sunnuntai 24. huhtikuuta 2016

How can cultural differences allow them to treat me like an animal?

Legislation the smoking gun? Activist Leeni Ikonen insisted that flawed legislation is causing many families to experience interventions they don’t need. It’s also taking many more children away from their families than is necessary.

"The new child protection law which has been changed and to which many reforms have been introduced over the years is based on forced assistance - in other words, the social worker defines the family’s needs."

She added that the current system is particularly unkind to migrant families.

"When people are approached by way of theory and prejudice and pre-judgment, then immigrants are considered "odd" by officials and the problems may multiply. The research shows that among immigrants many children are taken into care."

Ministerial Counsellor Marjo Lavikainen didn’t directly address Ikonen’s claims, but noted that child welfare legislation has been the target of numerous updates. She says that new reforms introduced in 2014 that stress early intervention are already beginning to bear fruit.

"More families are getting support at an early stage so they don’t need to be taken into care. In recent years there has been a decline in the numbers of emergency placements. They had previously been growing during the 2000s. But in 2013 there was a 10 percent decrease. It shows that there isn’t need for foster care if they have early stage support."

THL data show that the overall number of children placed outside the home in 2014 – 17,958 – decreased by less than one percent compared to 2013. Moreover, the THL trend line indicates a steady overall increase from the early 1990s onwards.

Lavikainen also leaned on the law in her assessment of how immigrants are treated in the child welfare system. She noted that the Social and Child Welfare act requires workers "to consider alternative measures to support the family, including clients’ opportunities to participate and influence, and taking into account clients’ linguistic, cultural and religious background".

However she admitted that although the law is very specific, the quality and nature of child welfare services vary depending on municipal resources, and that exposure to sensitivity and cultural training is also likely to differ from place to place.

The ministerial official struck an optimistic note as she said that recent legal reforms and a new ministry project is looking to put families – and especially children – at the centre of child protection services.

But for clients of the system such as Stephen and the others who shared their experiences with Yle News, such moves will likely seem like too little too late. They have already lost faith in institutions that claim to champion the rights of the child and family.

"My experiences lead [me] to the conclusion that far too much authority has been delegated to local authorities that are largely unaccountable for both professional and ethical decisions."

*Names and certain details changed to protect the individuals’ identities.

YLE 8.3.2016 Finnish child welfare: Child protection or "for profit" foster care?

Yle News
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