Child protection services to undergo €40 million reform

A kindergarten.
A kindergarten. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

€40 million from the European Social Fund will be used to reform Estonia's child protection service as the number of referrals has doubled in recent years and cases are becoming more complex.

Last year, child protection officers dealt with almost 15,000 cases, and over the last six years the number of cases has doubled.

The service is struggling to deal with its workload, and child protection officers in Pärnu confirmed this in Friday's "Aktuaalne kaamera".

"There are a lot of arguing parents, so the child is like a mediator between parents. Then you have young people self-harming, attempting suicide, more recently you've started to have 'talking kids' who haven't been to nursery and when they go to school they cannot talk - this is the 'smart generation'," Eda Rannamägi, chief specialist of Pärnu's foster care system, said, listing problems the service sees.

Rannamägi said the biggest concern is not being able to help every child in need.

"There are services, but the queues are long, for a psychologist, for a family therapist, we only have one psychiatrist in the region. We also need treatment homes for young people who have been traumatized, because a lot of traumatized children have come to the attention of child protection recently," said Rannamägi.

In the coming years, Estonia will receive €40 million from the European Social Fund but exactly what services will be offered will be revealed at a later date.

One goal is to establish the role and duties of a child protection officer. In many municipalities, all issues related to children have been assigned to these officers.

"This means that child protection workers cannot do what they are supposed to do, what they are called to do, which is to interact directly with and help children and families. They are involved in court proceedings, deliver food parcels, organize events, etc," said Liisa-Lotta Raag, head of the children and family department at the Ministry of Social Affairs.

She said there is no nationwide established model for problem-solving in Estonia, and every municipality has its own. Additionally, local governments are often unable to provide necessary services, only those locally available.

Another concern is that children and families are not included in case proceedings.

"We have various studies that show that the child often does not understand who came to their home, why they are asking these questions, why they are there in the first place, and how they are supposed to really help the family," said Raag.

One of the reform's goals is to transfer complex cases, such as children with behavioral problems and mental disorders, to the Social Insurance Board


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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