“We are suing the authorities because of their lack of supervision,” Torbjörn Thunström, spokesman of the Stolen Childhood association, told AFP, citing cases of sexual abuse, rape and physical beatings.
“We want compensation for our suffering. Many of us have carried this abuse through our emotional lives and have not been able to function in society. Many of us have missed out on an education, many have had to go on disability benefits, others have been on long-term sick leave from work. We have suffered our whole lives,” Thunström said.
Thirty-two former foster children have signed the lawsuit submitted to Stockholm’s district court, but Thunström said he expected their number to grow to 100.
They are demanding one million kronor each for each year they were in foster care.
The lawsuit concerns children who were placed in foster care, many against their families’ will, during the 1950s and 1960s, though a number of cases were more recent.
Thunström said authorities in some cases removed children from their homes and placed them in care merely because the parents were poor.
“If you didn’t have a bed for your child, that was enough to have them take your child away,” he said, speculating that social workers were “very naive back then and set very low standards” for foster families.
Thunström himself was placed in a foster family at the age of 11, in 1971.
“I had to sleep in the barn and had to work to pay my keep. I had to clean the barn and milk the cows… The whole time I was told I was worthless. I ran away after four years,” he said.
Municipal authorities were tasked with placing the children, and Monday’s lawsuit was therefore filed against the Stockholm municipal authority. Other suits are planned in the cities of Gothenburg and Malmö.
According to the National Board of Health and Welfare, some 100,000 children were placed in institutional care from 1950 to 1980. Swedish authorities are separately investigating reports of abuse at the country’s orphanages during that period.