Parental rights and responsibilities
In Finland, the same rights and duties apply to both parents equally. The parents have a right and duty to safeguard their children’s wellbeing. The parents’ duty is to care for and raise their children in a safe and stimulating environment, as well as enable the child to receive an appropriate education. Use of corporal punishment is not allowed in Finland, and any violence against a child is a crime. Children should be raised so that they receive understanding, safety and affection.
As a rule, parents have the right to decide on the child’s care, upbringing, place of residence and other matters relating to the child. When deciding, the child’s opinion should also be taken into consideration. During support measures in the open care of child welfare services parents have the right to decide on all matters relating to the child. The open care support measures refer to services organised for families that support and help children when they live at home. The legal principle is that when there is intervention in the child’s affairs, there must be co-operation with the parents. The parents are always entitled to decide on their child’s religion and religious education.
Parenting does not end with the child being taken into care and placement, but in this case, the parents’ right to decide will be restricted. The parents are still the child’s guardians, but the municipal social services decide on the child’s place of residence, upbringing and care. Still, the aim is to decide in co-operation with the parents. During taking into care and emergency placement, the parents have the right to obtain information on the child’s affairs and communicate with the child. The parents also have the right to learn what is recorded about them and the grounds for the actions taken.
Parents have always the right to express their opinion on child welfare measures. Sometimes child welfare measures are such that parents disagree with them. The law prescribes when an official decision must be issued and who can issue the decision. The law also prescribes whether the decision can be appealed. For example, a decision on taking into care or on emergency placement is such that parents may appeal. The appeal must be submitted within 30 days after having been notified about the decision. Authorities are obliged to inform parents about their rights. If the parents feel that they have been treated wrongly, they have the right to contact the municipal social ombudsman. The Parliamentary Ombudsman monitors that authorities comply with the law. One may file an appeal for nullification regarding the matter to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
More information on child welfare in Finland is available here.