Panik og frygt styrer kamp imod misbrug
You harmed a family
By Trine Munk Petersen7 December 2002
Personal in social management thought the family was about to go off track when the municipal staff support person came with an increasing number of reports of how badly it went. Nobody suspected the caregiver before she abducted the child she was given to help.
Eight-year-old Rasmus is in his element. With one hand firmly on the older brother Peter's shoulder teetering on a blue nylon rope that is stretched over one meter above the ground between the playground swing set and jungle gym. Back and forth, back and forth without falling down. Every time he comes to the end of the rope he sends a happy smile for the photographer.
Rasmus is now a happy, active and loving boy. He is not like some other shy and humanly hostile autistic children. He thrives in his life where he from Monday to Friday lives in a special institution for autistic children, while weekends and all holidays spent at home with family in Bagsvaerd.
Three years ago, Rasmus' parents, Marianne Munck and Torben Riis-Nielsen, never thought they ever would again see their son so happy and at ease. At that time a conflict with Gladsaxe social services sent the whole family into a deep crisis. For a long time Rasmus' parents do not know why things ran more and more awry for them and why they caseworkers were more and more skeptical about whether the parents were even able to look after their child.
Only when the municipal staff support person, one who should help and relieve the family, dramatically abducted Rasmus and only handed him back when the police became involved, the they realised what the problem was.
And employees in the administration became aware that there was something wrong with the support person, because the reports they had full confidence in repeatedly recommended that Rasmus should be more away from home and less with his parents."It was actually only then, I realized that it was not Marianne that was hypersensitive and hysterical when she claimed that the support person interacted and slandered about us to the administration," says Torben Riis-Nielsen.
"It was scary, we nearly had a broken relationship broke on that account because Marianne was under so much pressure and not supported by any body, not even from me," he adds.But how can it be that social workers in a local government receive one incriminating report after another about a family without ever seriously confronting the family with accusations?
"Misunderstandings were in my opinion already founded when Rasmus was just a year old," says Torben Riis-Nielsen:"The health care nurse noted that he did not behave like other babies, including that it was difficult to make eye contact with him.
It was initially interpreted as being a result of lack of stimulation, as well as possile neglect on our part. And although a child psychiatric examination, quickly established that Rasmus' deviant behavior was due to a disability called 'infantile autism', the suspicion that we were unable to take care of our child, apparently stuck.
"Marianne and Torben had no details og this before they several years later sought access to their case and got familiar with the notes written by ever changing caseworkers, about them in journals."It was a big shock for us and terrible to read all the things about us that we could not recognize.
Things shown to be wrong, not to say outright lies - and stuff that had just been allowed to pile up in our journal without our knowledge" says Torben.The volume of misunderstandings was probably the reason why changing caseworkers did not react when the family's new support person, who was hired in 1998, gradually began to make more and more serious allegations and more reports about the parents' lack of being able to care for Rasmus and their bad influence on his well-being.
"In the beginning we were actually very happy to have her, she had a good grip on Rasmus, and it was a welcome help in periods when I was very hung up professionally. But after a while began Marianne feel that the support person "running around the bush" with us. She made statements about our agreements, she claimed that we had forgotten what was agreed, and interfered in things that was not her job, "says Torben Riis-Nielsen.The couple have never concealed, the fact that Marianne Munck had some mental problems, problems that she since childhood have had to be treated for.
But instead of supporting her and show respect, Marianne Munck felt, that the support person used his knowledge to run her down mentally.In the journal, parents have subsequently been able to read the many reports that Rasmus did not thrive, and that the parents had been unable to give him the structured life, an autistic child needs.
The support person discloses, in no uncertain terms that Rasmus has got worse after having been on holiday with his parents and 11-month educational work now is wasted. She suggested that Rasmus then stays a whole week with her."But did not at all agree. We had allready decided, that the support person had been given too many days with Rasmus and we gradually began to doubt whether he really had it so good with her, as she claimed," says Torben."When he came home after a long period of time with her, we could see that he had lost weight, his teeth looked as if they had not been brushed for several days, and he was much more grumpy and hard to please, than when we handed him to her."Torben Riis-Nielsen have since repeatedly asked themselves what could be the motive for the slander she exposed the family to.
"And the only logical answer I can think of is money," he says. "The more we looked incompetent, the more care would be would recommend by the municipality, and the more money the support person would earn. The goal was probably that Rasmus should completely removed from our home and placed with her full time.
And I must admit that when I read the reports about us, I was amazed that the municipality did not progress to a forced removal of Rasmus", he says. A weekend in mid-December the caregiver took Rasmus with her, without the parents permission and and refused for several days to return him. The support person was promptly fired, and for the next four months, Rasmus' father recieved salary compensation to be able to part time care for him at home.
"The four months gave us the opportunity to prove to ourselves and the world that we largely powerless to take care of Rasmus. All have recognized the positive developments that happened to him during that period, "says Torben Riis-Nielsen: The long-standing conflict with the municipality, however, has had serious consequences for the family.
Certainly thrive Rasmus again, but Marianne Munck had to have prolonged psychological treatment to get over the psychological problems, the continual distrust inflicted her. And Torben Riis-Nielsen, a university educated biologist, is currently unemployed, because the thought of the injustice, his family has been subjected to, eventually made it impossible for him to concentrate on his research.
Now he uses instead all her spare time to help other parents who similarly pinned in the municipal system."But our own case virtually never ends," Torben Riis-Nielsen points out: "As long as our journal at the municipality is filled with false information about us, we will always live with the uncertainty that the old information can and will be used against us, f. eks. if it ever comes to forcibly placing Rasmus against our will.
"The family has corrected alot of the Journal's information, but most things are allegations, that is impossible to do anything about. There is no time limitation, and details can not be deleted or corrected.Torben Riis-Nielsen and his family's troubles culminated in December 2000. Since then, Gladsaxe made what looks like a U-turn on its way to tackle social issues when they a year ago adopted a new set of rules and objectives for their social work."Our position today is that parents are an important partner, and to be able to work closely with the parents of the child is crucial," says the head of the social services family department, Susanne Kitaj. She took only her position in August 2001 and cannot and will not comment on the case."Today we have a clear statement of intent that the family must constantly be able to keep track of what is written about them in the journal, and if there is a disagreement, the family's position is also apparent," she says.
"There is no doubt that precise records is an extremely sensitive area, and the way we as professionals write things, it can easily be offensive. Therefore it is important that the family knows what considerations we make - and why we believe as we do. "Susanne Kitaj also hope to eventually have a booklet that tells the family department users which rights they have, including to follow its own documents. http://www.b.dk/danmark/man-gjorde-en-familie-fortraed