Three children in Sweden were sent to foster care after their parents took radical measures in an effort to protect them from the coronavirus.
The court ruled that the parents’ “psychological ill health and fear for COVID-19 had led to serious failings in the care for their children.”
The parents withdrew their three children from school in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Europe. The children were isolated in separate rooms, and wooden planks were nailed over the front door of the family’s apartment in an effort to keep COVID-19 out of the home.
The parents denied that their children had been forced to remain at home, saying they were free to leave the apartment at any time. Their eldest child, however, said her parents’ claims were untrue.
The court found that “as a result of the parents’ fear, the social services have had difficulty cooperating with them. … From the hearing, it seems that they continue to have an ambivalent attitude to letting the children leave home to go, for example, to school.”
Mikael Svegfors, a lawyer representing the children, argued that a language and cultural barrier was to blame. The couple, originally from Vietnam, “really didn’t understand Swedish” and relied on news in their native language.
“Over there, they shut down whole cities, and they got scared, and they said, ‘We need to protect our family,'” Svegfors said.
Sweden did not implement a lockdown in response to the coronavirus, with schools, businesses, and public transportation kept open. Dr. Anders Tegnell, who is responsible for the country’s COVID-19 response, said that the virus will be around for years, which makes lockdowns unsustainable.
The children, who are all fluent in Swedish, remained in contact with classmates and teachers using tablets and cellphones. Svegfors said they tried to convince their parents to let them outside, but they were unsuccessful.
The three children have been placed in a foster home and have returned to school. They can also visit their parents as often as they wish.
The court will review the placement in six months.
“They still want to be with their parents,” Svegfors said. “They just said, ‘We need to concentrate on our school work, and we want to be able to play with our friends. But as soon as this corona pandemic is over, we want to return to our family.'”