Child welfare – a service or a threat?

An extensive Finnish-Russian cooperation project has sought new forms of preventive social work.

A family of immigrants may not know why they become customers of child welfare services. They may view it as a form of control, and not a service at all. Child welfare work should involve a much more thorough examination of the family’s cultural background and modes of thinking than the current system provides.

“The key issue seems to be the relationship between the child welfare worker and the family. The help does not need to proceed according to the typical Finnish script. Instead, we need to use a more varied range of working methods in addition to consultations and meetings,” states researcher Marja Katisko.

“In addition, all our customers should be entitled to the services of an interpreter.”

A peek next door

An extensive Finnish-Russian cooperation project has sought new forms of preventive social work, which may include attending a wellbeing clinic for children and parents, having a culture interpreter or even knitting woollen socks together, a useful preparation for the cold Finnish winter.

Researcher Minna Veistilä describes immigration as a situation where all cultural definitions change. For example, Russians are often happy to move to Finland, but their need for support at the immigration stage is great. The same is true for all major life changes, such as divorce or sudden unemployment.

“Many people rely on their personal networks, but governmental support can also improve the life situation in a single year. This support must involve the immigrants as active participants.”

According to Professor Maritta Törrönen, most people of Russian descent in Finland are doing well. Immediately after their arrival, immigrants tend to see their life in blissful terms, and everyday life seems to run smoothly. Sometimes after a longer period, however, experiences become more negative, as the immigrant begins to compare his or her conditions with those of the rest of the population.

Cooperation has helped Finnish and Russian researchers and social workers learn about the public services and family cultures of each other’s countries. For example, a more active role for fathers is emerging in Russia alongside the traditional female-focused child-care model. The understanding of what constitutes a family is much broader than the one in Finland.

The Finnish-Russian article compilation Empowering Social Work: Research and Practice is published on Thursday afternoon.