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Then and now
A century ago most people lived in the countryside. Families had many children, grandparents were present and participated in caring for and raising their grandchildren.
Even 50 years ago Finnish families were large with many children. People from the rural areas moved increasingly into cities, where construction of compact residential areas was started.
Nowadays a typical Finnish family with children consists of a married mother and father with two children. However, in addition to the nuclear family, there are many different kinds of family. Cohabitation is very common in Finland. Cohabitation means an unmarried couple living together. There are also single parent families where children live only with a mother or a father. The number of blended families has increased. Blended families are those in which a divorced person or persons enters into a new marriage or cohabitative relationship. Blended families may include children from the earlier marriages of one or both spouses, as well as their joint children. Increasingly, here are also women, who acquire and raise a child alone. In addition, same-sex parent families are possible. In Finland, same-sex partners may register their partnership and adopt the partner’s child.
Services for families with children
All parents face difficult moments when raising their children. Often the problems can be solved with the help of family and other familiars. However, in immigrant families, the relatives and other close people are often far away. In Finland, one can discuss with various professionals about raising children and related methods and problems. Help and support is offered early enough – before problems arise. This is called preventive child welfare. Preventive child welfare is the support provided, for example. by education, youth work, day care centres and maternity and child health clinics. Co-operation with the child’s home is the principle of all services provided for families with children.
Where to get help
Families with children under school age
Maternity and child health clinics
A maternity and child health clinic monitors the progress of the pregnancy, health of the mother and the future baby, as well as the child’s growth and development. Maternity and child health clinics operate in each municipality and provide services for everyone free of charge. Services are voluntary, but almost all pregnant women and families with children use these services.
At a maternity clinic, the mother and the child’s wellbeing is monitored during pregnancy. At a child health clinic, the child and the mother’s wellbeing is monitored from birth until the child turns seven years old. In addition, the child health clinic supports families’ wellbeing and parenting, as well as provides guidance for the parents in matters related to raising children, when necessary. The public health care nurse is the most important worker at a child health clinic.
Day care services
Day care services are arranged in Finland, allowing the parents to work or study. The aim of day care services is to support the parents in raising their children. Every under school-aged child is entitled to municipal day care, which may mean the child’s care at a day care centre or family day care. Alternatively, the parents may choose to receive a financial private care allowance, if the child attends a private day care centre or has a private nurse. The father or mother can also care for the child at home, if the child is under three years old. The parent caring for a child at home is granted a financial home care allowance.
Preschool education is intended for all children under school age the year prior to beginning of compulsory education. A child starts preschool education usually during the year when he or she turns six years old. In preschool education the child adopts knowledge and learns skills for school through playing and doing things together with others. All children are entitled to preschool education free of charge, but the parents may decide whether the child participates in preschool education or not. In Finland, preschool education is provided both at day care centres and schools.
Families of school-age children
Morning and afternoon clubs
The morning and afternoon activities for school children include club activities or leisure activities, in which children may participate before or after lessons. Morning and afternoon activities are organised in almost all municipalities. They are intended for first and second grade pupils as well as for pupils attending special needs education in all grades.
Instruction preparing for basic education
Foreign citizens residing in Finland permanently must also attend compulsory education. Instruction preparing for basic education is intended for those pupils whose knowledge of Finnish is not yet sufficient to attend mainstream education. In instruction preparing for basic education the Finnish language, in particular is studied. Usually, instruction is for one academic year. Language proficiency is evaluated by professionals, not the parents.
Children residing in Finland permanently must attend compulsory education. Compulsory education begins the year the child turns seven years old. Compulsory education ends when the basic education syllabus is completed or ten years has passed since starting compulsory education. The lower level of the comprehensive school is grades 1.–6. and the upper level of the comprehensive school is grades 7.–9.
Adults working in a school community participate in pupil welfare work. Pupil welfare primarily co-operates with the home and school. It is particularly important to listen to a child’s guardian. The services provided by pupil welfare are school health care services, as well support with school attendance. The school public health care nurse, doctor and school dentist are responsible for a pupils’ health care together with the parents. In addition, the school social worker (i) and school psychologist support the pupils’ school attendance.
Youth work is part of a municipality’s responsibilities. The purpose of youth work is to support young people’s growth and wellbeing. Each municipality, organisation and congregation has different methods when working with young people. It may include open activities at premises for young people, clubs, camps, events and band activities, multicultural work, night cafes, supported housing, afternoon activities, workshops etc.
Other essential social services
Home help services and family work
Home help services and family work are basic services provided for families with children as temporary help aiming at strengthening the families’ wellbeing and preventing problems. The service can be granted for such families that need temporary help with child care or indispensable help with domestic chores or both. In practice, the work may include child care, cooking, washing or cleaning.
Child and family guidance
Child and family guidance is support provided in matters relating to the family and raising children. It is possible to consult, for example, about a child’s problems The municipality is obliged to arrange child and family guidance.
Family mediation is a form of family counseling. One can get help from family mediation, if it is difficult for the family members to settle disagreements. In most cases, family mediation is a personal conversation with a professional. Usually the reason for mediation is a risk of divorce Family mediation is always voluntary, and can be used by all family members or just some of them.
FINFO telephone guidance service serves immigrants in various languages
Tel. 0207 40 1160, www.finfonet.fi
A wide range of services is provided for families with children. Further information from the social office of your municipality.
Financial support is provided for families with children. Further information from the offices of the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (KELA): www.kela.fi