The child may participate

An important principle for the best interests of the child is that the child may be involved in dealing with and planning matters that concern him or her. The issues, which are about to be decided and why, must be adequately explained so that the child can form and express his or her own view. Everyone, including the child, is always entitled to participate in handling of his or her own affairs. There is no age limit. The child and his or her opinions and wishes are heard so that his or her age and level of development are taken into account. For example, a small child’s feelings can be clarified by observing his or her behaviour or play. The workers must be able to explain the matters to an older child so that the child is able to understand them.

According to law, a child who is 12 years old or more has freedom of speech in child welfare. Freedom of speech means that a child’s opinion must be taken into account in matters concerning child welfare in the same way as adults’ opinions. A child has a right to access the documents that concern him or her, and he or she must be officially heard when decisions are made. A child can apply for help, require services and oppose decisions that concern him or her. A child must be notified about the decisions issued and must be given an opportunity to appeal the decisions. The fact that the child participates in the handling of issues that concern him or her does not mean that the child can decide. It is the adults’ duty to decide and be responsible for the decisions.