Investigation underway into Rakvere vulnerable children care home abuse

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The Lille care home in Rakvere. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Authorities are investigating allegations that children at a secure care home in Rakvere have been subject to long-running abuse at the hands of the home's staff. The home is aimed at hosting children who have displayed behavioral issues but have also been identified as vulnerable.

The prosecutor's office has initiated proceedings in the case as per standard procedure. The home is run by a private firm, overseen by the relevant authority, the Social Insurance Board (Sotsiaalkindlustusamet).

Elle Karm, prosecutor at the Viru District Prosecutor's Office, said: "On the basis of the report of criminal offense received from the Social Insurance Board, we have as of today initiated criminal proceedings to verify suspicions of crime in connection with the physical and mental abuse of children at a child care institution, and are currently actively collecting information to find out all the circumstances."

Incidents captured on camera footage

Liina Lanno, director of services at Hoolekandeteenused AS, the company which runs the Lille Home, in Rakvere, about an hour east of Tallinn, said that security camera footage of the premises has been analyzed since March, adding work is ongoing.

So far, three staff at the home are thought to be directly involved. The alleged abuse is reported to have been both of a physical and an emotional nature.

"We have identified the involvement of a total of three employees in the cases. An internal investigation is still under way to find all employees who knew about such acts but did not report it. Next, our goal is to review the provision of the service so that children are safe in the child care institution at all times," Lanno said.

The home is a closed child-care institution.

Minister: Extremely unfortunate state of affairs

Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform) was also made aware of the case.

Riisalo said "Last night (Thursday night – ed.) at 9:45 p.m. I received a phone call, and was told about an extremely unfortunate incident, while today I summoned the people responsible at the Social Insurance Board and AS Hoolekandeteenused as soon as possible, to get an overview of the situation, share tasks with the Social Insurance Board, to map out the whole sequence of events that have taken place, including possible errors in legislation, contracts, rules and management."

"In the afternoon, I traveled to Rakvere myself to talk to the staff of the institution and hear their assessments of the situation, Riisalo went on.

Staff involved in abuse have been fired

The Social Insurance Board, the relevant authority, filed its report with the prosecutor's office on Thursday, claiming criminal offenses had taken place and that cases of child abuse at the home needed investigating.

All those involved in the case have been dismissed, and the board has launched supervision proceedings.

Staff, children and parents are being kept informed, and the necessary steps are being taken to restore the children's sense of security and to start the recovery process, BNS reports.

Psychological help will be made available to those affected as needed.

Investigation should ascertain what happened

Signe Riisalo said there is nothing which might compensate for the damage caused to the children involved, their relatives, and those who witnessed any incidents, adding that she hoped the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and the prosecutor's office would be able to get to the bottom of what had happened and help ensure nothing like it recurred.

Closed child care institution service is a 24-hour service provided to a child whose freedom has been restricted on the basis of a court ruling, BNS reports.

Such services also aim to ensure a safe environment and stability for young people with behavioral issues and who have also experienced trauma, with a view to rehabilitating them, Kiira Gornischeff of the board's victim support department told BNS.

Rakvere Lille Home is one such institution, providing services to children with moderate or severe intellectual disabilities and behavioral disorders.

The Social Insurance Board has administered the facility since 2018.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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