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Swedes Sue Over Foster Abuse

April 25, 2006 permalink

Swedes are suing for abuse in foster care. Comments follow the article.



Abused Swedes set to sue govt

Stockholm - A group of Swedes who say they were subjected to abuse while in foster care in the 1950s and 1960s announced on Monday they had filed a class-action suit against Swedish authorities and were demanding millions of dollars in damages.

"We are suing the authorities because of their lack of supervision," said Torbjoern Thunstroem, spokesperson of the Stolen Childhood Association, citing cases of sexual abuse, rape and physical beatings.

"We want compensation for our suffering. Many of us have carried this abuse through our emotional lives and have not been able to function in society.

Many of us have missed out on an education, many have had to go on disability, others have been on long-term sick leave from work. We have suffered our whole lives," said Thunstroem.

Thirty-two former foster children have signed the lawsuit submitted to Stockholm's district court, but Thunstroem said he expected their number to grow to 100.

They are demanding one million kronor (about R790 000) each for each year they were in foster care.

The lawsuit concerns children who were placed in foster care, many against their families' will, during the 1950s and 1960s, although a number of cases were more recent.

Thunstroem said authorities in some cases removed children from their homes and placed them in care merely because the parents were poor.

"If you didn't have a bed for your child, that was enough to have them take your child away," he said, speculating that social workers were "very naive back then and set very low standards" for foster families.

Thunstroem himself was placed in a foster family at the age of 11, in 1971.

"I had to sleep in the barn and had to work to pay my keep. I had to clean the barn and milk the cows...

"The whole time, I was told I was worthless. I ran away after four years," he said.

100 000 kids in care

Municipal authorities had the task of placing the children, and Monday's lawsuit was filed against the Stockholm municipal authority. Other suits are planned in the cities of Gothenburg and Malmoe.

According to the national board of health and welfare, about 100 000 children were placed in institutional care from 1950 to 1980.

Swedish authorities are investigating separately reports of abuse at the country's orphanages during that period.


Comments: This lawsuit asks from relief from the same authority that committed the abuse. The abuse of children continues in Sweden at the same rate as, or higher than, during the period covered by the litigation, so the Swedish government is unlikely to admit, through its courts, that its actions were wrongful.

Among CAS victims the most popular suggestion for relief is a class-action lawsuit. For the same reasons as in Sweden, it is unlikely to succeed. A past scandal in Canada was diverted when Canada placed the blame for abuse of aboriginal children on the churches who provided the foster care.