A notification may be justified due to several different reasons. These reasons may include:
- neglect of a child’s needs
- child abandonment
- abuse or sexual abuse, or a threat thereof
- inadequate care or treatment
- custodian’s substance abuse problems or mental health problems, coping difficulties, neglect of self-care
- lack of an everyday support network if it endangers the child’s wellbeing
- child’s substance abuse problems, mental health problems, criminal actions, self-destructive behaviour
- severe communication problems between the parent and child
- continuous neglect of school
- child’s unreasonably large responsibility for the family’s everyday life, e.g. due to a parent’s illness
- weak economic situation, which endangers the child’s care or development
If you’re not sure whether to file a child welfare notification, you can consult a social worker without disclosing the child’s identity. The most important thing is that you submit a notification without delay.
A child welfare notification may be filed by anyone, for instance the following:
- the child
- the child’s parents
- a neighbour
- a relative
- someone else who is worried about the child
However, these persons have no obligation to submit a notification. If you do not have an obligation to file a child welfare notification due to your work, you can do it anonymously.
Duty to Notify
In Finland, employees of various organizations have a duty to submit a child welfare notification if, in the course of their duties, they have become aware of a situation that necessitates a possible investigation for child welfare services due to a child’s need for care and treatment, circumstances that endanger the child’s development, or the child’s own behaviour.
Duty to notify refers to the following:
- social and health care services and early childhood education
- producers of social and health care services
- education services
- youth services
- education and training providers
- the police service
- the Criminal Sanctions Agency
- fire and rescue services
- other religious communities
- reception centres
- units engaged in emergency response centre activities
- units engaged in morning and afternoon activities for schoolchildren
- Finnish Customs
- Finnish Border Guard
- enforcement authorities
- the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela)
You have an obligation to submit a child welfare notification if:
– you work for one of the aforementioned organizations on a permanent or temporary contract or as a substitute
– you are in a position of trust in one of these organizations
– you work with corresponding tasks as a self-employed person
– you have a service contract with one of these organizations
– you are a family counsellor
– you are a health care professional
If you suspect that a child is in need of child welfare services, you must submit a notification. You cannot delegate the duty to e.g. your supervisor because this may delay the notification. The threshold must be low to file a child welfare notification. If you’re not sure whether to make a notification, you can consult your municipality’s social worker without disclosing the child’s identity.
If something in a child’s or family’s situation raises concern, the matter should be brought up at an early stage. Where possible, the child welfare notification and its underlying reasons should be discussed with the child and custodians beforehand. It’s also important to inform custodians of the duty to submit a child welfare notification (concerning e.g. early childhood education employees).
However, there are special situations in which a notification should not be discussed beforehand. If you suspect that a child has become a victim of abuse or sexual abuse, you should contact child welfare services without discussing the matter with the child or his or her custodian. You can also consult child welfare services without disclosing the child’s identity.
Moreover, you can fulfil your duty to notify by contacting social services together with the child or his or her custodian.
If you have a duty to notify, you cannot submit a notification anonymously. The custodian and child have the right to know who made the notification.
You can submit a notification to your closest unit
– via phone
– in writing with a form
– by visiting the office
Never file a child welfare notification via unsecured email. Information in the notification is sensitive.
– the child’s personal information to the extent of your knowledge
– reasons for the notification
– if the child or his or her custodian have been informed of the child welfare notification