This blog post is written from the perspective of someone (aka Me) whose family has a clientship with child protective services. And from this perspective, I try to evaluate what measures, methods and services provided by the child protective services have reinforced my family’s inclusion to our society.
Obviously, the real client of the child protective services is my child, rather than my whole family, but I doubt she values much of anything provided for us by cette services. We became clients about 7 years ago, as I and the municipal child care provider decided together to make a child welfare notification for my child. The notification was needed as I, a single mother at the time, was out of my depths with the behaviour of my then 5 year old child.
My child has always been a bit special, kinda high-strung and definitely a highly sensitive person. But the issues became more pressing after the divorce of Me and her father when she was only 4. Me and Mine. That’s how it’s always been. Ever since I was expecting her and all the way up to this day, I’d say. And therein lies the core of our problems. Me trying to cope with everything by myself and her hanging onto Me for dear life. I believe she is so entangled with Me because I am the only constant in her life.
I was one of those people who just could not wait for their baby to be born to get the blues. So I opted for the slightly more rare option of antenatal depression. And once you’ve found a good thing, why give it up? That is to say, I still have medication for depression but I would describe myself as a highly-functioning depressed person. So there was never any concern of Me being unable to provide for the basic needs of my child.
The issues that brought on the clientship with the child protective services were, and still are, the emotional development of my child, the inability for her to act age-appropriately in family settings and the entangled relationship of Me and Mine that, for example, leads to separation anxiety on her part. It has also been acknowledged by the child protective services that our family situation is difficult due to my depression and ongoing financial problems. These, in a nutshell, have continued to be the main issues during the past 7 years.
I have tried to give the reader a glimpse into our life and the problems that keep our clientship with the child protective services going. And now I aim to review the help we have gotten during these 7 years from the perspective of inclusion.
First of all, we have gotten family work. And then some family work. And then intensified family work. And again intensified family work. And mind you, these services are a resource that is very sought after and usually only given for a certain period of time (f.ex. 3 months) and usually not repeatedly to the same client.
According to the in-house control plan (omavalvontasuunnitelma) of intensified family work the plan for intensified family work with the client is recorded and evaluated regularly, at least every 3 months. But as it takes years for health care services to provide psychotherapy for children, family work was pretty much the only thing we could be offered. And as the need for some kind of help was constant, family work was what we got.
According to the handbook for child protection, published online by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, family work can be defined as supporting the well-being of the client and their family. The aim of family work is to strengthen the resources and communication of the family. Family work usually takes place in the client’s home and it can entail conversational help and support in performing daily tasks. Family work is a combination of practical help and psychosocial support, the central goal of which is securing the interest of the child.
Whereas intensified family work is described as intensive support with an element of exerting control and it is often given when a family is in a crisis. Support should be given 24/7 if needed. The client families of intensified family work are usually experiencing a challenging situation and are in need of special support and guidance. An important aspect of intensified family work is cooperation with the client family. In order for the work to be successful, the family needs to identify the need for change and be motivated to correct their problems.
According to the in-house control plan mentioned before, intensified family work is performed by a pair of social service professionals. The work needs to be performed respectfully and in cooperation with the clients own network. Based on the values and policies of intensified family work, the service needs to be customer-oriented, personalized and based on the needs of the clients with an emphasis on the secure development of the child. Intensified family work can entail the promoting of physical, psychological, cognitive and social performance, well-being and inclusion of the clients. As well as supporting the physical exercising and recreational activities of children. These aspects of intensified family work are evaluated every 3 months.
But to come back to family work provided for Me and Mine by the child protective services; my child never wanted to take part in anything family workers came up with.
I took part in everything but felt constantly a bit disappointed with what we received. Looking back, I suppose I was hoping for more concrete help with f.ex. getting the child to daycare/school in the mornings. Also, I am the kind of parent who, voluntarily and out of my own interest, follows public discussions of issues relating to children, keeps tabs on developments in science (f.ex. child psychology) and converses with other parents when in need of peer support. And I have studied development psychology and other related fields in a university. So I would describe myself as an enlightened parent. And therefore sticker charts and The Bears cards were not as impressive to me as something I hadn’t already thought of myself could have been.
The most vivid memory I have of the countless hours of family work we received (and with many different family workers) is the one time we did get concrete help for Me to get the child to daycare in the morning (bear in mind the separation anxiety) and that help resulted in Me and the family worker together trying to physically pull the child off of a kitchen chair.
