Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 March 2021
The topic of errors and mistakes only exists as a vague category in child protection policy, practice or research in Finland. This is not to say that errors and mistakes do not take place. Rather, it is to say that they have not been established (yet) as a distinctive and clear-cut conceptual category that goes beyond a few scandals presented in the media. Therefore, very much from scratch, the chapter searches for – or even constructs – an understanding of the existing and emerging definitions of errors and mistakes, and the practices for recognising and responding to errors. As there is no body of research on errors and mistakes in Finnish child protection, this chapter is based on our reading of legislation, policy programmes and related research examining child protection.
We claim that while tragic incidents, some of them even leading to a child's death, have been brought to public awareness by a critical media, the responses overall have aimed to improve the system, in a variety of ways, to abolish the ‘deficiencies’ of the system rather than pointing out the errors and mistakes of individual practitioners. Therefore, one should acknowledge the proactive and reactive approaches to errors and mistakes that are embedded in the Finnish custom of treating child protection as a social service provided by public administration, as well as the deficiency-driven view of system failures; both views are represented in this chapter after a short overview of Finnish child protection. In the final part of the chapter we speculate about the strengths and weaknesses of the present approaches to errors and mistakes and also speculate about the controversial tendencies that shape errors and mistakes.
Finnish child protection in brief
The present rationale of Finnish child protection was introduced in the 1980s. The ethos of the welfare state, universal social policy services and benefits to families in particular was reflected in new child protection legislation introduced at that time: child protection was seen as being on the continuum of services to families with children (Valjakka, 2016: 194). Child protection services were needed to support parents in their task of bringing up children when universal services were not sufficient. Like other social services, child protection services were to be provided with a low threshold, on a voluntary basis for service-users, and from the point of view of the child's best interest.