Five Norwegian children who were seized by the country’s child welfare services department were allowed to see their parents this week—for the first time in three months.
As previously reported, in November, the Barnevernet seized Marius and Ruth Bodnariu’s two daughters, two sons and their baby, Ezekiel. The two eldest children were reportedly removed from school without their parents knowledge, and then Barnevarnet representatives arrived with police at the Bodnariu home, where welfare services seized the remaining children, minus the baby.
The organization returned the following day and removed the infant as well after the family tried to resolve the matter after being arrested.
Marius Bodnariu’s brother, Daniel, who is a pastor, explained in an online statement that the matter began when the children’s principal contacted welfare services after expressing concerns over how they were being raised, including in regard to the family’s Christian beliefs.
“The process of confiscating the Bodnariu children started when the Vevring School principal, the middle school attended by Eliana and Naomi, called the Barnevernet and expressed her concerns regarding the girls’ religious upbringing, her understanding that the girls are being disciplined at home, and that she considers the parents and grandmother to be radical Christians; an overriding concern that the principal’s perception of the parents’ and grandmother’s religious beliefs inhibit and handicap the girls’ development,” he outlined.
But the discussion also turned to abuse allegations as Barnevernet expressed concern that the children might have been spanked, which is illegal in Norway.
In a website created to provide updates on the situation, Ruth Bodnariu’s father states that the children were not abused and that the parents never even raised their voices.
“We who live here in the home and have had the children around us since they were born, must be the ones who know best how the children have been with their parents,” he wrote. “Grandmother has at times taken much care of the children. When they came from school and the parents were not at home, the kids were with us. When their present home was being refurbished, the whole family lived with us for six months, and we thereby had full insight into their upbringing.”
“We can assure that we have never seen that violence has been used against the children,” the grandfather continued. “Not even that they have raised their voices to them. The children themselves have never told us that the parents have been nasty to them.”
He reiterated that the family’s faith was indeed cited by the school principal in her initial phone call to Barnevernet, as she asserted that the Bodnariu’s beliefs about sin and judgment “inhibits the children.”
On Tuesday, for the first time in three months, the Bodnariu’s were able to see their children for three hours.
“It was such a happy reunion, for everybody had so much to say: Naomi couldn’t stop talking; Ioan, the two-year-old boy, had learned a few more words and had a lot to say also. Baby Ezekiel was happier than ever,” Pastor Cristian Ionescu, a friend of the family, outlined on the support website.
“They talked, they played, and then they sat at the table to eat, but only after they prayed and sang a little prayer-song they used to sing before eating,” he said.
But Ionescu also noted that the Bodnariu’s were concerned about a comment relayed by one of their daughters.
“Naomi said something worrisome to the parents, that she doesn’t want them to die so soon because she still has many things to learn from them,” he explained. “Who would put such things in the minds of children?! Where is the superior interest of the children when terrorizing them with the thought that their parents would die?!”
“The children cannot understand why they can’t stay with their parents but, instead, have to go to stranger,” Ionescu continued. “It is more clear by the day that in spite of their official smiles and the assurances that they are looking for the good of the family and the superior interest of the child, Barnevernet’s goal is to permanently keep the children…”
The Bodnariu’s must still go to trial and Barnevernet is seeking to have the children evaluated by a psychologist.
Protests have been held in countries throughout the world in support of the Bodnariu family.