New Report: Lax Child Protection at Treatment Homes Skip to content

New Report: Lax Child Protection at Treatment Homes

A committee established to investigate the operations of nine state-run treatment homes in Iceland presented its third and final progress report on Wednesday, concluding that the treatment of cases and professional decision making by child protection authorities was seriously lacking.


The trailer of the documentary At the Edge of the World on YouTube.

The operations from 1945 to 1994 of the treatment homes Breiðavík*, Heyrnarleysingjaskólinn, Kumbaravogur, Bjarg, Reykjahlíð, Silungapollur, Jaðar, Unglingaheimili ríkisins and Upptökuheimili ríkisins was under investigation, Morgunblaðið reports.

The report states that decisions on the accommodation of children and teens who were suspected of criminal behavior or had behavioral problems at Upptökuheimili ríkisins were mostly in the hands of the police.

The police also determined the arrangement of the accommodation, for example that the home’s residents were locked inside their rooms in the upper floor of the home in Elliðahvammur in 1945-1964.

The committee is especially critical of the police’s decision on the accommodation of juveniles.

Remarks were also made regarding the placement of children in solitary confinement at Unglingaheimili ríkisins on Kópavogsbraut 9 due to disciplinary problems and that some individuals were bound with tape at the home’s reception on Efstasund 86, which was operated from 1988 to 1994.

The state treasury has now paid out ISK 520 million (USD 4.4 million, EUR 3.3 million) of the ISK 920 million (USD 7.7 million, EUR 5.8 million) earmarked in damages to approximately 300 individuals who were subject to maltreatment or abuse at these homes.

The damages range from ISK 400,000 (USD 3,400, EUR 2,500) to ISK 6 million (USD 50,000, EUR 38,000) per individual.

A total of 325 applications for damages have been received, most, or 131, of which are in relation to Heyrnarleysingjaskólinn, school for the deaf, followed by 123 related to Breiðavík, a home for troubled boys.

Violent treatment and sexual abuse has been reported at these two homes; former residents of Breiðavík participated in the making of a documentary, At the Edge of the World (Syndir feðranna; 2007), where they described their treatment at the home.

At Wednesday’s press conference the committee’s chairperson Róbert Spanó said the most important lesson to be learned from the report is that no costs should not be spared when it comes to supervision of child protection and facilities at treatment homes.

“Few things are as drastic for a child than to be taken away from its parents and family and accommodated far away from its home due to a decision of public authorities,” the report concludes in its summary.

The committee was established in 2007, originally to investigate the operations of Breiðavík, but since moved on to investigate other state-run homes as well.

In the period of investigation, 43 individuals have described to the committee the maltreatment or violence they were subject to at these homes.

A total of 400 interviews were conducted on behalf of the committee in 2007-2011 and its reports amount to 1,500 pages.

The committee’s purpose was to investigate the facilities of the state-run treatment homes, whether children were subject to abuse, how supervision was carried out and to propose actions by the government in response to their findings.

It is recommended that the committee continues its work to some extent.

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* The Icelandic letter ð is pronounced like th in that.

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