Lokakuun Liike (October Movement) is a human rights organization aiming to raise public awareness and discussion about human rights and their violations in family politics, foster and mental care and other forms of institutional care.
Finland has very high rates of children placed into foster care and a many ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) verdicts of human rights violations in child welfare services.
Foster care children and their families constantly report us of violations of human rights in foster care, which has no proper surveillance or governmental control in Finland.
The main shortcomings are:
1. Children and families are not offered sufficient support measures before, during or after placements. The support measures used are not voluntary or useful to the families. Often the real target of these measures is to find grounds to initiate or continue foster care placements.
2. Families are not entitled to objective investigation or fair trial according to the European Convention of Human Rights.
The trials are not held in objective District courts but in Administrative courts, where incompetent and inexperienced judges, often ex- social workers accept (acceptance rate over 95%) almost all applications of social workers without hearing the families or investigation or demanding proof of the accusations.
3. The placements are not temporary but permanent, and no efforts are made to re-unite the families.
4. There is a continuous lack of surveillance in foster care; both in institutional and family care. Children and parents reporting the violations of foster care are punished, isolated from each other or the child is ordered a child welfare guardian, which in Finland does not have to be neutral and often is a social worker or connected to foster care.
5. Social workers, often incompetent (in some regions over half of the staff) and challengeable (every third is planning to be private entrepreneur) protect the agents and entrepreneurs of foster care instead of children.
Regional State Administrative Agencies AVI admits the lack of surveillance and states, that at worst foster care institutions are visited only once in ten years. Often the control is limited to reading reports produced by institutional care agentsthemselves.
National Audit Office of Finland and The Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland have reported of constant and serious problems in foster care and child protection. The Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland states, that
"The supervision of foster care in child protection is insufficient. The child protection authorities at the municipal level do not have enough time to visit foster care locations and they are not sufficiently familiar with the conditions and treatment of the children. The regional state administrative agencies do not have enough resources for inspections. Measures limiting the right to self-determination often lack legal grounds, for example, when they are based only on ‘institutional power’.”
In unregulated situations, limiting measures may be excessive or inconsistent.
The supervision of policies limiting self-determination is insufficient, and the controllability of these measures has shortcomings as there are no procedural guarantees of protection under the law. (2013, 62).
We would like to report you two recent cases in the Finnish foster care, and the role of social workers as protectors the violators in stead of violated children.
Case 1) A foster care family, nominated as the Foster Family of the Year 2010 was proven guilty of beating, strangling and keeping the foster children in hot sauna-bath and in snow.
The biological mother of the children constantly reported the social worker of the bruises she noticed and made formal child welfare notification. The social worker did not document the notifications, neither made any kind of action to investigate the bruises. Instead, she prohibited the mother to see her children.
Case 2) A former board member of Foster Family Association was convicted of beating, isolating and starving her foster care children, giving them electric shocks and causing them frost injuries.
The foster mother was able to torture the foster children for a long period because of the lack of surveillance of foster care and the lack of legal protection of child welfare clients. Instead of paying attention to the shortcomings of child welfare services and foster care, the child welfare organizations and media concentrate in protecting the honor of foster care institutions and the reputation of child welfare services.
About October Movement
Lokakuun Liike (October Movement) takes up grievances of child welfare. In this context has to be mentioned that as far as we are concerned we can detect also the successes of child welfare and quality child welfare operation. There is much such work in Finland and that is what we do hope to be strengthened.
In any case we do not state or make believe to our readers that e.g. the child welfare notification would equal the urgent displacement of the child from home (100000 child welfare notifications v. 4000 urgent displacements), or that all foster care decisions would be erroneous. There are naturally situations when the authorities have to interfere to the self determination right of the families in the name of the interest of the child. Such timely detection of severe danger is a primary interest in the social work in our country. Children have to be protected in the case they are seriously endangered.
