Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway: We Train Workers in Cultural Competence, Says Embassy

As the debate grows louder, we reached out to the Norwegian Embassy about the allegations raised in the film.

South Asians
5 min read
Hindi Female

After Rani Mukherjee-starrer Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway was released across theatres in Indian on Friday, 17 March, the Norwegian Ambassador Hans Jacob Frydenlund came out with a statement against the movie, alleging that "it incorrectly depicts Norway's belief in family life and our respect for different cultures."

In a tweet, he said: "Child welfare is a matter of great responsibility, never motivated by payments or profit."

Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway is inspired by the story of Sagarika Chakraborty, whose two children were separated from her by the Norwegian Child Welfare Service in 2011, allegedly due to cultural differences. 

Responding to his allegation, Sagarika said: "I condemn the false statement by the Norwegian ambassador in the papers today... Till today, they have not apologised for the racism of their care workers. They destroyed my life and my reputation, traumatised my children, and supported my husband when he was cruel to me and they call themselves a feminist country."


As the debate grows louder, The Quint reached out to The Royal Norwegian Embassy about the allegations raised in the film. The spokesperson of the embassy, Manu Arya, responded to us via email. This what they had to say:

The film 'Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway' shows Norwegian officials as insensitive towards cultures of other countries. In real life, how does Norway strive towards ensuring inclusivity and cultural sensitivity among its officials?

Cultural competence and the importance of considering the child and the parents' cultural and religious background are stressed throughout the legal framework of Norway's Child Welfare Service, and in the recommendations and guidelines that follow from it.

To enable case workers in the Child Welfare Service to fulfill these obligations, there is a focus on cultural competence in different training programmes.

Among other things, cultural competence and sensitivity is made an obligatory part of the Master's degrees offered in Norway in child welfare and child welfare work.


The film shows the Child Welfare Service taking away the kids without informing their parents. What is the process behind removing kids from their households?

An emergency order can be made by the leader of the local Child Welfare Service or the prosecuting authorities only if there is a risk that a child will suffer material harm if a care order is not carried out immediately. That is important to underline.

Moving a child out of the home as an emergency measure shall only be done when there are no other means to protect the child.

When a child is moved following an emergency order, it is important for the Child Welfare Service to also tend to the parents of the child, including providing them with information on the background for why the child is being moved and their rights following the emergency order.

The service is obligated by law to provide such information to the parents, and, as previously stated, to co-operate with them. Such co-operation, regardless of the obligation, will most often be deemed as in the best interest of the child.

The Child Welfare Service should assess if the parents need assistance or follow-up from the service itself or other services following an emergency move, and, if needed, help the parents contact such services.

An emergency order must be brought before the Child Welfare Tribunal within 48 hours after it was made, for approval or rejection.


Since 2015, the Child Welfare Service has been accused of a lack of relevant evaluations and ignoring cultural differences while making decisions regarding 'child removal'. What has Norway done to ensure that miscalculations don't happen based on 'cultural differences'?

The Child Welfare Service is obligated by law to take into account the child's ethnical, cultural, linguistic, and religious background at all stages of a child welfare case. This is underlined in a new Section in the new Child Welfare Act (Section 1-8), which entered into force 1 January 2023, in order to emphasise the importance of this aspect.

In the previous Child Welfare Act, too, there were several provisions to ensure that children's cultural, linguistic, and religious background were taken into account.

To enable case workers in the Child Welfare Service to fulfill these obligations, there is a focus on cultural competence in different training programmes.


If kids are taken away, does the family have an avenue to file an appeal? What about families who don't have disposable income?

Immediately after an emergency order is effectuated, it must be sent to the Child Welfare Tribunal for approval. The tribunal is an impartial and independent decision-making authority chaired by a judge.

The parents are free to choose whomever lawyer they wish to represent them. However, if the parents have not already hired one, the tribunal shall make sure that a lawyer is appointed for them. The government pays the lawyers fees, regardless of the choice of lawyer.

This follows from the Child Welfare Act Section 14-7 and the Act relating to free legal aid Section 17. Norwegian authorities will, under no circumstance, intervene in the parent's choice of lawyer on the basis of the lawyer doing too good a job, as insinuated in the movie.

The above mentioned relates to emergency orders. If a child is removed from its parents after a care order has been made, the same right to appeal and to free legal aid applies.


A report (by a journalist) alleged that children with a foreign mother are four times more likely than other children in Norway to be forcibly removed from their families. Is there any merit to these allegations?

An analysis of the background of the children in public care at the end of 2021, carried out by Statistics Norway, shows that this is not the case.


There have been many such cases in the past, and social workers have been accused of being too quick to separate children from their families with little justification, particularly when parents are immigrants. What is being done about this?

As stated above, even though the leader of the Child Welfare Service has the power to make an emergency order, effectuation of such an order must always be followed by an approval by the Child Welfare Tribunal, or the order will lapse.

The parents can appeal an approval, and, if the order is still upheld, bring the case before the District Court for review.

If the Child Welfare Service assesses that further measures are necessary, the service must, as soon as possible and within six weeks after the emergency order is made, file for a care order.

The case is processed in an independent Child Welfare Tribunal, where the proceedings are similar to those in the courts. The tribunal's decision regarding a care order can also be brought before the District Court for review.

Assessing when it is necessary to make an emergency move of a child in order to protect the child from material harm is, and will always be, a challenging exercise. It is an ongoing work to develop standards on how the Child Welfare Service handles emergency cases, that ensures that the service, if necessary, intervenes at the right time.

In addition to the obligations to consider the child and the parents cultural and religious background throughout a case, both a guideline for the Child Welfare Service work as a whole, and a specific guideline for emergency moves have been developed in recent years. The guidelines are developed on the basis of up-to date knowledge in the field.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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