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Child welfare reports double in 10 years

An expert partly attributes the increase to lower reporting thresholds and broadened responsibilities of public-facing agencies.

Since 2009, the number of child protection notifications gradually increased every year, according to the data. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Reports sent to child welfare authorities have steadily increased over the past decade, according to statistics from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

In 2019, child welfare authorities received a total of 156,200 notifications regarding 83,090 children and 2,656 youths.

Just over a decade ago, in 2009, just 79,600 child protection notices regarding 53,286 children were sent to authorities. Since then, the number of notifications gradually increased every year, according to the data.

The increase in notifications is partly due to thresholds for reporting possible child endangerment having been lowered, and more authorities are now obliged to make such notifications, according to Anna Tiili, special advisor at the Central Union for Child Welfare.

"As such it's a good thing to act when it is thought that a child's situation needs to be assessed by social welfare workers. Of course, one can take into consideration whether we receive adequate support from basic services," she said.

According to statistics from the country's six largest cities, the most child protection notifications are being made by health professionals, police and school staff.

In particular the notifications are increasingly aimed at kids over the age of 13, with youths strongly represented in statistics concerning children being taken into care under urgent circumstances.

"This may indicate that it has not been possible to develop the right kinds of services for young people. Youths' problems are very complex, often a combination of issues," Tiili explained.

Changes to Child Welfare Act

The current Child Welfare Act, updated in 2015, specifies that all children living in Finland, regardless of their nationality, are entitled to care and a safe growing environment. Everyone under the age of 18 must be treated equally as individuals and be allowed to influence issues that concern them.

The Act also shifted the focus of child protection to on-the-ground branches of service like law enforcement and the health care sector.

The wording of the law may be read in nine languages at the Central Union for Child Welfare (siirryt toiseen palveluun)'s website.

"Child protection does not take place in a vacuum, but rather requires the cooperation of different parties. For example, if preventative or mental health services do not work, it will have an impact on the protection of children," Tiili said.