Along with Finnish high quality child welfare and wise decisions in demanding field conditions the system has grievances. Numerous frontline experts in our country have admitted that in child welfare the client meets severe problems in legal protection. For example the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland highlighted the defects in child welfare and the processing of child affairs as one example of the fundamental and human rights problems in December 2013.
Once in a while the system produces more bad than good, and this is naturally not in accordance with the interests of the child. Therefore October Movement wants to make outstanding bottlenecks in child welfare visible. We believe that by admitting fairly the grievances by learning it is possible to create durable high-quality child welfare to our country, even internationally progressive child welfare services (e.g. Imatra model etc.). October Movement calls for the government to strengthen the wise work done in child welfare. There are too many grievances in the system hampering and begrimeing this good work. Therefore the public image of child welfare has been negative in recent years due to these reasons.
Over a period of twenty years or so, the Finnish child welfare system has moved from family centered policy and practice towards a more child centered orientation.
Since 1995, the scope of child welfare has expanded and the number of children taken into in-home or out-of-home services has increased significantly.
The Child Welfare Act, introduced in 2008, is an important landmark. The policy changes are seen as reflections of a strengthened emphasis on children’s rights, and, on the other hand, of a social investment in childhood and a more control-focused family and childhood ideology. The concepts of child abuse and neglect are widely defined; youth delinquency is still a part of the child welfare system which may be seen in the large numbers of teenagers in the child welfare system. This period of twenty years has also been marked by changes in professional practices and in the administrative context of child welfare.
Facts about Finnish Child Protection
Finland is a democratic welfare society, but in Child Welfare, dubious procedures and practices and severe methods are frequently used. The rules of consistence, bias suppression, accuracy, correctability, representativeness, and ethicality seldom apply to child welfare. Every second hour, a child is taken into care as an emergency measure. 77/week, 4000/year.
Under a given year, one in 70 of Finnish children has been subject for a placement. In all, there are app. 18.000 children or juveniles placed outside their homes. Over 10.000 of these have been taken into care, and a fifth of those against their or their parents’ consent.
Reunion of these families is very rare in Finland, and the placements are by nature permanent. This is against international Human Rights Conventions. The Government of Finland has not acted in this matter, despite court rulings and caveats.
Over 90.000 children and juveniles are reported to be clients of the Child Welfare authorities in one way or another. In the bigger cities, one child in ten is a client. Thus the Child Welfare is involved in the everyday lives of numerous Finnish families.
The reporting verge was lowered in 2008, and this has had a dramatic effect to the amount of clients of the Child Welfare services. Yearly, app 100.000 child protection notifications are made in Finland, mostly by the authorities.
Only few of the children reported are in need of immediate, grave actions. Still, approximately every third Finnish child is a client of the Child Welfare services during his/hers life, and one child in 20 will experience a placement. A child taken into care goes to live in a foster family or child welfare institution without sufficient surveillance and where child’s linguistic, cultural or religious background is seldom taken into account.
Among child welfare clients there are tens of thousand’s of children, needing other kind of support than the involvement of Child Welfare Services. Regardless, the basic supporting services have been depleted by political decisions. At the same time, Child Welfare Services has grown from a relatively marginal part of the Finnish Social Services to a large organization and a lucrative branch of business. Today, the Child Welfare system employs over 50 percent larger workforce than the police.
The cost of the placements alone is around one billion euros. The daily cost for one child can be over 600 euros. A foster family can receive for one child up to 30.000 €, and a third of this tax-free. In addition to this, they also receive financial support and benefits.
☞ The Declaration of October movement
☞ An advisory for child welfare clients
☞ Open letter to Committee for the Prevention of Torture
☞ How and why are Bears Cards used?
