To the Editorial Office of Walsroder Zeitung and Mr. Rolf Hillmann,
Following the article signed by you on January 7, 2022, and in the spirit of ethics and serious journalism, as you well mentioned in said article, we request that you allow this right of reply from the Furdui Initiative Group.
We request this right of reply for the following considerations:
1. You described a version of the case which you consider journalistically balanced, but you only presented the point of view of Jugendamt and German law, automatically assuming that the Furdui family is guilty — which is not ethical nor serious journalism to prejudge. You don’t need to be a lawyer to at least superficially understand the concept of presumption of innocence and the right to a defense.
2. In your journalistic approach and after you implicitly suggest that Jugendamt is only obeying the law in this case, you have manifested no intention to hear or investigate the Furdui family’s version or the abuses of Jugendamt, of course taking care that the confidential information is not made public.
We mention that this right to reply will also be published on social media in Romanian, English, and German, citing and linking the article you published.
Therefore, with the confidence that you will allow this right of reply, which is serious journalism and perfectly ethical, the Furdui Initiative Group makes the following public condemnations regarding Jugendamt:
1. The brutal and disproportionate intervention of Jugendamt in taking the children from the family
There was never an investigation through which Jugendamt could evaluate the family’s situation and in following the findings to establish aid measures.
Instead, Jugendamt has corrupted the older minor for two months without the parents’ knowledge in order to build a distorted image of the family and to find a guise for their brutal intervention.
There have not been any sort of evaluations of the children, physical or psychological, either before or after their removal from the family.
As you have mentioned in the article, emergency placement represents an extreme measure that is to be utilized as a last resort. In this case, it was the first and last measure. A spank represents, as you have reported, a potential risk, taking the children and keeping them out of their home against their will is certainly much more traumatic.
2. Jugendamt’s lack of communication with the family
The three older children were practically stolen from school without the parents’ knowledge or consent and even against the will of the 13- and 14-year old girls. The seven children were separated and placed in two different institutions, and the youngest girl, who was 1 year and 3 months, was placed with a foster family.
The parents were tricked to give their consent without involving a lawyer or even a translator.
3. The trial and case delay
An unjust legal ordeal followed. The parents have limited and delayed access to important documents. Jugendamt abusively interferes in the children’s lives with the scope of separating them from their family, school, and friends.
Repeatedly the children are psychologically tortured, being urged to stop resisting or hoping to return home. They are forced to accept the idea that they will remain in the system. Everything takes a very long time and the evaluation process of the family is being delayed.
At this time, Jugendamt ignores all of the parents’ attempts to take courses, receive counseling, and submit to any conditions in order to recover their children, even though it is the duty of Jugendamt to facilitate these things.
4. The family evaluation started 4 months after taking the children from the family
The psychological evaluation of the family and the children, which should have occurred prior to taking the children or immediately after, was scheduled for May 2021, but it started only four months after the event, in September, not even being completed at the end of 2021.
During the family visitations, they are required to speak exclusively German. If they disobey, the visit is halted. The parents previously spoke Romanian with the children and the infant. The children’s father does not speak German, and the mother speaks it only at a beginner’s level.
The supervisors are invasive, sitting at the table with the family and participating in their discussion uninvited, interrupting the children and parents. Afterwards they write reports in which they denigrate the family and their relationships.
The family has been portrayed as being religious fanatics, separated from society, and abusive.
The position of Jugendamt has not changed even though the children have affirmed that they willingly went to church; they were not forced by anyone. The girls even asked to be taken to church during their placement, but this desire is constantly violated and ignored.
The religious community, school, doctors, neighbors, friends, and everyone who personally know this family, from two distinct cities in which the family lived for 6 years and 2 years, have given beautiful testimonies which vehemently contradict the image painted by Jugendamt.
7. The children are housed in unhealthy conditions
Six of the children are housed in institutions in which there are mice, and they are afraid of them. The youngest child is 2 years old and is placed in a smoking family, which is not healthy for a child who was raised in a nonsmoking family. Likewise, the 2-year-old girl occasionally has bruises around her head, which is indeed alarming. The children are in constant danger and traumatic risk with far greater permanent effects than the Jugendamt claims to have saved them from.
8. Jugendamt does not care about the children’s desire to return home
The children have expressed their clear desire to come home and have done this by writing letters to the Court, the town hall of Walsrode, Jugendamt, as well as posting online. Absolutely no authority considers the children. This is truly an abuse.
9. The children were not permitted to go home for Christmas
In December 2021, the family filed an application through which they requested that all their children would be allowed to come home for Christmas. The official response of the authorities was that they wanted to analyze the application barely in January 2022. However, out of a total lack of empathy, Jugendamt sent the family a card with the message “Merry Christmas.”
10. The children’s aunt from the United States of America was unable to visit the children
One of the children’s aunts traveled from the USA to Walsrode specially to see her nieces and nephews. Even though she sent countless requests six months in advance of her visit, she received no reply and was not allowed to visit them before Christmas in the centers in which they were placed.
11. From April 2021 until the present, Jugendamt did not present any measures that would lead to the reintegration of the children into the family
We would have expected Jugendamt to help the family in various ways, such as family support through the City Family Department (City Family Office)-who work in every city in Germany to strengthen families, provide psychological support, or work on a strategic plan for returning children to their home. But the Jugendamt showed no intention of doing so.
If the Jugendamt pleads incompetence in establishing measures to help reunite the family, it should have acknowledged its incompetence in the overwhelmingly more complex matter of dismembering this family.
12. The cost for the lawsuits, experts, guardians, and lawyers come from German taxpayers’ money
All of the actions taken by the Jugendamt in 2021 implies a completely nontransparent mode of operation for which every German taxpayer pays.
Keeping in mind the abusive and nontransparent way in which Jugendamt has decided to treat this family, from September 2021 to the present there have been 25 protests in support of the family in 24 cities and 10 countries with approximately 20,000 participants. The protests and publicity coverage will continue.
We solicit Jugendamt and the authorities from Walsrode and Lower Saxony to put forth every transparent, legal, and humane effort to reunify this family.
The Furdui Initiative Group consists of extended family members, lawyers, pastors, and politicians.