The voices of those leaving alternative care, bring a fresh dimension to the way things done in Finland. Youth empowerment is delivering positive results including tools that help everyone listen to the needs of children.
The Survivors’ focus group consists of 12 volunteers between the ages of 16-26 who are or have been in alternative care. The group was formed in 2008 as part of the Youth in Alternative Care project under the auspices of the Finnish NGO Pesäpuu - Centre of Expertise in Child Welfare which is financed by the Finnish Slot Machine Organisation (RAY).
The experience and opinions of young people has greatly contributed to the development process Being vocal in highlighting their rights and responsibilities is a key factor at the group’s monthly meetings. During these 4-6 hour sessions a psychologist acts both as a mentor and general manager.
We Believe in You, So Should You
The first handbook for children and youth in alternative care in Scandinavia was published in 2010 by the Selviytyjät Survivors Focus and Development Group. The title We Believe in You, So Should You served as a basis to a seminar. From this the group developed a special tool to help others develop methods to better hear the needs of children.
The Survivors brought their publications and methods to six cities across Finland where they met children who were still in care to hear their views on alternative care. The initiative was supported by Ombudsman for Children, the National Institute for Health and Welfare and CUCW.
The next step is to create a national network where young people in care have a possibility to be a part of decision making on child welfare and alternative care in Finland.
Survivors guiding principils:
1) Curiosity: every young person is interesting.
2) Respect: a time and space for sharing, as the participation of everyone is deemed important; each and every one can make a difference.
3) Trust which is born of deeds, no words.
4) Empowerment: The experiences of participation have long term effects in a young person’s life.
5) Diversity: there is strength in diversity as many opinions create wisdom. One can learn from the experiences of others and empathy from the stories of others.
6) Potential: every person is full of possibilities.
The key word behind this initiative is empowerment. These experiences of participation have long term effects in a young person’s life and therefore this good practice must be highlighted.
Pesäpuu ry, Centre of Expertise of Child Welfare
Ilmarisenkatu 17 a, 40100 Jyväskylä, Finland