On what basis are emergency placements made in child welfare work?

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 12.2.2016 11.10
News item

Child welfare is aimed at guaranteeing the child's right to a safe growth environment, balanced and diverse development and special protection. But on what basis are emergency placements made in child welfare work? Also, what does 'immediate threat' mean as a requirement for emergency placements? Riitta Burrell, Ministerial Adviser for the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, speaks on these matters in a video interview.

Link to the video interview:

Text version of the interview

On what basis are emergency placements made in child welfare work?

"An emergency placement can be made when the child is in immediate danger. This immediate danger may result either because their home environment seriously endangers their health or development, or because the child themselves with their own behaviour, through the use of intoxicants for example, endangers their own development and health."

What does 'immediate threat' mean as a requirement for emergency placements?

"A danger is immediate if the child cannot be safely left at their home or other place of residence. From the child welfare worker's perspective, this means that the worker cannot leave work without first checking that the child is OK."

How should action be taken if sufficient evidence is received regarding an immediate danger?

"In this situation, three things must be kept in mind: First, actions must in general be taken on the basis that enough information is available. Above all, the child must be met with in person. It is also important to ensure good information flow between different authorities, and to make sure that information coming from different sources is reliable and up-to-date, and that all parties interpret the information in the same way. Secondly, even in acute situations as much information as possible must be obtained. In emergency situations the importance of home visits is very high. But it is necessary to remember – and this is the third thing – that there are certain situations in which not much information is available, nor is it possible to obtain more information without endangering the child. In these situations action must be taken even with limited information. In such cases it is important to record not only the reasons for the emergency placement, but also the reason why it was not possible to obtain extra information in the given situation."

When is it possible to place the child through open care support measures instead of making an emergency placement?

"Weaker measures, of which open care support measures are one example, are always preferable, as they are based on the consent and cooperation of the child and their family. It must also be made sure, however, that the child is safe. Among other things, it must be confirmed that what has been agreed on has been stuck to. This includes, for example, making sure that the child is in fact placed where it has been agreed that they will be placed. It is important to note that the social worker's decision for emergency open care obliges the municipality in the same way as a decision for emergency placement – in other words, the municipality must organise the placement immediately. The same applies to other emergency open care support measures."

Interview and video: Kimmo Vainikainen