Assessing the need for social services and becoming a client of child welfare services

People often become clients of child welfare and social services after parents or a child contacts the child welfare services for help. It is also possible that someone working at school or day-care centre contacts social services together with the family in order to assess the child’s and family’s need for support.

Sometimes the matter is brought to the authorities by a child welfare notification. Anyone who is concerned about a child’s well-being can file a child welfare notification, and it may be submitted anonymously.

Many authorities working with children and families are obliged to submit a child welfare notification. For example, workers in day care and schools must submit a child welfare notification if they suspect that a child needs help. The authorities usually discuss the matter with the family first. The police are also obliged to submit a notification if a minor has committed a crime, drunk alcohol, used drugs or witnessed domestic violence.

What are the reasons why someone needs help?

  • A major change occurs in the family, affecting everyone.
  • Parents cannot cope or suffer from psychological problems, depression or illnesses.
  • Parents often drink a lot or use other intoxicants.
  • There is domestic violence in the family.
  • A child or young person does things that are dangerous or detrimental; for example, uses a lot of alcohol or drugs, commits crimes or is absent from school.
  • A child has psychological problems.
  • A child bears too great a responsibility for their age in the family’s everyday life owing to the parent being sick, for example.

What happens after a child welfare notification has been submitted?

A social worker carefully assesses each notification and contact and in most cases starts to assess the situation the child and family are in. Depending on the situation, the assessment may be an investigation into the need for services, made according to the Social Welfare Act, or an investigation into the need for child welfare services, made according to the Child Welfare Act.

In most cases a social worker contacts the family and invites the parents and child to discuss their circumstances. When assessing the situation, there may be several meetings with the family, and they may take place in the social welfare office, day-care centre, school or the family home. An interpreter can be present if necessary. The meetings are held to discuss why the notification was submitted and what could be done to help the child and the entire family. The social worker will often meet the child without the parents during the assessment process.

The circumstances of the child and family are investigated as thoroughly as necessary. If the family so wishes, members of the extended family and other close people can be involved in the process.

The conclusion of the assessment may be that the family either needs social services or child welfare services

If it is deemed that the child and family would benefit from the support offered by social services but that they do not need services provided for in the Child Welfare Act, they will have a designated social worker for the time that they receive help from the services. It is optional for families to receive support from social services.

If it is deemed that the child and family require support from child welfare services, the child becomes a client and a social worker is appointed to handle his or her case. If the investigation into the need for services or child welfare services raises concerns about the child’s situation, the child may become a child welfare client even if the child or the parents do not think it necessary.

If the investigation does not bring up any concerns nor is it deemed that the child and family need support, the child will not become a customer of social or child welfare services.

If a child and family need help, a client plan is drawn up

If, after investigating the need for child welfare services, the decision is made that a family needs child welfare services, we must identify the issues in which a child and family need help. The plan is drawn up in writing and it is called a client plan.

A client plan is always drawn up together with the child and family. The plan is revised when necessary, or at least once a year. During the revision, the issues agreed on are discussed and it is evaluated whether or not the work has been helpful.