Norwegian police drop criminal case against US family, but kids remain in CPS custody

Natalya Shutakova and Zigintas Aleksandravicius pose for a photo with their three children during a June 2019 supervised meeting in Norway. | Natalya Shutakova

An American mother whose children were taken from her and her husband by Norwegian child services earlier this year says although a criminal charge for alleged "child mistreatment" has been dismissed, CPS is still refusing to return their children.

Natalya Shutakova, an American citizen who moved from Atlanta, Georgia, to Norway about a year ago, was told by her lawyer that police in Skien dropped the criminal charges against her and her husband, Lithuanian citizen Zigintas Aleksandravicius. 

The couple's three children, who are all American citizens, were removed from their home by Norway's controversial child services agency Barnevernet in May, less than a year after the family moved to a town about 70 miles outside of Oslo. 

The parents maintain that even though there was never any evidence against them, the children were taken from the home by police and the parents were summoned down to a police station on May 20. The parents were questioned about accusations that they had hit one of their children.

The parents outright deny that they struck any of their children. In Norway, even spanking a child is considered a crime. 

"The crime was alleged child mistreatment but that's cleared now," Shutakova told The Christian Post in a Facebook message. "Barnevernet disregards what the police has to say. But we have an amazing judge and best lawyer in the world. The truth will come out. Children should be home soon. I can't thank enough everyone who is continuously praying for us."  

The news of the criminal case's dismissal was also reported by Norway's Christian Coalition, which has often spoken out against what critics say is Barnevernet's arbitrary emergency removal of children.  

The coalition's president, Jan-Aage Torp, notified the U.S. Embassy about the dismissal of the family's criminal case.  

Shutakova told CP that there are two court dates scheduled for September regarding the status of her children. 

"That's amazing how they [Barnevernet] never had anything against us. I got a call on Tuesday morning from our lawyer, she was in contact with the police," Shutakova told CP.

"Many times Barnevernet disregards what police have decided. The Norwegian CPS thinks they are above the law. But we have God on our side, so in this case it will be victory."

The family had its first court hearing in early June. At the time, a court ruled that the children would temporarily be left in foster care.

As previously reported, the family moved to Norway last September after Aleksandravicius was deported from the U.S. for overstaying his visa. 

After going back to Lithuania, the father got a job in Norway and Shutakova decided to move the family there so the children could be with their father. 

But it has been over two months now that the children have been separated from the family home. The parents are granted weekly two-hour visits with their children. Shutakova previously told CP that the children were complaining about not getting enough hot meals. 

A CitizenGo petition calling on Vice President Mike Pence to intervene on the family’s behalf has been supported by over 11,000 people.   

“Barnevernet has insinuated that there was a lack of routine for the children and that this ‘potential neglect’ was enough reason to remove the children from their parents,” the petition reads. “I hope we can agree that none of this evidence warrants forcefully removing children from their parents.”  

The Barnevernet has long been called out by international family rights advocates who have criticized that agency for removing children from their parents' homes without concrete proof that abuse has been committed. Some families have fled the country to avoid separation. 

The European Court of Human Rights recently agreed to hear the case of a Romanian Christian family whose five children were removed from their home for months over allegations of spankings. 

Following the removal of the five Bodnariu children in 2015, protests were held at Norwegian embassies across the globe calling on the release of the Bodnariu children. The children were ultimately released and the family fled the country. 

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

or Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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