Children and young people gave school grades for child welfare
Children and young people assessed child welfare as ‘adequate’ in a survey commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and carried out by the Central Union for Child Welfare. Children and young people said that child welfare should increase inclusion, reduce staff turnover and improve the regulation related to restrictive measures.
The Central Union for Child Welfare ran a survey in November and December among children and young people aged 10 to 25 with personal experience of child welfare. The respondents were asked to give school grades for six child welfare “subjects” (fairness, safety, timeliness, consideration of opinions, success and clarity) and provide a verbal assessment.
Carried out by the Central Union for Child Welfare and Kasper – Parenting and family counselling, the “What grade does child welfare receive?” survey is part of a study to gauge the views of children, young people and parents on child welfare. Financed with funds from the National Child Strategy, the study will contribute to the overall reform of child welfare legislation currently under way at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The study has included workshops for children and young people, and it has made use of empirical knowledge, which the Central Union for Child Welfare’s Kokemus tiedoksi project has collected from experts by experience on child welfare. Parents’ views will be reported later in the study.
Child welfare services received low grades but also thanks
There were no positive surprises in the grades which child welfare received at the end of this autumn term. On a scale from 4 to 10, child welfare received the average grade of 6.33. The most common grade respondents gave in all subjects was 4 but, with high dispersion of answers, child welfare also received some good grades. Respondents gave their highest grades for fairness and security. There was most dispersion in the grades for fairness and success, which means that the experiences of these two areas vary the most.
Surprisingly many respondents signed off their report card with gratitude or love, but while they may have thanked individual workers in the open answers, respondents criticised child welfare as a whole. A survey such as this reduces each respondent’s history with child welfare, no matter how long or varied, to a single numerical grade, but children and young people have nevertheless sent a clear message: child welfare should have done more.
“Thank you for everything you do! I can't say that I’ve always been happy about the decisions social workers have made, but mostly I have been, and anyway the decisions were made with my best interests at heart. Social worker turnover has been high, but fortunately now I have the best ever worker.”
“I can’t give a good grade, all in all I had more than ten social workers, and sometimes I didn't have a social worker of my own for months. And they wouldn’t have believed us children anyway, the director passed on our messages, the social worker never came to me to ask how I’m doing or how I’m dealing with being taken away from home.”
Children and young people's views on child welfare were gauged in more detail in workshops for young adults who included child welfare after-care clients, young clients in out-of-home care who abused substances as a symptom of their problems, child welfare’s young clients who attended a remote workshop through the Nuorten turvasatama online project, and children of primary school age who were clients in non-institutional care. Workshops aimed to reach those children and young people who had not participated in developing child welfare through other channels.
Children of primary school age thought that the best child welfare service in the world would help families, have professionals who listen to children, enable children to get involved and provide activities that children enjoy engaging in. Young people hoped for more open encounters and that their message would be taken seriously. Children and young people said it would be important to organise the right support measures early enough so that child welfare can, if necessary, work alongside other services. Respondents said that placing children outside their home and introducing restrictive measures was necessary in some situations, but they also proposed many ideas for improving the practices and procedures for resorting to such measures.
“What grade does child welfare receive?” survey
- The Central Union for Child Welfare conducted the “What grade does child welfare receive?” survey in November and December. In addition to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and Kasper, social workers on Tiktok contributed to disseminating the survey.
- 297 children and young people aged 10 to 25 who had been child welfare clients responded to the survey.
- 77% of the respondents said they had been placed outside home.
- Respondents awarded grades on a scale of 4 to 10 in six subjects, fairness, safety, timeliness, opinion, success and clarity, which were related to the basic duties of child welfare.
- The average grades varied between 6 and 7, corresponding to adequate and satisfactory.
- Many respondents gave the lowest score; the most common grade was 4. Of all the respondents, more than 40 gave 4 for every subject.
Experts by experience recognise the critical factors in child welfare
The Kokemus tiedoksi project coordinated by the Central Union for Child Welfare has gathered experiences of the critical factors in child welfare from experts by experience. Project results be published in more detail during 2023.
Child welfare's experts by experience call for better availability and functioning of preventive and low-threshold services. Assistance must be provided in a timely and effective manner. In particular, young people’s own agency and participation in child welfare processes must be increased. Young people's views must be consulted genuinely and honestly. Services must support one another, the boundaries between them must be broken and multi-professional cooperation ensured.
Young people said that deficiencies in the skills and suitability of employees pose a challenge to child welfare. Staff need better skills for encounters and interaction as well as for recognising the triggers based on which child welfare should get involved. Experts by experience would like to see well-resourced and high-quality child welfare where more attention is paid to the suitability of employees. Supervision and quality assessment are key factors for providing sustained and safe child welfare.
Legislative reform to help child welfare get better grades
The grades given in the “What grade does child welfare receive?” survey along with the verbal answers and other views which children and young people provided in the study will contribute to the overall reform of child welfare legislation under way at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The reform aims to safeguard every child’s right to balanced development and special protection and to make family services clearer and more effective.
- Kokemus tiedoksi -project (in Finnish)
- Overall reform of child welfare legislation (in Finnish)
Annukka Paasivirta, Senior Specialist, Central Union for Child Welfare, [email protected]
Sanna Välimäki, Executive Director, Kasper – Parenting and family counselling [email protected]
Julia Rosberg, Specialist, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected]