Swedish government keeps homeschooled child from his parents for six years and counting
What’s at Stake
- Promoting the best interest of the child
- Parental rights
As Annie and Christer Johansson headed to the airport with their son Domenic in 2009, they were excited about returning as a family to Annie’s home country of India. They had no idea that their dreams would be ruined even before the plane had left the runway.
As they sat on the plane waiting for take-off, Swedish authorities forcibly removed Domenic from his parents. The officials didn’t have a warrant, nor did they charge the Johanssons with any crime. Officials then placed Domenic in foster care. The family were hoping for a new life together in a different country. In the end, their family was torn apart – Domenic is still separated from his parents six years on.
The authorities took Domenic from his parents for one reason: his parents had homeschooled him for his first year of school. Annie and Christer made this decision in preparation for their move to India and had asked their local school about which curriculum to follow. And even though homeschooling was legal in Sweden, authorities still took Domenic from his parents.
Annie and Christer wasted no time in launching legal proceedings in an effort to get their son back. ADF International and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) provided the family with legal support and pursued legal remedies in Sweden. But in December 2009 a Swedish court ruled that the government was within its rights to seize the child and keep him in foster care. ADF International and the HSLDA also filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the right to homeschooling, but the Court rejected the application.
In the meantime, Annie and Christer’s visiting rights were reduced, and finally the social council filed for the removal of their parental rights. The Swedish district court rejected the application to remove custody from the parents. This seemed like a positive development, until the Swedish Court of Appeal overturned the decision and allowed custody to be transferred to a legal guardian. Annie and Christer were left to keep fighting to get their son back.
ADF International continued to stand with them, launching a new case to the ECHR in May 2016, based on the removal of parental rights and access. In July 2016 the ECHR rejected this application. The case is now closed.
‘After the district court victory, we had hoped the end of this nightmare was approaching,’ said HSLDA Director of International Relations Mike Donnelly, one of more than 2,200 allied lawyers with ADF International.
‘As the district court found, Annie and Christer Johansson are good parents. It is unconscionable that the court of appeals – or any court in a democratic country like Sweden – could somehow think that it is in Domenic’s best interest to remain separated from his parents. Now that the ECHR has rejected our application, the pain, suffering, and harm done to this family are incalculable.’
Our Role in the Case
Together with the Home School Legal Defense Association, ADF International provided legal assistance and funding for this case.