Obviously, there were a lot of methods that were introduced to Me and Mine, to try and facilitate our entangled relationship and to ease our daily lives. However, once something was introduced, and once my child had expressed her unwillingness to participate, as always, it was left to Me alone to enforce that something into our lives. And sadly, most of the time, I could not deliver. I do, however, still have the new family rules we came up with together with Me and Mine and the family workers. Taped together from tiny pieces of paper as Mine decided to destroy them the very first evening.
So to conclude my thoughts on family work and intensified family work as well (could never really make out the difference between the two), I would have to say, that intentions are good, methods are many and I guess it’s better than nothing. When considering family work from the standpoint of inclusion and that of increasing inclusion of the clients, I experienced none. However, family workers do take clients to different activities and can thus enforce inclusion. This was just never a problem with Me and Mine (remember the high-functioning depressee) and therefore I cannot, from my limited experience, state that family work increased our inclusion in society.
However, there is an aspect of child protection that did reinforce inclusion for Me and Mine.
In a publication by the European Union, it states that municipalities may grant preventive social assistance (ennaltaehkäisevä toimeentulotuki) based on their own discretion. And one of the purposes of preventive social assistance is to prevent social exclusion.
The handbook for child protection states that municipalities can grant financial support for families on the basis of child protection. This support can be allocated for recreational activities or studies. Preventive social assistance can be granted for rent-arrears or for balancing the economic situation of a family in debt. In this regard, social assistance can be seen, not only as supporting clients of child protective services, but also as preventing the need for those services.
Financial support on the basis of the clientship of child protective services has reinforced my family’s inclusion to the society. Mine has gotten financial aid for her hobbies. And without this aid, it would have, at times, been impossible for her to continue them. Among other things, we have gotten financial support for the deductibles of my psychotherapy, both our medication and health care fees, the deductibles of our family’s supported holidays (tuettu loma), travel costs and so on. The child protective services also reimburse the expenses for my parents for when they take care of Mine, as my parents are defined as an unofficial support family for her. Even financial obligations (maksusitoumus) to grocery stores have, at times, been needed and received post haste.
Without this extensive financial aid, we would have suffered greatly. Me more than Mine. As I understand all the consequences of simply not having enough money. And without the clientship, we would never have gotten all this help. As we have gotten financial aid, in the form of preventive social assistance directly from the child protective services, even during the times my family did not qualify for basic social assistance. So of this help I will always be grateful for. And this financial aid has definitely promoted our inclusion in society.
Considering inclusion from the standpoint of a client of child protective services, I feel obligated to mention a few hiccups that we have encountered during the years of our clientship.
Firstly, the child protective services actually ended our clientship at one point, when my child got a clientship at the Child Psychiatry Clinic at a university hospital. I objected to the decision of ending the clientship but to no avail and in about 5 months time the clientship was renewed. And of this experience, I would like to state that it takes too much effort and time to renew the clientship. And it was also a good example of how these two institutions, the Child Psychiatry Clinic and the unit of child protective services, did not change enough information with each other for either to be fully informed of our situation.
Secondly, we have had the same social worker assigned to our case for at least the past 5 years. However, unfortunately our social worker has been more absent than present. Thus, it has, at times, been greatly difficult to reach a person in charge of our affairs. There have also been network meetings at the Child Psychiatry Clinic without anyone from the child protective services participating. Obviously, when our social worker has been absent, there has usually been Someone assigned to our case. But there have been countless Someones. Someones that are basically impossible to reach. And Someones who know essentially nothing of our situation. And now there’s a Someone who has just noticed that our client plan has not been updated for the past two years.
These two aspects of our clientship have not enforced inclusion. On the contrary they have left Me feeling alone and helpless.
To conclude this blog post, I wish to stress that Mine is the most beautiful, funniest, most intelligent, most skillful, the most perfect little child there ever was.
Photo: own archive
European Union. 2013. Your Social Security Rights in Finland. Accessed 16 October 2020.
Innovative Resources. 2020. The Bears. Accessed 17 October 2020.
Lastensuojelun käsikirja. Accessed 15 October 2020.
Tampereen kaupunki. 2018. Omavalvontasuunnitelma tehostettu perhetyö. Accessed 16 October 2020.
Tays. 2020. Child Psychiatry. Accessed 16 October 2020. https://www.tays.fi/en-US/Services/Child_Psychiatry