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Child psychiatrist: Child abuse is a reality in Finland

Jari Sinkkonen says it is time to change the culture of non-involvement and not noticing.

Lastenpsykiatri Jari Sinkkonen.
Child psychiatrist Jari Sinkkonen. Image: Yle

Child psychiatrist Jari Sinkkonen says that the case of the brutal death of an 8 year-old girl at the hands of her father which recently came to light in Helsinki is not unique. In an interview with Yle, Sinkkonen said that he knows of several similar cases that have occurred over the years.

"It was not all that long ago that a child was rescued at nearly the last minute. There was a real threat of death. Now the child is doing well."

Sinkkonen says that everyone should open their eyes to the fact that child abuse is a reality in Finland. He related one of the more shocking cases he has come across.

"Two children, 5 and 7, sometimes did not have enough to eat. They wet toilet paper with lukewarm water and ate that. The children told the authorities and some of their relatives and now their circumstances are good."

This child psychiatrist places the burden of responsibility to prevent child abuse on everyone. He wants to see a change in the culture of non-involvement and not noticing.

Child welfare in the crossfire

In the interview, Sinkkonen also pointed out child welfare authorities are not infallible, and do sometimes misevaluate situations. However, they are also stuck in a crossfire.

"They are under immense pressure not to cause expenses by taking children into custody. On the other hand there is the goal of preserving and keeping families together, something that the media has pressed strongly for."

Sinkkonen noted that cases have been publicized in which families claim to have been treated wrongly by unfeeling welfare authorities.

"The other party hasn't been able to say anything. Many social workers have become extremely cautious. Then they want to see positive signs and they become overly optimistic. This is when misevaluations occur," says Jari Sinkkonen.

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