Saturday, 10 September 2011

Goverment Decision not to Compensate Abused Swedish Foster Care Children: Hypocritical and Invalid

Early this year, a Swedish government committee revealed a scandalous rate of long-standing and severe abuse of children enrolled in the public foster care system (here, here, here, here, here, here). The deeply repugnant pattern of mistreatment goes way back in time, as far as the 1920's, and is, the committee reported, still ongoing. The committee recommended that the government, besides the obvious task of putting a halt to ongoing abuse and express an official apology to past victims, should offer substantial economic compensation to victims of abuses in the past.

Today, however, Sweden's current minister of children and the elderly, Maria Larsson (Christian Democrat), to big surprise reported that the government will not follow the recommendation of the committee (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here)  The given reason is that a compensation scheme would be impossible to implement in a fair and legally secure way. This reason, however, appears to be completely invalid and, in addition, incoherent with established policy.

The suggestion to economically compensate victims of past abuse is consistent with the way that Sweden eventually came to handle victims of the compulsory sterilisation policies that were in operation between 1935 and 1975. These were offered economic compensation (besides an official apology) and this was swiftly implemented. So, obviously, it is possible to set up a satisfactory system for compensating victims of mistreatment resulting from official policy. Maria Larsson is simply not telling the truth here. Even worse: since she is well aware of the compensation in the sterilisation case, she is deliberately holding out a pretext as good reason.

To this may be added that the compulsory sterilisation program, when it ran, was part of officially condoned policy, enjoying broad support all across the political and religious board. It was also accepted as a part of acceptable professional practice by medical doctors. The decision to compensate thus was an ethical decision, based on the assessment that although no formal error had occurred, a serious moral mistake had been made. In the case of the abuse of foster children, however, it is obvious that formal errors have been made. Not least, official agencies responsible for the administration of the system have obviously committed serious errors of neglect. So, here we have something which is both a moral and a formal fault, but then the government decides not to compensate. This is official hypocrisy at the highest level.

And allow me to become a bit personal: Maria Larsson is supposed to represent a political party the stronghold of which is held out to be politics on the basis of christian ethics, with the interests of the weakest and most vulnerable at the center of attention. How she manages to look at herself in the mirror with a straight face when making the decision revealed today is beyond me: the hypocrisy apparently goes far beyond just inconsistent and ill-considered official policy making. This shakes the very fundamentals of our country's supposed "ethical" party.

But it doesn't stop there. At the same time as Maria Larsson deliver her deeply unethical, formally erroneous decision under the smokescreen of an obviously bogus reason, she has the extremely bad taste of offering the victims of the abuses for which Swedish public institutions are both morally and formally responsible a "ceremony" where an official apology is extended, to which the victims will be invited. In short: spit in their faces and make a ceremonial bow.
 Shame, shame shame!