able to bring up their children properly.

The loosely defined law triggered criticism from several political parties and human rights activists. Among others, a spokesperson for Enhedslisten, Pernille Skipper, remarked at the time: “Permanently removing children from their parents is an extremely serious matter. How do you assess that the parents will never be able to play a positive role in the child’s life? (…) Just because the parents are mentally handicapped or have an abuse problem doesn’t rule it out that at some stage they might be able to be there for the child in some way or other.”

Since the rule changed, the number of forced adoptions has risen somewhat, but the statistics are not clear. CPHPost Denmark wrote in 2017 that in more than two years since the rules were changed, 17 cases were recorded. New figures speak of 22 requests submitted by local authorities since 2015, of which 16 were approved by the Social Appeals Board, according to Berlingske. Other sources speak of six adoptions since October 2015.

At any rate, Danish municipalities appear to have been wary of initiating the procedure despite the legal adjustments in 2015. A report published in September 2018 by Ankestryrelsen said 49 municipalities had considered using the forced adoption procedure between October 2015 and March 2018 in 103 to 109 affairs but gave up in most cases.

According to the report, the reason given was that the procedure is lengthy – up to two years – and costly. Local authorities also deplored the fact that foster families do not have the possibility of adopting a child they are taking care of under the current procedure.

Clearly, Mercado has taken all of these effects into account in a bid to allow municipalities to be more “flexible” in their decision to initiate a forced adoption process. The figures from Ankestryrelsen suggest that there could be a great deal more of these procedures.

Some organizations for the protection of children are in favor of the new rules. Rasmus Kjeldahl, director fo Børns Vilkår (“Children’s conditions”), reacted to the proposal by saying he hopes there will be “some more cases; it's probably an instrument that should be used a bit more in the children's own interest.”

He added that it is true in some cases biological parents can end up becoming capable of looking after their own children. But it is generally “too late,” he added, saying it is not good for a child to be placed in random foster families while waiting for its parents to be capable of looking after children.

Benny Andersen, federal president of social educators, does not agree. He is concerned that forced adoptions will gain traction over the coming years because of the upcoming new rules and become an “ordinary tool” in difficult cases. While acknowledging that some parents are not capable of bringing up a child, he recalls the well-documented fact that they have an important role to play in their offspring’s lives.

“That door is completely shut when you withdraw the parents from the equation,” he remarked on socialpaedagogen.sl.dk, adding that it is for the children themselves that biological parents should be a part of their lives.

Some examples of “incapable” parents provide an idea of the great variety of possible motives for separating of them from their children, he said. Some are away every two days, he said, and others don't give their children food or send them to sleep regularly. They simply can't give them the stability, the security and the love that are at the basis of a child's life.

Of course, he added, children should not grow up with violence and abuse from adults who cannot meet their fundamental needs, so he does not reject forced adoption on principle. But he did call it a “serious and violent decision” both for the parents and the children involved.

Andersen suggests that the parents need to be helped and their children need to know how they are evolving. For example, are they fighting against an alcohol addiction, have they moved, are they looking for work?

There is a world of difference between irregular sleep habits and full-fledged abuse, but appreciating exactly what constitutes a reason for forced adoption can theoretically mean any of these things given the vague definition of the “likely” impossibility of ever being capable of bringing up a child.

Besides, similar to its Scandinavian neighbor, Denmark is a welfare state and even a nanny state where public authorities widely use taxpayer money to adapt everyday life to its vision.

Mercado’s legal adjustments will give more power to the Danish state to interfere with children’s education and parents’ primary rights regarding their own offspring. As the dictatorship of relativism progresses, these are dangerous tools to put into the hands of government.

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