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Becoming involved with social welfare services

Children often become involved with social welfare or child welfare services after parents or a child contacts these services for help. It is also possible that someone working at school or nursery contacts social services with the family in order to assess the 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.

Those working with children and families are obliged to submit a child welfare notification if they suspect that a child’s growth and development are at risk. 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?

  • 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 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.
  • 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 contact has been made or a child welfare notification filed?

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 or an investigation into the need for child welfare services, which are both made under the Child Welfare Act.

In most cases a social worker contacts the family and invites the parents and child to discuss their circumstances. During the assessment, 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 under 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 enters into the care system and a social worker is appointed to handle the case. If the assessment of the need for services or protection raises concerns about the child’s situation, the child may become involved with child welfare services even if they or the parents do not think it necessary.

If the assessment does not bring up any concerns or if it is deemed that the child and family do not need support, the child will not become involved with social or child welfare services.

When a child enters into the care system, they and their family can be supported in various ways such as by being offered social guidance and advice, financial support, home services, family work and a support person or support family. Families can be given support and guidance on many issues related to the family’s daily life, such as the child’s daily routines and sleep pattern, issues related to eating and challenges related to the child’s development at different ages. If a child is under the care of  child welfare services, they and the family can receive more extensive support.

For more information about the support provided by the child welfare services, see page Support in open care is the first option




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