Finnish Systemic Practice Model for child protection

Next set of blog posts from our group concerns different methods and models in the field of child protection. In this blog post I will introduce you to the Finnish Systemic Practice model for child protection. This particular blog post is inspired by an interview with a working life representative. 

The need for change in the field of child protection has been generally recognized in Finland. “The Finnish systemic practice model for child protection is a further developed version of the UK’s Reclaiming Social Work model (the Hackney model), which integrates systemic family therapy orientations, methods and tools as part of child protection social work. (Aaltio & Isokuortti 2019, 6)”
There are no sections in the Finnish legislation that would restrain or limit running the model in Finland. Actually, the child welfare act supports it in several parts. (Lahtinen et al. 2017)

The Finnish systemic practice model for child protection has a certain structure and common principles which are supposed to guide all the activities of the professionals and concern all clients.  It has three core elements, which are interconnected: systemic practice, a systemic team, and a systemic weekly meeting. These three core elements are very important and have to work properly in order to produce more effective and higher quality child protective services. (Aaltio & Isokuortti 2019)

The main principles in the Finnish systemic practice (based on the Hackney model) are:

  • Systematization (seeing the whole, not separate problems) 
  • Family therapeutic understanding and based on relationships 
  • Child orientation
  • Encountering and including the client 
  • Structures supporting systemic practice model and multiprofessional collaboration 
  • Shared values and coordinating management
    (Lahtinen et al. 2017)

This practice model defines systemicity as a perspective on human life where attention is paid to the complex relationships between different factors. It is seen that in systemicity, every factor connects with each through various ways. To achieve change, every actor needs to recognise their own influence on the system. (Aaltio & Isokuortti 2019)

In the field of child protection, systemic practice is goal-oriented social work that relies on systemic thinking and working practices. The starting point of the systemic practice is to create a confidential and positive relationship with the child and the custodians as well as exploring their life situation together as a whole. These actions aim towards ensuring the safety and promoting the well-being of the child. Systemic approach highlights the interaction between the material and immaterial living environment, the child and the child’s family. For example the child protective services and other services provided for them. (Aaltio & Isokuortti 2019)

The systemic practice model enables the inclusion of the client in many ways. From the beginning, the client will be participating in the discussion of their own situation and the client is able to elaborate the method. The client is seen as one of the key actors in the system. The model gives the whole family a possibility to influence and design the services they are receiving. Help and support are concrete and exert influence towards the whole family. (Lahtinen et al. 2017)

Child protection can become most effective through creative and individualised solutions – not through existing manuals and jurisprudence. 

“Vaikuttavinta lastensuojelua löytyy luovien ja yksilöllisten ratkaisujen – ei valmiiden manuaalien tai juridiikan kautta” (Lahtinen et al. 2017, 11)

Pros and cons of the model:

  • multiprofessional network
  • In practice the client usually meets one or two professionals, but the whole team carries the responsibility of the client’s situation -> this increases resilience, gravitation to the field, well-being at work and persistence of the professionals
  • the social worker will continue to be responsible for the child’s affairs but the new addition is that the social worker gets the entire team alongside 
  • therefore the client will always get service from a professional who knows the client’s situation
  • what is new in the team structure is the family therapist joining the team (in Finland e.g. family counseling, child-, youth-, or adult psychiatry or substance abuse services professional who has additional degree of a family therapist)
  • the new team structure will allow for a more comprehensive and more multidisciplinary view of the client’s situation 
  • the team has more confidence in the system – of the fact that the solution arises together via reflection 
    (Lahtinen et al. 2017)

Who belongs to the team?

  • at the least social workers, a family therapist and a social counsellor
  • the social worker responsible for the child’s affairs has an important role ensuring the child’s inclusion and making sure that the child is being heard
  • when forming the teams it is necessary to observe the client needs, local circumstances, staff structure and employees’ own interests and competencies
  • each professional has an important and specific role 
    (Lahtinen et al. 2017)

Possible risks:

  • not committing to the systemicity
  • teams are too small
  • lack of counselling
  • not being able to develop a common working culture
  • lack of trust between management and employees, as well as others
  • not enough reflection of one’s own attitudes and assumptions
    (Lahtinen et al. 2017)

Personally I hope that the systemic practice model would improve Finnish child protective services and is here to stay. I can see the potential and opportunities for the model to be successful. I am very interested to see the results of the models effectiveness in the future. If you want to learn more about the systemic practice model, see the links below.


Aaltio, E & Isokuortti, N. 2019. Systeemisen lastensuojelun toimintamallin ydinelementit. Kuvaus asiakastason ydinelementeistä, tavoitteista ja toimintamekanismeista. Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos (THL). Accessed 23 October 2020. 

Lahtinen, P; Männistö, L & Raivio, M, 2017. Kohti suomalaista systeemistä lastensuojelun toimintamallia : Keskeisiä periaatteita ja reunaehtoja. Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos (THL). Accessed 23 October 2020.

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3 ajatusta aiheesta “Finnish Systemic Practice Model for child protection”

  1. This systemic practice model seems to be a really good method to improve child protection, but how is it in practice? Can it be made and utilised in a matter that is sustainable and effective? I specifically like the way it focuses on multiprofessional networking, since different professionals working hand in hand can significantly benefit the client from multiple perspectives and areas of life. But I’m also wondering how well is the communication between the team going to work, especially when workers are busy and have so many clients simultaneously. It may prove difficult for many.

    I am may be thinking too pessimistically though. I definitely see the potential here, and would love to see this fully implemented to see how it works.

    1. Thank you for your comments and reflections! I have a great belief for this method to work. It is hard to say about the effectiveness yet, as it is quite new in Finland and there are no results published yet in my knowledge. But this method tries to overcome also the issues on professionals having too many clients eventually. We will see in the future how it works and hopefully well!

  2. Thank you for explaining the whole topic so well, the systemic practice sound really good but in real-life situations, it might be different. When working with a child and their family it is always very important to meet every family as an individual case.

    I think in child welfare there should be more different kinds of workers, especially with multicultural knowledge. If the child welfare client feels that the professionals are there to help not to make harm in the family the work would be more fruitful.

    Thank you for the very informative blog post :)!