When a decision has been taken to place the child outside of the home
In Denmark, the custodial parent or guardian does not lose custody when a child or young person is placed outside the home either with or without consent. However, the municipality has a wide-reaching responsibility for the child, and the municipal council or The Children and Youth Committee can take decisions on a range of matters, including the child’s placement location and the extent to which the child should have contact and visitations with their parents and wider network during placement.
Acute risk of abduction – contact the police
If there is an acute risk of the child being abducted abroad, the municipality must contact the police immediately. The police will then investigate whether this may be a case of child abduction and they will undertake an investigation to uncover the circumstances of the matter.
Contact the Child Abduction Coordination Unit
The municipality can also contact the Child Abduction Coordination Unit for further guidance in an urgent situation.
If a child placed outside the home has already been taken abroad
If a child placed outside the home has already been taken or retained abroad, this may be an international child abduction and a violation of both the Danish Criminal Code and the Danish Social Services Act. This applies no matter whether the child has been placed outside the home with or without consent. In such a situation, it is the municipality that can request a child be returned to Denmark. If the municipality knows or believes that the child is exposed to serious danger in the state concerned, the municipality has an obligation to notify the foreign authorities of the municipality’s concern for the child and of the measures the municipality had taken or considered taking while the child was still in Denmark.
Read more about the obligation to notify in international social cases
Contact the Danish police
The municipality should generally begin by contacting the police to report the abduction as it may be an international child abduction and a violation of both the Danish Criminal Code and the Danish Social Services Act that the police can investigate.
The return of a child placed outside the home from abroad
If a child placed outside the home by the Danish social authorities is abducted or retained abroad, the Danish municipality can request to have the child returned to Denmark under the rules of the Hague Convention on Child Protection or the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction respectively, provided the conditions in the relevant convention are met.
In certain cases, it will be possible to apply both the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the Hague Convention on Child Protection. In cases involving another Nordic state, it will also be possible to use the special rules in the Act on Extradition to Another Nordic Country. It is up to the individual municipality to decide which convention or act to apply.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction contains rules on the return of children who have been taken abroad illegally. The purpose of the convention is to ensure the immediate return of a child who has been abducted to or illegally retained in a state other than their habitual state of residence. This means that the starting point of the convention is that the child should be returned to their state of residence. The convention also applies to children and young people placed outside the home who are abducted to or illegally retained in another contracting state. The rules of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction only apply if the child has not yet reached the age of sixteen.
See which states currently cooperate with Denmark under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
In addition to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the Hague Convention on Child Protection can also be applied in cases involving the abduction of a child placed outside the home. This convention defines an abduction, or the retention of a child, as illegal if it violates the rights of the custodial parent or guardian and if this custody was being actively exercised when the abduction occurred, or would have been exercised but for the abduction.
Among other things, the Hague Convention on Child Protection contains rules on the recognition and enforcement of certain types of decisions. A request for the return of an abducted child in placement can therefore be based on a valid Danish decision on placement. Generally, the decision will need to be recognised and enforced in the other contracting states.
The rules in the Hague Convention on Child Protection apply until the child has reached the age of eighteen.
See which states currently cooperate with Denmark under the Hague Convention on Child Protection
It is up to the individual municipality to assess and decide under which convention it wishes to bring the case.
The municipality can contact the Child Abduction Coordination Unit for further guidance on the scope of the conventions and relevant points to consider.
Requesting a return – the process
As the central authority for Denmark, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Housing and Senior Citizens receives requests from municipalities who want a placed child returned to Denmark.
When the Ministry of Social Affairs, Housing and Senior Citizens receives a request from a Danish municipality for the return of a child placed outside the home, the Ministry forwards the request to the central authority in the state concerned. The central authority will generally then forward the case to the authority or court that can take a decision in the matter. It is the competent authority or court in the state concerned that then makes a decision on the return or recognition and enforcement of the Danish placement decision.
