Asif’s problems started with stealing

Asif was 12 years-old and the second youngest boy in the family. The parents had lived in Finland for several years but had not learned Finnish. They had not attended a Finnish language course. The elder siblings no longer lived at home.

It became clear two years ago that Asif was shoplifting. Therefore, a child welfare social worker invited the parents and the boy to discuss the matter. The discussion handled the consequences of a crime and how it should be indemnified. In Finland, a child under 15 years of age does not have to appear in court and is not punished, but because of the crime the child welfare may intervene in the matter. However, one must pay damages, although the person may be under 15 years of age. When a child turns 15, he or she is liable for his or her crimes and can be fined, for example. The parents promised to discuss the matter further at home. The boy said a friend had persuaded him to join him and steal.

Problems persist

A year later, the school contacted child welfare services. Asif’s behaviour at school was very hostile and other pupils were afraid of his threats. The teacher said that Asif easily gets involved in fights both at school and playtime.

A child welfare social worker met with the parents and the boy. The boy said he gets nervous when he is called a nigger. The parents also said Asif throws fits at home when restricted or prohibited from doing something..

A social worker contacted Asif’s teacher and the teacher promised to pay more attention to Asif at school and monitor whether he is being bullied. We discussed with the parents about how important it was to set the child safe boundaries: For example, Asif is not allowed to decide when he comes home. The parents also had concerns about not knowing Asif’s friends and that they can not contact their parents, because they do nothave a common language.

Family work to support the parents in raising their child

We decided to start child welfare family work together with the parents and Asif. We met the family every week, and the parents were guided to agree on family rules, such as when Asif must be home and that he does his homework. The school intervened in Asif being bullied more efficiently than before, but Asif behaved worse than before. He disrupted lessons and could not concentrate on learning and listening. Asif often did not obey the teacher, but got nervous and left the classroom in the middle of lesson without permission.

A place in special needs education was arranged for Asif in co-operation with the parents, child welfare services and the school authorities, where it would be easier for Asif to focus on learning. In addition, a school psychologist examined Asif’s learning abilities. Once the reasons for learning difficulties are known, it is easier to help the pupil.

Problems gets worse

For a while the situation improved, and Asif attended school regularly. Then, he started having big problems in his free time. Asif started breaking into public premises and damaging them together with his friends. He also started stealing again. Asif did not obey the rules agreed upon at home despite promises and agreements. Asif was reluctant and tired at school and too tired to do the assigned tasks. Asif began to change and felt that school was too difficult.

The parents were very tired and sad about the situation. Speaking with the boy did not help, as much as they tried. The parents were very concerned about the boy’s future.

Intervention in Asif’s problems is possible at a children’s home

A child welfare worker invited the parents and the teacher to a meeting to ascertain the boy’s problems. Child welfare services suggested placing Asif in a children’s home , so that he could attend school regularly and so an efficient intervention could be made regarding his damaging behaviour. The idea seemed frightening and strange for the parents, but they thought that something must change.

Before deciding, the parents and Asif were given an opportunity to visit a children’s home and tell what they thought about it. We also talked about communication with the parents and when Asif could visit home. Placement would end when it was no longer necessary to continue it. During the placement in alternative care the parents receive help with child raising from other adults. Child welfare workers can help the child manage everyday life situations better than open care services provided at home. During the placement the parents decide on the child’s affairs together with the children’s home workers and child welfare social workers.