Child Welfare

What is child welfare?

The purpose of child welfare is to help and support people under the age of 18 who are in difficult life situations. Child welfare services can also provide support to the whole family and others involved in a crime. Child welfare authorities are social workers who operate and make decisions according to the Finnish Child Welfare Act.

What is a Child Welfare Notification?

A Child Welfare Notification may be submitted by any adult who is concerned about a minor or his or her family. A minor (person under 18) may also ask a grownup to submit a notification on his or her behalf. A Child Welfare Notification can be made by calling the social welfare office for example. On weekends and in urgent cases, the notification can be made at the emergency social services office.

Adults working with minors are required to submit child welfare notification if they have cause for concern. They must also report the case to the police if they suspect a serious offense against a minor has been committed, such as a sexual offense or assault.

What happens after a Child Welfare Notification is filed?

After the notification is filed, child welfare authorities will investigate and determine if protection or emergency assistance is required. The social worker then decides whether a child welfare investigation should be carried out or not.

If a child welfare investigation is deemed necessary, it must be conducted with the underage child in question and his or her parents or guardians. The authorities will interview the members of the family in person, the underage person and the guardians. The underage person will have a chance to express his/her views and wishes in the matter. Any potential changes to the child’s situation will be discussed at meetings in which all concerned parties with participate; all parties will also participate in final decisions regarding any further action to be taken. If the investigation does not determine the need for any action regarding the child’s welfare, the process will end there.

Only in extreme cases can the situation be so unsafe that the child’s welfare must be secured by emergency custodial care or placement with a temporary guardian. Such cases may involve conditions at home or serious problems in the underage person’s care, such as violence or sexual abuse. Sometimes, minors own behaviour, such as criminal, self-destructive or aggressive behaviour or substance abuse, can result in emergency placement.

The rights of a child in welfare cases

Children entering into welfare services have the right to be informed of any measures concerning their own case and well-being. Young persons over the age of 12 also have the right to be heard in matters concerning themselves. The right to be heard means that the person in question must get a chance to express their views and wishes regarding any decision that involves them and their situation. Underage persons also have the right to know what is being decided and why, and they have the right to appeal such decisions. The decisions are issued in writing, and the documents usually include instructions on how to appeal the decision. Even children under 12 have the right to express their views and wishes regarding matters and decisions that involve themselves.