If the authority/court considers that the conditions of the convention are met, the child shall then generally be returned to Denmark.
However, if the authority/court decides that the child should not be returned to Denmark, depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to appeal this decision to an appeal body.
The specific manner in which the case is processed will depend on which state the child is in.
Be aware that in certain states, cases under the Hague Convention on Child Protection are brought directly before the courts, i.e. without the involvement of the foreign state’s central authority. In such cases, the coordination unit will contact the foreign central authority for further guidance on how to bring such a case.
The municipality must be aware that it is the municipality who is the applicant in such cases. This means it is up to the municipality to engage a lawyer in connection with the legal proceedings abroad, and that the municipality must pay all expenses relating to the case.
Typically, it will also be necessary for the municipality to cooperate with the competent foreign authorities regarding the transfer of the child and related practicalities.
The procedure for the return of a child will vary depending on the state concerned and depending on the convention under which the case is brought.
In cases of abduction, the municipality should be aware of its obligation to notify in connection with international social cases. The municipality has an obligation to notify the authorities in another state if a child is exposed to serious danger and the municipality discovers that the child is resident in that state. This applies in cases where, prior to the child’s departure, the municipality had taken a decision to implement protection measures or had considered doing so.
Read more about notifying authorities abroad
To request the return of a child placed outside the home from a contracting state, the following must be submitted to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Housing and Senior Citizens:
- Request form
- Original or certified copy of the child or children’s birth and baptism certificate. The birth registration office will usually be able to issue a new certificate in both Danish and English
- Documentation for placement outside the home
- Images of the child and the alleged abductor
The request form needs to be filled out with all relevant information including details on where the child may be and when the child was removed from Denmark.
The documents must be translated into the official language of the other state – i.e. the state the child has been taken to. You can find request forms for some of the states in their official languages under the Forms tab. By using these forms, it is only what is written in the form that will need to be translated.
Requests to Norway, Sweden, Finland or Iceland can be made in Danish.
Signed and encrypted emails can be sent to the Coordination Unit’s mailbox: email@example.com.
Municipalities can also write to the Ministry’s primary mailbox at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that ordinary emails are not encrypted. If the inquiry contains sensitive or confidential information about an individual (such as information relating to health, criminal offences, finances and considerable social problems or their CPR number), we recommend sending the inquiry to the Ministry via digital mail to CVR number 33962452.
If a municipality has any questions about how to fill out the forms or what documentation is necessary, they can contact the Ministry of Social Affairs, Housing and Senior Citizens on 40 50 50 26 or 33 92 93 00.
If a municipality wishes to request the return of a child placed outside the home from a country that is not a contracting state of the convention, they can contact the Coordination Unit for further guidance.
If a child placed abroad has been brought to Denmark illegally
If a child who has been placed outside the home by a foreign authority is brought to Denmark, then it will be the rules in the child’s habitual state of residence that shall determine whether or not it is legal to travel with the child to Denmark.
A relevant foreign authority can request to have a placed child returned under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or the Hague Convention on Child Protection, provided that Denmark has established cooperation with the state concerned. In such a situation, the foreign central authority will contact the Ministry of Social Affairs, Housing and Senior Citizens with a request to have the child returned from Denmark. The foreign central authority will also have to assess whether or not a child abduction has occurred in accordance with the national rules of the state in question.
If the case concerns a child placed outside the home who has been abducted to Denmark from one of the Nordic states, the case can be brought under Act No. 498 of 23 December 1970 on Extradition to Another Nordic Country In Connection With Certain Decisions on Care or Treatment. In Denmark, requests for extradition under this Act must be submitted to the police. The municipality can contact the relevant police district for further guidance. If the child has been abducted from a state with which Denmark does not cooperate under a convention, the authorities of that state must be contacted.
If a municipality becomes aware that a child placed outside the home in another state is in Denmark and that this may be a case of child abduction, the municipality can contact the Ministry of Social Affairs, Housing and Senior Citizens for further guidance.