Preventive family work

 This blog post is about the legislation and practice of preventive family work, that is, of the kind of family work that should be available to those in need without involving child protective services.

In Finland the municipalities are obligated to organize a wide array of social services to their residents. Amongst which are social work and child guidance & family counselling. The Social Welfare Act defines child guidance and family counselling as:

“ […] provision of expert assistance with child upbringing and family matters and social, psychological and medical research and care promoting favourable child development […]” (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, 1982, 8).

Families have a right to immediate social services necessary for the health and development of a child. These services must be organized in the scope necessary and during the times of day they are needed. The services must support parents, guardians and others responsible for the care and upbringing of the child, in the care-taking and upbringing of cette child. (Finland, 2014). 

According to the Child Welfare Act public authorities must provide support in upbringing children to parents and custodians and this support must be provided “at a sufficiently early stage”. The municipalities are obligated to provide preventive child welfare that aims to promote the wellbeing of children without a clientship with child protective services. (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, 2007).

“[…] Preventive child welfare is used to promote and safeguard the growth, development and wellbeing of children and to support parenting. Preventive child welfare includes support and special support provided in the context of for instance education, youth work, day care, prenatal and child health clinic services and other social and health care services” (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, 2007, 1).

As can be seen from the previous excerpt, preventive child welfare consists of much more than just family work. However, in this post I aim to focus on preventive family work as it is a service one rarely comes across, as opposed to the more widely known family work as a part of child protective services. These blog posts are a part of group work and our group has come up with an imaginary child protective services -case of a young boy residing in Espoo. Hence I will now look into the family work provided for those living in the municipality of Espoo. 

The city of Espoo provides family work described as “conversational support and advice”. The services are easy to contact, either by using an e-form or a call-back service. Due to the Covid-19 situation, services are mainly provided via phone. The services are free of charge and the professionals come up with the best way of arranging the necessary services together with the clients. The conversational support and advice provided by family work in Espoo can be directed to solving the following issues:

“Do you need guidance and advice on your daily life as a family, your child’s daily rhythm, eating, sleeping or developmental challenges at different ages? Would you like to talk to somebody or ask for advice on parenting, your relationship with your partner, life as a family or your children?” (Espoo, 2020).

In a survey conducted in 2015 amongst the clients of family work and domestic services, it is stated that most of the clients were found through child health clinics, but many found the services themselves as well. Almost all participants felt their families were given personalized services. The services were perceived as professional and responding to the needs of the clients and they were considered to improve the clients’ life situations. Contacting the services was easy and they were given sufficiently quickly. (Espoo, 2015).

According to the survey, the families felt they were given enough information and guidance. Most participants also found that the house calls were sufficient in duration. It was considered important that the services were designed together with the clients. Cirka 45% of the clients of family work graded the services a nine out of ten. The family workers were perceived as professional and friendly, the conversations and advice useful. In the experience of the clients, they got actual support during difficult and trying times before the situation could escalate into a crisis. As critique, the survey revealed that residents need to be better informed of the services and  the services should be available even more quickly. (Espoo, 2015). The website of Family social work has a permanent link for providing feedback via an e-form (Espoo, 2020).

According to the 2018 annual report of the social and health services of Espoo there were cirka 2470 families receiving services of family social work. The overall costs of domestic services and family work grew over 40% compared to 2017 as the supply of the so called low-threshold services for children and families was increased. (Espoo, 2019). 

Bearing in mind the legislation governing preventive child welfare work, it seems that the city of Espoo has quite good practices concerning family work. And it seems that even though the costs may be financially high, the increasing of low-threshold services is the way to fulfil the needs of the residents. In Espoo, preventive family work as a service seems to provide what it is obligated by law to provide (guidance and counselling), what it states it will offer (conversational support and advice) and what the clients of it need to get (useful conversations and advice). 

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References:

Espoo. 2015. Lapsiperheiden kotipalvelu ja perhetyö saavat kiitosta. Accessed 3 November 2020. https://www.espoo.fi/fi-FI/Sosiaali_ja_terveyspalvelut/Lapsiperheiden_kotipalvelu_ja_perhetyo_s(77862)

Espoo. 2019. Sosiaali- ja terveystoimen toimintakertomus 2018. Accessed 3 November 2020. https://www.espoo.fi/fi-FI/Espoon_kaupunki/Tietoa_Espoosta/Julkaisut  

Espoo. 2020. Family social work. Accessed 1 November 2020. https://www.espoo.fi/en-US/Social_and_health_services/Services_for_the_families_with_children/Family_Social_Work 

Finland. 2014. Social Welfare Act .Accessed 28 October 2020. https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/2014/20141301

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland. 1982. Social Welfare Act 710/1982. Accessed 28 October 2020. https://finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/1982/en19820710_20140491.pdf 

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland. 2007. Child Welfare Act. Accessed 27 October 2020.  https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2007/en20070417_20131292.pdf

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