☞ Henriikka Kurhela - My Story
☞ Church provides shelter for the victim of rasism of the child welfare: (click the image:)
☞ International videos (click the image:)
Finnish Legislative Timeline on the Right of Child
☞ 1866 Folk school system 1888 First kindergarten 1921 Compulsory education
☞ 1927 Act on State Subsidies for
☞ Kindergartens 1936 Child Welfare Act
☞ 1948 Child Benefit 1971 Official guidelines for
☞ supervised family day care 1973 Act on Children’s Day Care
☞ 1973 Decree on Children’s Day Care 1968 Act on the Premises of the
☞ School System 1982 Social Welfare Act 1983 Child Welfare Act
☞ 1992 Decree on the Professional Qualifications of Social
☞ Welfare Personnel 1992 Family Care Act
☞ 1996 Act on the Child Home Care Allowance and the Private
☞ Care Allowance 2000 Pre-School Education Reform
☞ More Detailed Information about the Legislative Process
☞ UN: Conventions on the Rights of the Child
- Concluding Observations: Finland
☞ UN: 4th periodic report of the Government of Finland on the implementation of the UN convention on the Rights of Child
☞ UN: Human Rights Council - Periodic review Finland (2012)
☞ UN: Human Rights Council - Periodic review Addendum Finland
☞ EIT: K.A. v. Finland
☞ EIT: K.U. v. Finland
☞ EIT: Grönmark and Backlund v. Finland
☞ EIT: Laakso v. Finland
☞ EIT: Röman v. Finland
☞ EIT: K. and T. v Finland
☞ EIT: Juppala v. Finland
☞ EIT: Nuutinen v. Finland
☞ EIT: L. v. Finland
☞ EIT: H.K v. Finland
☞ EIT: Hokkanen v. Finland
International Rights of the Child
☞ The Lanzarote Convention
☞ The Lanzarote Convention / General Overview Questionaire
☞ The Lanzarote Convention / Sexual abuse of children in the circle of trust
☞ UN: Convention on the Rights of the Child
☞ UN: Convention on the Rights of the Child Treaty
☞ UN: Committee on the Rights of the Child
☞ European Convention on Human Rights
☞ Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and its Explanatory Report
☞ European charter for regional or minority languages
☞ COE: Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
☞ 9th Periodic Report on the Implementation of the Revised European Social Charter
☞ European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
☞ COE: Integrated strategy against violence
Finnish legislation concerning children
☞ Constitution of Finland
☞ Child Welfare Act - Finlex
☞ Child Custody and Rights of Access act
☞ Youth Act
☞ Basic Education Act
☞ Child Day Care Act
☞ Ombudsman for Children in Finland
☞ Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
☞ The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
☞ Parliamentary ombudsman
☞ Ministry of Education
☞ Finnish National Board of Education
☞ Finnish Board of Film Classification
☞ Consumer Agency & Ombudsman
☞ Regional State Administrative Agencies AVI
☞ National Audit Office of Finland
☞ Ministry of Justice - The Judical System
☞ National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health
☞ Official Statistics of Finland - Child Welfare
International Media Critique & Statements
☞ Western child protection services destroy children's lives
☞ Rantala incident
☞ Anton incident
☞ Man's family destroyed in Finland because his wife is Russian
☞ Finland's custody services keep Russian mother and her baby in a bunker
☞ The Dark Side Of Finland
☞ Finland rejects cooperation with Russia regarding children’s rights
☞ Russian mum faces prison if her kid again runs from Finnish orphanage
☞ Child welfare issues belong to authorities, Niinistö states
☞ Child issues have hit the headlines in a negative sense again in both the Finnish and Russian media, 7.10.2012
☞ Round table discussion of topical Finnish–Russian family matters
Link 1. and Link 2.
☞ Finland-Russia child dispute an issue of discrimination?
☞ Children and Childhood in a Welfare State: The Case of Finland
☞ FRA Thematic Study on Child Trafficking - Finland
☞ Global monitoring Report on the status of action against commercial sexual exploitation of children - FINLAND
☞ Children and Childhood in a Welfare State: The Case of Finland
☞ Child and youth participation in Finland - A Council of Europe policy review
☞ What do we know about health and wellbeing of immigrant youth in Finland?
☞ The possibilities for effective child protection – The Finnish research perspective