Armored Glass Girl
Media associated with this campaign
Overview of this campaign
Kerstin Weigl spent several months of research sifting through thousands of documents dealing with Josefin’s treatment and began to see patterns of irregularities emerge. She realized that this case entailed the systematic failure of the authorities’ treatment of vulnerable children. The fact that this was a problem with the system indicated that Josefin was not an isolated case. Therefore, the story needed to be made public for any change to occur.
A thorough investigation of the case has exposed how the system can fail: From the age of nine she has been described by the authorities as “dangerous”. In her short life, Josefin has been relocated 33 times to various foster homes and facilities in 21 different areas in ten different Swedish counties, and there have been many suicide attempts and repeated instances of police involvement and medical restraint.
Over the course of four months, Kerstin Weigl examined all the documents for the case of Josefin. Social services records and medical records were compared with court documents and other documents, and interviews were conducted with experts and government representatives. By systematizing and color coding the data in an Excel spreadsheet, Kerstin Weigl systematically uncovered how the Swedish child welfare system failed Josefin.
How do you tell the story of a mistreated child without exposing her to even more? The usual narrative tools were abandoned for a new format: a strong narrator voice framed by a visual fabric of illustrations and filmed sequences. A journalistic revelation was presented in a new way, and everyone involved was genuinely uncertain of the outcome. Could a sensitive story be told with nerve and presence without authentic pictures revealing the identity of those involved? Could it be possible to generate engaged interest through a voice slowly telling the story of Josefin to illustrations and film sequences?
Results for this campaign
Foster care for children is a difficult area to investigate, but the “The Armored Glass Girl” has exposed a scandalous case of failure. A sensitive and unique presentation made this story one that could not be denied.
Kerstin Weigl uncovered previously unknown, scandalous conditions within the Swedish child welfare system – where children with special needs were forced into the custody of Swedish social services and subjected to inhumane treatment as a result of the failure of government authorities to successfully coordinate such cases or take responsibility for their errors.
Through sensitive and poignant storytelling, the reportage about Josefin, who was labelled “The most dangerous girl in Sweden”, reached over two million readers. The reporting was presented in the form of both a 23-minute long documentary with Kerstin Weigl’s text and narrator voice in the foreground and images by illustrator/producer Jenny Svennberg Bunnel and photographer Magnus Wennman. The second supporting part of the story was a digitally-presented review of each of the social services placements of Josefin. With more than 600,000 viewers, the innovative film became the most watched film published at aftonbladet.se. The story attracted major attention from the day it was published, and was widely quoted in the national media. After the publication, Kerstin Weigl has received a number of emails with stories of similar cases.
Experts made furious claims of how children with difficulties are made sicker from the mismanagement of the authorities. There were strong reactions from the responsible minister demanding the relevant authorities assume responsibility for their shortcomings. The case of Josefin is now subject to a special investigation.