Finland Treats All Families Equally
From time to time, Russian mass media discuss how measures for the protection of children are applied in Finland.
Contrary to apprehensions that have been expressed, there is no harassment of children from foreign families in Finland. Finland is a law-governed state where authorities act on the basis of the applicable legislation, not their arbitrary decisions.
In Finland, substitute guardianship of a child or placement of a child for maintenance and raising outside the parental home cannot be appointed according to citizenship or without a respective ground.
It should be borne in mind that the Finnish legislation provides for that personal data of clients of social security and public health services must be kept confidential. That is why officers of guardianship bodies may not comment publicly on any particular cases related to the protection of children.
Timely Support and Aid are the Priority
In Finland, family support is primarily offered in the framework of the usual social security and public health services rendered to the population, e.g., at municipal child welfare centres. In case a child’s health or development are threatened, help is provided by guardianship bodies.
Apprehensions that a child might be taken away are oftentimes associated with the activities of guardianship bodies. According to the basic principle of the Finnish legislation on the protection of children, milder measures are preferred when it comes to intervention in family affairs. I.e. the kind of aid is chosen for a child that allows him or her to stay at home with his or her family of origin.
More often than not, guardianship bodies are forced to take measures when a child or parents have issues related to mental health, alcohol or drug abuse or domestic violence. Violence for the purposes of raising children is prohibited in Finland. A child may be immediately removed from a family if the home situation is a direct threat to the child’s health or development or if the person who must ensure the guardianship of the child is unable to do that. Immediate removal of a child from a family and placement for maintenance and raising outside the parental home is the measure of last resort used only where it is impossible to ensure child’s safety and welfare by other methods.
Substitute Guardianship of a Child is the Last Resort
Appointing substitute guardianship of a child can only be used as the measure of last resort. It can only be applied if this is absolutely necessary for the protection of a child. If a person participating in the case objects, the respective decision cannot be made by municipal social security bodies and the case will be referred to the administrative court. A decision on transferring a child for maintenance and raising outside the parental home must be clearly grounded in all cases. Should there be a suspicion that an error might have been made or that a law might have been violated, the decision can be appealed against through the court.
Should the parents or another person ensuring the guardianship of the child disagree with the decision on immediate removal of a child from the family taken by the municipal social service, they are entitled to appeal against such a decision through the administrative court. If there is a ruling of the administrative court as to appointing substitute guardianship, it can be appealed against directly through the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland. If a client of social services is not satisfied with the servicing, care or treatment, he or she may lodge a complaint to the manager of the respective department of the social service or report his or her dissatisfaction to the Regional Board of State Authorities (aluehallintovirasto, AVI).
If appointment of substitute guardianship of a child is inevitable, support shall be provided to the child and the parents during the period such measure is in force. Instead of finger-pointing, it is decided what kind of help social workers can render. If the problems are resolved, the child can return to his or her family of origin.
Well-Established Interdepartmental Cooperation
Prompt direct contacts between the competent authorities, including the central bodies, are established in family matters in Finland. Lists of contacts have been exchanged and the procedure of actions has been agreed upon jointly with the respective Russian authorities. Multilateral international treaties provide for generally accepted and well-functioning mechanisms to settle family affairs.
For more information, please contact:
- Pia Mäkeläinen, Children Protection Expert, tel. +358 2951 63463
- Annika Parsons, Consultant/Adviser, tel. +358 2951 63596
Information for immigrants on the system for the protection of children’s rights can be found on the website of the Central Union for Child Welfare of Finland: http://www.lastensuojelu.info/en/
The law on the protection of children in unofficial translation into Russian: http://stm.fi/lastensuojelu?p_p_id=56_INSTANCE_7SjjYVdYeJHp&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&p_p_col_id=column-2&p_p_col_count=3&_56_INSTANCE_7SjjYVdYeJHp_languageId=ru_RU
This is an English translation of a press release originally issued in Russian on 21.9.2016.