In Denmark, ensuring that all children and youth are well and live in secure conditions is the duty of the municipalities. If a municipality finds that a child or a youth does not live in secure conditions in its home, the municipality has authority to remove the child from the home and place it with a foster family or in a residential institution.
The forced removal of a child by a municipality often happens because the municipality assesses that the child is subject to serious neglect, violence or abuse, or because the municipality assess that the child is suffering from serious behavioural or adaptive issues.
In cases of forced removal, you and your child - provided your child is at least 12 years of age - are entitled to free legal advice. This applies to the administration of the case by the municipality’s Children and Youth Committee (“Børn- og Ungeudvalg”), by the Social Appeals Board (“den Sociale Ankestyrelse”) and by the courts.
It is important that you are represented by a lawyer who is experienced in cases on forced removal.
At ADVODAN, we offer you the choice of several lawyers who specialise in forced placements and we offer you professional advice and support throughout the process, ensuring that the matter is settled in a manner that best serves your and your child’s interests. As lawyers, our foremost obligation is protecting the child or youth – and ensuring that you, the parent, are protected against attacks from the authorities when a child is put in forced placement without consent.
The provisions on forced removal basically apply to all children and youth under the age of 18, who are present in Denmark – regardless of whether or not they are Danish citizens, regardless of why they are in Denmark and regardless of how long they have been in Denmark. This basically means that the municipality may forcibly remove any child or youth present in Denmark, if necessary. This also means that you, the parent, are entitled to free legal advice – regardless of whether or not you are a Danish citizen.
Seek legal advice early in the process
If the municipality considers forcibly removing your child, you need to seek legal advice as soon as possible. The earlier the lawyer is involved, the better the chances of protecting your right to a due process, ensuring that the municipality complies with all relevant rules, and starting a constructive dialogue, which may avoid the forced removal altogether.
This is how a case on forced removal progresses
When the municipality intends to forcibly remove a child, the matter must be discussed and approved by the municipality’s Children and Youth Committee. Every municipality in Denmark has such a Committee. If the municipality finds that the forced removal is acutely required, the chairman of the Committee may decide the matter unilaterally; however, his or her decision must be approved by the Children and Youth Committee at a meeting as soon as possible thereafter, and no later than within a week.
Before a forced removal is discussed by the Children and Youth Committee, the municipality must ensure that sufficient information is available on the issues. This happens, amongst others, through a caseworker’s investigation of the circumstances of the child or youth, through a plan of action being set out, and through consultations with the parties involved.
You have the right to be involved in the matter. This means that you, the parent, have the right to be heard on the matter. The municipality is not permitted to forcibly remove the child, if there is a less drastic measure available. This could, for example, be support at home and the municipality is under an obligation to consider this in each individual case.
You also have right of access to the documents available to the municipality, and you ought to ensure that you make use of this right on an ongoing basis. Many parents find that the municipality’s understanding of the issues or of meetings differs from their own. Therefore, it is important that you are always aware of the municipality’s understanding and that you are aware of the documents, which the municipality has available.
It is a good idea to bring a lay representative when you meet with the municipality. It is also a good idea to prepare your own minutes of the meetings. In this way, you ensure that the municipality’s understanding of the matter is not the only one considered.
Although you may feel very badly treated by the municipality, our experience is that the best way forward is to participate in a good and constructive dialogue with the municipality.
If you, the parent, disagree with the decision of the Children and Youth Committee, you may file a complaint with the Social Appeals Board. The decision of the Social Appeals Board may subsequently be brought before the court.