Everyday life in a new country is difficult

A mother came to Finland from a refugee camp alone with her six children. The father of the family had died of a disease in a refugee camp. Life had been very chaotic in the family’s home country, which was ravaged by war. The mother was very concerned about her close relatives, who had remained in the middle of the unrest. In her home country, the mother had no opportunity to attend school and learn to read and write.

The mother felt that moving to Finland and adapting to a new environment and culture was very difficult. The Finnish climate was different: in winter it snowed, which the family had never seen. There were some precise rules applied to life in a block of flats that were difficult to remember. The neighbours were sometimes angry because the children ran and stomped at home in the evenings while playing. There were written rules and guidelines everywhere, which the mother could not read. It was complicated to communicate with the authorities, and the mother never knew who could help in any given case. It was difficult to learn the exact times of the day, and therefore sometimes things were left unattended: the mother went to the offices at the wrong time, and the interpreter was no longer there.

Mother gets tired

Four of the smallest children attended a day care centre and the two older children attended the lower level of comprehensive school. Letters and documents were sent from school and the day care centre at least once a week, but there was not always an acquaintance who spoke the same language available, who would have helped her read the messages.

Eventually, the mother became very tired. Her worries kept her awake and at nights her thoughts were with her relatives far away. During the day, she cried often, and was too tired to take the smaller children to the day care centre every day. Fatigue, worry and grief also made her nervous with her children more often. The mother might shout at them, and sometimes she also wanted to slap them, when the children were making a noise. She did not do the laundry daily or take care that the children wore appropriate clothing suitable for the weather when they went to school. The older children tried to take care of their younger siblings after school.

Mother applies for help from child welfare together with day care centre workers

The day care centre workers had discussed with the mother previously about different ways to get help. When the younger children began to be more often absent than present at the day care centre, the workers became concerned. They told the mother about child welfare services. The day care centre workers and the mother decided to apply for help to child welfare services . A child welfare social worker met with the mother and children. The social worker told that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the family’s problems and how child welfare services could help the family. The mother gave permission to communicate with the day care centre and the older children’s school teachers concerning the investigation of the need for child welfare services .

A family worker was arranged for the family as a support measure in open care , who came to help with daily tasks. The family worker did domestic chores together with the mother and helped take care of accumulated matters. The family worker used an interpreter as an assistant in meetings and contacted different authorities, when she helped the mother to attend to the family’s affairs. The family worker often joined the mother to assist her when she attended to the most difficult matters. The family worker visited and helped the family every other week at the appointed time. A doctor’s appointment was made for the mother and the doctor helped the mother recover from insomnia and depression. The family worker found a suitable group for the mother, where different kinds of handicrafts were made. There were also two women who spoke the same mother tongue in the group. The mother thought the group meetings were very inspiring.