Romanian family living in Norway get their children back after seven months

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 15.48.16Romanian Marius Bodnariu and his Norwegian wife Ruth Bodnariu will reunite with their children after nearly seven months, as the Naustdal Municipality in Norway has agreed to return all of their five children.

Marius and Ruth Bodnariu have been living in Norway for more than 10 years. Their life changed in mid-November last year, when the Norwegian child protection services (Barnevernet) took their five children and placed them in foster homes for alleged mistreatment. The youngest of the children was only three months old when the authorities took him.

The case triggered many reactions and protests in Romania and abroad as thousands rallied in front of Norway’s embassies asking that the children be returned to their family. The protests, which were coordinated through social media, took place all around the world, from Melbourne in Australia to Portland in the US.

In Romania, thousands rallied in the big cities in support of the Bodnarius. The protests prompted a group of Romanian MPs to visit Norway and talk to the authorities about this case.

“We thank you all for your love, support, prayers, and active participation in the reunification of this family. May God richly bless you and repay you for all you have done to bring this family back together. It is very important for all of us to respect the privacy and uninterrupted intimacy of this family in the following period as the children resettle and reintegrate themselves in their natural family home and environment,” reads a statement of the family.

The Bodnariu case was also reflected in the international media and fueled concern within the country and abroad over Norway’s child protection practices. The Norwegian law is very strict and states that parents are forbidden to physically discipline their children. The social workers, however, have been quick to separate children from their families, with too little justification, particularly when one or both of the parents were immigrants, BBC wrote in April.

Norwegian officials said the protests and the media coverage in this particular case were part of a well-coordinated campaign against the country’s child protection services.

On Thursday, June 2, Romanian MP Ben Oni Ardelean announced in a Facebook post that a report on the Bodnariu case was approved in the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE).

“Today, the members of the Committee for Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have decided to elaborate a Draft Report on: “Striking a balance between the best interest of the child and need to keep the families together”. […] The report will consider to which extent the abusive measures taken by the Childcare Social Services (Barnevernet) from Norway are compatible with the Council of Europe’s standards in this specific field, and the resolution, which will draw the main conclusions from the report, will make concrete legislative recommendations to the Norwegian competent authorities,” reads the Facebook post.