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Finland formally apologises to children abused in care

The family affairs minister has apologised on behalf of the government to generations of young people who were ill-treated while in state care. The ceremony took place at Finlandia Hall on UN Children's Day.

Noin kaksikymmentä poikalasta syömässä ahtaassa tilassa jossa on kerrossänkyjä.
The Vuokkiniemi reform school was crowded in 1942. Image: SA-kuva

Finland's Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, Juha Rehula, has issued an official state apology on Sunday to those who have been mistreated in child protective services over the decades. The government has not promised any financial compensation to the victims of mistreatment.

November 20 has designated as Children's Day by the United Nations since 1954. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted on the same date five years later, followed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

The move follows a report published last spring by a commission tasked with looking into the experiences of children taken into custody during the era of Finland's first Child Welfare Act. It was in effect from 1937 to 1983.

The study documented incidences of mistreatment and abuse in all child protection facilities, including reform schools, juvenile detention facilities, orphanages and foster homes.

The current Child Welfare Act 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 wording of the law may be read in nine languages on the website of the Central Union for Child Welfare.

Rehula, a deputy chair of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's Centre Party, has held the Family Affairs and Social Services portfolio since mid-2015. He previously served as Minister of Social Affairs and Health for about a year in 2010-11.

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