It is relatively easy to find foster families willing to take in infants and small children. However, as children grow into school age, the number of available foster homes falls off sharply.
"This society maybe gets a little nervous about offering homes to schoolchildren," says Kristiina Mattinen, a regional director for Save the Children Finland.
Between January and August of this year, over 280 new foster families were sought in the Helsinki region. Right now, nearly 40 children are waiting to be placed in a home.
Impact of legislation
Legislation came into force at the beginning of the year that mandates that an effort must be made to find foster families for children who need placement, in preference to institutional care.
"With the change in law there has been an increased need for foster families. The first choice for children and youths is always foster care when they need to be placed outside their own homes. There is a real need to get new families involved," explains Mattinen.
According to Kristiina Mattinen, being a foster family is not a complex affair.
"The family needs to have strong parenting, be caring, and be present in these young lives."
A child can be taken into custody by children welfare authorities if his or her parents are unable to provide proper care, or when a child's own behaviour endangers his or her wellbeing.
"A foster family can come to grips with a young person by establishing boundaries," points out Mattinen.
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