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Greetings from windy Galway Winter School 2015

What do you take back home – was the question that we had to reflect over at the end of the 3 days seminar “Child Rights in Practice and Research’ – Realising children’s rights through empowering parents and families” in Galway. Hereby, we would like to share few essential points and hopefully spark a debate.

The seminar was intense and the question of child’s rights was discussed from the perspectives of policymaking, research and practice. The participants were invited from all over Europe but the majority was representing the Eastern Europe.

Back to basics

Many Eastern European and former Soviet Union countries are in the process of developing their social and welfare reforms. Most of these counties are implementing the de-institutionalization reform, which aims to remarkably reduce the amount of children’s home institutions in their countries. Without a doubt, this is a good direction. On the other hand, we should be able to ask ourselves, can all of the children be placed into the foster families and is it always in their best interest?

During the seminar a broad spectrum of different types of parenting support and evaluation programs were presented. The discussion, that is what we were told, had been heard before. The idea of randomized controlled trials is in the focus. Some are not so enthusiastic about it, but still, it dominates. There are more than possible chances, in which we end up having dogs wagged by their tails. On our way back we even speculated that after 200 RCTs, 600 000€ each, we will end up concluding that a child needs love. That, however, we knew from the beginning.

Professor Andy Bilson’s research showed the negative impact of the out-of-home care on the future of children. Andy’s contribution was a piece of unpleasant truth for anyone who thinks that we only need some adjustments. Especially one of his slides, the one we called the wet blanket one, concluded the outcomes of out-of-home care in a remarkable manner. The basic idea is, that out-of-home placement always has detrimental outcomes. This, of course does not necessarily mean that it is always a bad choice in individual decision making.

Bilson’s contribution pushed us to suggest that instead of developing more of complex evaluation programs we should be putting more effort into strengthening the basic structures of welfare state. These structures, such as basic social welfare system can provide a solid platform for the implementation of the evidence-based programs that can be enrolled into the system. Not the other way around.

In Finland we have an ongoing process of developing Family centers. In Galway we realized that we have gathered information for Family centers about our services, support and activities only on individual family level and group level (peer, therapeutic etc.) but not so much on community level. Lynn MacDonald from the University of Middlesex (London) gave us a presentation about Families and schools together -program (FAST) that brings parents, children, teachers and the wider community together. It is important not only to develop basic structures and evidence-based programs but also support social capital between families and strengthen civil society. And that developing should be based on participation of all stakeholders, NGO’s and especially children and families.

Julia Kuokkanen, Special Advisor
Ulla Lindqvist, Program Manager
Petri Paju, Researcher

Julia Kuokkanen


Julia toimii keskusliitossa erityisasiantuntijana. Hän on ammatiltaan sosiaalityöntekijä ja hänen erityisosaamisensa on Venäjän lastensuojelu. Vapaa-ajalla Julia harrastaa lenkkeilyä ja viettää aikaa perheensä ja ystäviensä kanssa.

Ulla Lindqvist


Ulla on kehittäjäihminen, jolle ihmisten hyvinvointi ja näkeminen niin bussissa kuin työpaikalla on tärkeää. Työssään Perheet keskiöön! Järjestöjen perhekeskustoiminnan kehittämis- ja koordinaatiohankkeen hankepäällikkönä hän voi edistää lasten, perheiden ja järjestöjen asiaa. Ulla työskentelee myös Lapset SIB -hankkeen hankepäällikkönä. Hänen mottonsa on ”rock´n roll”.

Petri Paju


Petri on syntyperäinen ilvesläinen. Jos hänet tunnettaisiin ylipäänsä yhtään mistään, se tuskin olisi ainakaan hyvät jutut. Korkeasta iästään huolimatta pystyy juomaan kahvetta suuria määriä.


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