Taking into care safeguards the child’s best interests
Supporting the child’s life at home is always the priority in child welfare. However, home is not always the best place to live.
The child’s best interests are the priority in all actions taken by the authorities. The purpose of child welfare is to safeguard the child’s right to a safe environment for growing up and balanced development. If there are no other means to safeguard the child’s best interests, the child may also be placed outside the home.
There may be violence, substance abuse or indifference in the family. A child that self-harms may also need protection from himself or herself.
A child may be placed outside the home on a short-term basis or urgently.
Short-term placement by non-institutional social care is always voluntary. It may be related to exacerbated family relationships, for example.
Sometimes even the whole family may be placed to live outside the home. This is done especially if one of the parents is in rehabilitation because of substance abuse or mental health problems.
An emergency placement is only carried out if the child is in immediate danger and he or she is not cared for. For example, the situation may be related to substance abuse. It can be done against the child’s or the parents’ will.
Emergency placement is temporary. The authorities work with the parents of an urgently placed child so that the child could return to live at home.
If the situation does not improve despite the efforts, a decision by the social services or a court order is issued to take the child into care and the child is placed outside the home.
Family care with relatives or other close people or in a foster family is the primary alternative. Residential group homes and child welfare institutions are also alternatives. The decision is based on the best interests of the child.
A child aged 12 or older has the right to speak and to be heard in child welfare decisions concerning them. A child of this age can also be heard in court when it is deemed necessary and when the child so wishes. The authorities must ensure that the opinions stated by the child are really their own and the child has not been coerced or manipulated into saying something against their own will.
However, the wishes and opinion of a child under the age of 12 should also be determined and taken into account when possible. In this case, the authorities must pay particular attention to the child’s age and level of development. The child’s opinion can be determined by speaking with them and asking them or alternatively by following their play and actions or examining their drawings.
The child is entitled to meet their parents and other close relatives even when in care, if this is in the child’s best interests.
Although an effort is made to take the child’s own wishes and opinions into consideration when possible, these cannot always be followed. The authorities will make their decision according to what they believe is in the child’s best interests and therefore the best solution for the child.