Garðabær was warned of children’s home abuse

25.11.2021 - 14:35
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Garðabær - Vefsíða Garðabæjar
Monitoring of Beverly and Einar Gíslason, who were childminders and pre-school teachers in Garðabær, was increased following a notification from a person who had stayed at the couple’s children’s home at Hjalteyri, North Iceland, in the 1970s, according to the mayor of Garðabær. The person in question had been made to eat soap at the residential facility. “It was very strict there. Children were threatened, made to eat soap, and smacked.”

Former Hjalteyri residents revealed their stories in the media at the start of this week; describing sexual abuse and other violence perpetrated by Beverly and Einar Gíslason. They ran the home from 1972 to 1979.

Complaints were made to social services in Akureyri and the municipality stopped sending children to Hjalteyri as a result. Child protection agencies in other towns also stopped sending children and the home at Hjalteyri eventually closed. The couple were not stripped of their licences, however. 

Started working in Garðabær 15 years later 

15 years after Hjalteyri closed, the couple started working in Garðabær, where Beverly became a pre-school teacher in 1994. The couple were then ‘dagforeldrar’ (childminders) from 1998 to 2003. After this, they ran a pre-school—the Montessori Centre—eventually retiring from childcare altogether in 2015. 

The authorities in Garðabær have decided to compile a report into the couple’s work in the municipality and have called upon people who were cared for by the couple—as well as parents of former pupils—to get in touch. Mayor Gunnar Einarsson says no complaints have been received so far, apart from the one from a former resident of Hjalteyri in the years before the couple moved south. 

Children threatened and made to eat soap 

“We received a phone call in 2008, if I remember right, mostly concerning that the person had been subject to duress rather than anything else. It was very strict there. Children were threatened, made to eat soap, and smacked. That was notified to us here. But there was no mention of any sexual abuse, though the other bit is of course bad enough to be serious cause for concern. After receiving that call, we put even more emphasis on monitoring their activities,” Gunnar says. 

Gunnar says no complaints have been found in Garðabær from parents about the couple or their teaching methods. 

But how is it that people, who worked with children at Hjalteyri and had such a bad reputation that all child protection committees stopped sending children there, can move to a different municipality and start working with children again? 

"This happened in 1995 [sic.] when they came here as childminders. The childminder and pre-school system is under very close supervision. When people apply for operating licences for a pre-school, it goes through the Ministry of Education. Regarding the childminder system, people need to prove they have a clean criminal record and the appropriate education. Although there had been discussion about Hjalteyri back in the day, there was nothing indicating anything criminal had occurred. There were no charges or anything. We just emphasised that work there was conducted professionally with the children and that the concerned had relevant education and stuck to a certain direction, which was the approved direction. As well as this, the monitoring was as I described before,” Gunnar explains. 

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