Child protection in Finland - support and assistance is offered in time
Primary responsibility of the wellbeing of a child rests always with the parents. In Finland the Child Welfare Act states that local child welfare authorities must support parents if problems occur in the family.
In Finland child welfare promotes the favorable development and wellbeing of the child according to the Child Welfare Act. Health care provides expert assistance in child welfare and arranges health-care and psychiatric services for the child, when needed. Child protection services are not part of this general social system and do not intervene unless the health or development of the child is in danger.
Main principle of the child welfare is that when providing child welfare it is first and foremost the best interest of the child that must be taken into account. When assessing the interests of the child, the child’s linguistic, cultural and religious background is always taken into account. Multi-lingual children are given the possibility to study also their second language.
Child protection services are often associated with fear that the child will be taken away from the parents. The child protection services always try to help the child in such a manner that the child can continue to live at home or return back home to the family, if the conditions at home change to the better.
The most frequent cases that child protection services face are mental health problems of the parents or the child, substance abuse or violence. In Finland, applying physical correction to the child is prohibited by law. The child can be placed into state custody as a matter of urgency, if conditions at home pose a threat to his/her health or development.
In Finland all families are treated equally
Finland is a state of rule-of-law and democracy, where values of equality and rights of the child and women form basic pillars of the society. Finland is among the top of all international surveys where these core values are compared. Child protection services function according to law and international treaties. Finnish child protection services do not take children into state custody or place them in care homes without severe reasons. The constitution of Finland states that all people are treated equal.
Protection of privacy is an important element in the legislation dealing with social services. As a result, child protection services are the mandatory authorities. They are not allowed to divulge information about individual cases to the media or to other authorities.
Care homes only last resort
Placing the child into state custody always represents the last resort, to which the state appeals only if it is absolutely necessary for the protection of the child. If the parties oppose the state custody, the decision cannot be made by the local social services, but only by an administrative court. The decision to place a child into state custody has to always be justified thoroughly. In case there are suspicions that an error or injustice has occurred, the decision can be appealed to court.
The parents or tutors of the child have the right to make an appeal to the administrative court, if they disagree with the decision done by the social security on urgent placement of the child to state custody. If the decision to place the child into state custody is made by the administrative court, an appeal can be made to the Supreme Administrative Court. Any person benefiting of social services in Finland who is not satisfied with the services received or the way in which they were treated, can notify the office responsible, or can submit a complaint to the Regional Administrative Agency.
In case placing the child into state custody is necessary, child protection services offer support both to the child and the parents during that time as well. Guilty parties are not searched, but it is discussed how social officers could help the family. If the problems identified are solved, the child may return back to his/her family.