Thirty measures have been drawn up based on the National Child Strategy to promote the realisation of the rights of the child in Finland. A child welfare handbook for children and adolescents is being created as one of the measures in the implementation plan by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), which for several years now has supported implementation of the Child Welfare Act by maintaining the Handbook for child protection (in Finnish, thl.fi). The handbook is an online service intended particularly for child welfare professionals, but which is also accessible to everyone.
Why do adolescents need their own child welfare handbook?
Children and adolescents have, in many different connections, raised the point that it is hard for them to get information about child welfare in a way that they understand. The need for information is often driven by concrete questions related to child welfare pathways. Since children and adolescents seldom have a full idea of their own rights and obligations, questions associated with these are important. Information can help children and adolescents to get a clearer view of their situation and own interests. Information also safeguards children’s possibilities to have a say in their own affairs. This is not just a matter of a child’s right to information, but of the fact that information and involvement together can have a decisive effect on how the best interests of the child and his or her access to justice are ultimately realised.
The validity, appropriateness or even quality of child welfare measures are not necessarily clear to a child or adolescent even if they have long been clients of child welfare. The interpretations of a child or adolescent should be supported by correct and comprehensible information. This objective is also important because appropriate information makes it easier for children to feel trust and be aware of the appropriateness of child welfare measures.
What is the handbook intended for adolescents?
The child strategy measure with regard to a child welfare handbook seeks to increase and strengthen children’s and adolescents’ awareness and understanding of child welfare. The handbook will restrictively open up key practices in child welfare and provide detailed information about child welfare services, child welfare legislation and the legal remedies available to children.
The measure will create a website intended for children and adolescents in conjunction with the Handbook for child protection online service. The content of the website for children will be based on the information in the Handbook and the key parts of this will be modified to make it user friendly to children and adolescents. The website will be marketed in conjunction with organisations and other actors in information channels, such as social media, used by children and adolescents.
Adolescents involved in development of the handbook
The special expertise of children and adolescents stems from their own experiential knowledge and their experiences of various services. This is why it is important for children and adolescents to be involved as broadly and effectively as possible in the design and implementation of the handbook’s content and user-friendliness. They need to be involved as genuinely active actors, as if in the roles of co-researchers.
The handbook is being implemented in collaboration with adolescents and young adults who have experience of being child welfare clients. During spring 2022, we reached out to a number of groups of adolescents across Finland to discuss the concepts that need to be raised and how. Together with adolescents, we also considered what would be the most suitable visual image for the handbook with regard to adolescents and how information about the content of the handbook could best reach adolescents who are child welfare clients.
The handbook for child welfare will be completed and published in late 2022.