European Court of Human Rights has 14.11.2019 delivered judgment concerning Finland. The Court found that there had been a violation of the right to life and the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. The applicant had complained of a decision by the Finnish authorities to deport her father to Iraq, where he was shot dead in 2017, shortly after his return.

The 14.11.2019 delivered judgment shows serious problems in the Fin- nish Administrative Court system. The Administrative Courts deal with the child protection cases as well. The Administrative Courts generally accept most of the social workers’ claims. Fair trial does not realize in the court process. The assessment of the facts and the evidence is not accu- rately conducted.

Foster care is primarily made for the entire duration of childhood, although there is an obligation in the law to unite families. Considering the verdicts given to the Finnish State by the European Court of Human Rights, it is likely that there are large numbers of children living in foster care, who are subjected to purposeful and goal-oriented binding to foster care. In 2018 only 454 care orders were terminated.

In 2018, there were 18 544 children placed outside of their home in Finland (population 5,5 million). An urgent placement in substitute care is carried out every two hours. The number of child welfare reports has doubled in a decade; a total of ca. 400 are made every day. According to current information, more than every 20th child is estimated to be placed in foster care (Finnish Institute for health and welfare, 23/2019, The Ministry of Finance, Jorma Sipilä, Eva Österbacka 11/2013).

Among children placed in family care, only 689 children are placed with their relatives or families of their loved ones. There are children living in foster care, whose contacts with their parents, grandparents and other family members have been either cut completely or otherwise severely restricted by the child welfare authorities.

Research indicates that the state does not know the reasons for foster care nor how the children in foster care are faring. Children disappear from their loved ones and the authorities.

The Finnish Administrative Court system has made the business possible

In the 2000s, child welfare has evolved into profitable business: 90% of child welfare institutions are run by private companies. Yle News found recently that foster care is a billion euro business (

The cost of institutional and family care paid by the municipalities is nearly three times the sum paid for community care for families. Thus, the Finnish State puts its money into foster care instead of supporting the families, even though Finland is bound by the Convention on Human Rights and legislation to support families.

The Finnish State submitted its report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child with a delay of two years. The state does not give any information of the catastrophic situation of the families. The social workers deliver a child into foster care every two hours.

Finland does not know the reasons why 18 544 children live in foster care

There is no nation-wide information about the reasons for child welfare interventions and for taking children into custody. In most custody intervention cases, the child would need high-quality basic services such as healthcare, early childhood education and school services, or the family is tired and would benefit from practical household help.

The basis of taking children or youth into custody based on their behavior usually occurs when they are in elementary school. Restless learning environment instigates restlessness and prevents or hinders concentration. Bullying may continue in some schools and the bullied children are placed into foster care because of their ”symptoms”.

Some schools use child welfare reports as a tool to transfer children using child welfare services while refusing to provide the children the support and help they needs. Only some of these children seem to manage in the constant elementary school reforms and restless learning environment.

Studies show that a significant part of the children subjected to child welfare services and taking into custody had, prior to foster care, gone without a service they required. Child welfare services and foster care is also used to remedy the shortcomings in the psychiatric care of children and youth.

Children suffering from neuronal spectrum disorders do not get help. Foster care of a child is traumatic for the entire family and their loved ones, but it is also extremely costly. Studies show that only a small number of those taken into custody manages in life. One marginalized youth costs the society one million euros.

Supervision of foster care and family services are insufficient

The children placed in foster care are the responsibility of the society. However, there is violence built in the structures of child welfare services, which reaches from community care to foster care of children.

Interview surveys of child welfare foster care indicated gross abusive treatment and abuse of children in foster care. The survey concerned the period 1937–1983. In 2016, the Finnish Government asked for forgiveness of those who had suffered abuses in child welfare foster care. At the time, the Finnish Government made a promise – the time of silence is over.

However, still the only thing that could be heard, is sound of silence.

Inspections by the supervisory authorities and the parliament justice ombudsman have repeatedly exposed abuses in foster care. In the past few years several foster parents and employees of child welfare institutions have been convicted of physical or sexual abuse. So far, nobody has specifically examined in this millennium how common abuse of children in foster care of child welfare is.

It is of utmost importance that we urgently find out what is going on in our foster care and how our children are managing. We are seriously concerned of the fact that examining the circumstances of the children in foster care is not included in the government program.

The appeal

We appeal to those, who decide on matters in our country, and ask them to take the following action to develop child welfare services:

Child welfare documentation must be precise and objective recording of facts. Decision-making in matters concerning basic and human rights cannot be based on vague concerns, possible threats, unchecked assumptions and other senti- ments that leave room for interpretation.

We have seen how the expansion of the child welfare system causes increasing numbers of children to be taken into custody and intensifies the illfare of families with children. The community care of child welfare services produces increasing numbers of children to be taken into custody. This is why we require that the active screening of children and handing them over to businesses stops and that the economic subsidies directed to foster care service providers are directed to basic services helping families with children.

We require that the closest persons of each child placed in foster care are surveyed. The child’s loved ones must be seen as a safety factor in his or her life and they must not be removed from the child’s life based on artificial or even false grounds. As required by the human rights agreements, the child must be primarily seen as a member of his or her family.

According to the law, all children should be secured balanced development and welfare, and close and continuing human relations. The child is to grow up in a safe environment and be provided physical and mental integrity. The child’s linguistic, cultural and religious background must be considered. We express our serious concern that, in the case of children taken into custody, the aforementioned requirements are not met.

Isolating children that are taken into custody, punishing them and treating them disrespectfully must stop.

The Finnish State must accept its responsibility for the children lost by the expanded child welfare system. We respectfully demand that the circumstances of all the children placed in foster care are immediately examined by the state as a survey of the current state of foster care. The survey must be carried out by an independent external body though interviews with the children and their loved ones. The child’s interview should be linked with the parent’s and/or loved one’s interview whenever possible. These interviews will provide invaluable information about the child welfare system as a whole.

Interviewing those who have experienced foster care is the only way to assess the effectiveness of the child welfare services and to re-evaluate the entire child welfare system.

Returning the children to their homes and those of their loved ones must start promptly, because reunification of families must be done whenever possible.

Kadotetut lapset – Lost Children

Further information:

Lost Children is a group of grandparents and professionals who have deep experience with child welfare services and the child protection. The active grandmothers established the group in summer 2019, after seeing too many lost children. ,