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Authority finds child welfare units keep inadequate records on use of disciplinary measures

The measures can include restrictions on communication and freedom of movement, personal checks and inspections, as well as placing a child in isolation or detention.

lapsi keinuu, synkkä varjo
Failure to keep records jeopardises the best interests and rights of the child, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health Valvira said. Image: Paulus Markkula / Yle

Records and decisions concerning the use of disciplinary measures on children in child welfare institutions are not being made or are left incomplete, according to a report by the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health Valvira.

The failure to keep these records jeopardises the best interests and rights of the child, the authority said.

The measures can include restrictions on communication and freedom of movement, personal checks and inspections, as well as placing a child in isolation or detention. Valvira's report revealed that there were more than 8,000 personal inspections carried out in private child welfare institutions last year, and over 6,000 detentions.

Personal inspections can be carried out, for example, when a child is suspected of using drugs, and may involve the child undergoing a breathalyser test or providing a blood, urine, hair or saliva sample.

The shortcomings in keeping records as identified by the supervisory authority applied to both private and public child welfare units.

Use of measures should be discussed with the child

Vavira's report further found that child-centred assessments, which are intended to discuss the use of the discipline with the child after it has been handed out, have also been neglected by the institutions.

Finland's Child Protection Act requires that each institution must assess the use of the measure together with the child as soon as the child is able to understand the significance of the subject matter.

"This is probably partly due to ignorance of the law, that these arbitrations are not done, but it is always possible that it is also a question of exercising power," Valvira's legal expert Päivi Vuorinen said.

The recording of decisions and measures, as per the law, ensure a degree of monitoring and control, Valvira added. The information is further required when assessing the help and support a child needs.

Valvira added that the authority has already addressed some of the shortcomings identified in the reporting standards with the institutions involved.

Number of children placed in care is rising

The supervisory authority also identified shortcomings in the way in which social workers responsible for children monitor their treatment during foster care placements.

There is a danger that inappropriate treatment or illegal restraint of a child will go unnoticed by a social worker, Vuorinen said.

According to statistics provided by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL, the number of children placed outside their homes has been growing steadily in Finland since the early 1990s.

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