Icelandic Teenager Claims Child Protection Failed To Protect Her From Abuse - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelandic Teenager Claims Child Protection Failed To Protect Her From Abuse

Published November 26, 2019

Sam O'Donnell
Photo by
Vísir/Vilhelm

17-year-old Margrét Lillý Einarsdóttir is speaking up about the lifetime of abuse she endured by her mother, which she blames on the Seltjarnarnes Child Protection Committee for not adequately taking her complaints seriously. She blames her family’s high social position for their lack of action.

A prisoner in her own house

Since Margrét Lillý was born, her mother suffered from schizophrenia and alcoholism. The teenager recalls her earliest memory as being locked in the house with her mother, who was constantly drinking and often passed out. This became a reoccurring pattern. “I was really scared the first few times,” she said to Vísir. “But then I got used to it.”

When Margrét Lillý was nine years old, police responded to a call of domestic violence at her home. The child welfare office was notified.

The police report stated that there was a lot of garbage in the home and that Margrét Lillý had been badly neglected and was wearing tattered clothes. Her mother was subsequently put into psychiatric care, and Margrét Lillý went to live temporarily with her maternal grandparents.

The case was then brought to the Child Protection Committee of Seltjarnarnes. Over a four-month period, Margrét Lillý met six times with a social worker. The Child Protection Committee ordered her mother to take her medication, told Magrét Lillý to report to them in any further neglect occurred, and the case was closed. According to her report, nobody informed Margrét Lillý’s father, Einar Björn, of this neglect case. Her mother was then released from the hospital, and the abuse quickly began again. 

Social status

Margrét Lillý’s grandmother—who was not named in the Vísir report—is an influential politician. Margrét Lillý believes it was her grandmother’s status that made the police and Child Protection Committee never take her away from her mother permanently during these years.

At the same time, her father attempted to gain joint custody, but since he was a sailor and had a history of alcoholism, it didn’t work. Also, her mother’s family was adamantly opposed to letting Margrét Lillý have a relationship with her father. “My mom, my grandma and the rest of my family tried to get him as far from me as they could,” she said.

Moving on

It was not until last fall—more than 10 years after the first report of abuse—when police were called to their home once again for a domestic violence incident that the Child Protection Committee thought it necessary to take Margrét Lillý away from her mother and give custody to her father.

Margrét Lillý attributes this to new employees in the Seltjararnes Child Protection Committee who took the complaints seriously and were not intimated by her mother’s family’s social status.

Margrét Lillý is now studying while living with her dad. While struggling with anxiety, she is still hopeful for the future.  “I’m trying to get on with my life. This is my lovely life,” she says.

She hopes by speaking out about her experience with the Child Protection Committee, she can prevent further instances of neglect from happening.

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