It has been over a month since Natalya, a Russian citizen living in Sweden, has seen her twin girls Masha and Nelly.
“My children are in someone else’s hands…they were stolen…I don’t know what’s happening with them or how they’re being treated,” says their mother Natalya Petrova.
A mother’s worst nightmare: her children taken from where they are supposed to be most safe -and not by kidnappers or child abusers but by the Swedish government.
Natalya’s twin girls were taken out of a music lesson at school without warning and for an entire week she had no idea where her daughters were until she received documents from social services which she says were full of false statements about the family’s life.
The complaints filed against Natalya claim she and the girls are psychologically troubled and could be enough to send her daughters into foster care for good under Swedish law without sufficient proof.
But according to the family lawyer Jenny Beltran, nothing illegal was done.
“It is considered legal because the law, it's a protection law, protection for the children. So it means that even if there is a slightest risk, even if there is no evidence, sort of there are no witnesses, there is nothing, but there is a risk of something happening, then the law, the social workers within the law are able to take the child to a social office and take them away from the family,” says Beltran.
Natalya has been advised by Human rights activists that this is only part of a much bigger welfare system and that she is not alone in her fight to prevent her girls from going to a foster family.
The activists are accusing the Swedish authorities of separating innocent families for monetary gains.
“Often people have relatives or friends working in social services and these friends or relatives help them to get foster children. We have cases where social services have been paid 10.000 Swedish Crowns per day that's about 1200 euros per day for one single child. That is 3.65 million Swedish Crowns per year – over 30,000 euros per year to take care of one child,” says Ruby Harrold-Claesson, president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights.
“They steal, they don’t only steal children but money, apartments, property and children are human goods to them,” Natalya accuses social services.
With poor Swedish language skills, a lawyer appointed by social services and little money, Natalya has been told the chances of getting her girls back are slim and that they are most likely now with a Swedish family.
“It's just huge machinery so as an individual you are very small against sort of this whole machinery because they have also, I mean, you get your lawyer, but the social services they have so much, not just money, but also all kinds of help to get assistance in order to do these investigations, it's not equal in a way sort of your defending yourself as a, as a parent,” thinks Jenny Beltran.
Natalya should be protected by International laws and conventions but loopholes in the Swedish system allow cases like this to go unnoticed.
“Sweden is a consensus country and people are not prone to speak up against the consensus they are very quiet in this way…the consensus is that the state is always right,” says Professor of international law, Jacob Sundberg.
He is Persona non grata in Sweden for his outspoken views on the system.
Sundberg says social services can take children away using their own criteria by working together with doctors, psychologist and lawyers…all wrapped up in a big business.
“Say you have six foster children, well you can make a fortune,” Sundberg explains.
For now all Natalya can do is wait for the hearing on her case which so far has been postponed several times.
“Their birthday is coming up…Where will my children be?…They already missed Christmas,” says the twins’ mother.
And they will miss turning 13 this week at home with their mother who Sweden has decided is – at least for now… not going to be their mom.