Frequently asked questions
The Ombudsman for Children is sometimes contacted in matters concerning individual children and families. The Ombudsman for Children does not have the authority to comment on such matters. We have collected frequently asked questions and answers concerning various problematic situations involving children and young people.
Frequently asked questions from the Office of the Ombudsman for Children can be found below, with answers on who to contact in case of various problems related to children and young people.
Children are exposed to huge amounts of media content and it is not always possible, or even appropriate, to prevent them from seeing the news altogether. It can even be a source of anxiety for children that there is a war on and their parents do not even seem to be aware of it.
You can ask your child whether they have heard about the war. If they have, you can then ask what they think about it. You should not force-feed the child information if the matter does not bother the child. It is important that adults listen to children and correct any inaccurate notions that make the child afraid.
When talking about war news, you can point out that, even in countries at war, most people go on with their everyday lives, going to school, doing the laundry and so on.
If there is something you do not know, you can search for information on it together with the child. Conversations like this also give an opportunity to practice critical media skills and draw attention to the influence attempts and propaganda related to war news.
It is essential for adults to identify their own feelings caused by the news. Serious fears must be discussed with other adults to avoid transferring them to the child. You can contact the following helplines if you need counselling:
More sources of information:
More sources of information in Finnish:
The Family Federation of Finland. How to support your child
A child is being treated badly in a certain family. What can I do?
You can file a child welfare notification with the social services of the child's municipality of residence. In urgent situations, call the emergency number 112 or the emergency social service helpline. You can also report the situation to the emergency number if the child’s home municipality is not known.
Further information: Handbook for child protection (Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, in Finnish)
If you suspect that your own child is not doing well with the other parent, but the situation is not urgent, you should first reconsider the child’s living and visitation arrangements. The parents can discuss changes to the agreement with the municipal child welfare officer. If an agreement cannot be reached, the parent applying for changes to the agreement should file an application with the district court.
I am not satisfied with the actions of the child welfare authorities. Who should I contact?
If you are not satisfied with the actions of the child welfare authorities or a child welfare institution, you should first contact them directly and try to resolve the situation or disagreement. You can also contact the manager of the unit. In addition to these options, you have access to legal remedies such as an objection or complaint. Additional information on legal remedies is available here.
You can also contact the Social Ombudsman of your municipality. The Ombudsman is tasked with providing guidance and advice about clients’ rights. The Ombudsman can also help with filing an objection or complaint.
I am not satisfied with a decision issued by the child welfare authorities. What can I do?
You can usually appeal the decisions of municipal child welfare authorities. For example, you can appeal to the Administrative Court against decisions concerning the taking of a child into care. A decision made by an administrative court is subject to appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court. The decisions of municipal child welfare authorities should be made in writing. Appeal instructions will be included with the decision, including the deadline for submitting your appeal.
Taking a child into care (Handbook for Child Protection, National Institute for Health and Welfare, in Finnish)
Child welfare decisions and appeals (Handbook for Child Protection, National Institute for Health and Welfare, in Finnish)
How are the custody and residence of the child determined if the parents are separated?
If the parents separate, they should consider the child’s situation and think about how to organise the everyday life. The parents will agree on the arrangements for the child's custody, residence and maintenance and on access to the child.
The municipal child welfare officer helps the parents reach an agreement and draws up an enforceable document on the matters agreed on by the parents. The contact information of the child welfare supervisor can be found on the municipality’s website or telephone switchboard.
If the parents cannot reach an agreement on the child's affairs, the child welfare supervisor cannot resolve the issue. Some municipalities have a family mediation service that can provide support in such situations. If reaching an agreement is not possible, a parent can apply for legal aid and file an application with the district court if necessary.
It is important to determine the child's opinion on matters that concern the child.
Additional information on services and sources of assistance for families and children (divorce support services)
The other parent is not complying with an agreement or order concerning right of access to the child. Can the Ombudsman for Children help?
The Ombudsman for Children does not have the authority to give orders or recommendations on the right of access to a child.
If one of the parents does not comply with the agreement made by the parents and confirmed by the social services or an order issued by a court of law, you can submit an application to the court on the enforcement of the agreement. Additional information is available in Finnish on the website of the National Institute for Health and Welfare
You can contact your local Legal Aid Office if you require legal aid. Contact information of Legal Aid Offices (oikeus.fi)
The child is bullied at school, but the adults at school are not doing anything about it. Can anything be done?
According to the Basic Education Act (628/1998), the environment at school must be safe for the child.
The party arranging education has the primary responsibility to ensure that the pupils are safe.
If you have already discussed the bullying with the teacher and the pupil or student welfare personnel at school and there is no change, you can contact the principal or a higher municipal school authority (such as the head of the local education department or education and culture department).
You can also contact the police if necessary.
You can file a complaint with your local Regional State Administrative Agency or with the Parliamentary Ombudsman and ask them to investigate whether the rules and regulations have been followed in the matter. The child or young person can also file the complaint themselves.
Where can I appeal against a decision on my child’s school transport? What about a decision on a place at a school?
Decisions on a child’s school transport or place at a school are often important to the child’s everyday life. Both decisions can be appealed, in which case the Administrative Court or a higher authority will reassess the issue.
The format of the appeal depends on the matter:
Decisions on school transport can be appealed to the administrative court.
You can file a claim for a revised decision on the determination of a child’s place at a school or the granting of special support to the child with the Regional State Administrative Agency.
My child has been exposed to indoor air problems at school, and nothing has been done about it. Who can help?
According to the Basic Education Act (628/1998), the environment at school must be safe for the child.
If you suspect that the child’s right to a safe learning environment is not realised due to the poor condition of the school building, for example, you can contact a higher municipal authority, such as the head of the local education department or education and culture department.
Your municipality's health authorities can also provide advice on the matter.
A complaint on the municipality’s actions in matters related to education can be filed with the Regional State Administrative Agency.
Further information: Filing a complaint with your Regional State Administrative Agency
Our municipality is planning a reorganisation of the school network and our child’s school is under threat of closure. How can we influence the reorganisation?
Usually, the decision on school network reorganisation is made by the local council. A decision of the local council can be appealed to the Administrative Court.
According to the Local Government Act, a municipality’s residents have the right to participate in and influence the activities of the municipality (section 22). According to the Youth Act, young people must be heard in issues that concern them (section 24, subsection 2). However, the Basic Education Act (628/1998) does not include detailed provisions on the location of schools or the school network.
The Ombudsman for Children does not have the authority to intervene in municipal decision-making or comment on the actions of specific municipalities.
Our municipality does not take the rights of children into account in decision-making. What does the law say about this?
Under the Constitution of Finland, children shall be treated equally and as individuals and they shall be allowed to influence matters pertaining to themselves to a degree corresponding to their level of development (section 6, subsection 3).
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is in force in Finland as an act. According to it, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration of administrative authorities in all actions concerning children (Article 3). In addition, the views of the child must be discovered and taken into account in accordance with the age and maturity of the child (Article 12).
Municipalities and municipal authorities should take the rights of the child into account in their actions and decisions. This is not always the case.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued General Comment No. 14 for the interpretation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the comment, the impact of a decision on the children concerned must be assessed in order to determine the best interests of the children (child impact assessment). Efforts are being made to improve the realisation of the rights of the child in municipalities, for example with the UNICEF Child-Friendly Municipality model.
Who monitors early childhood education and care?
Early childhood education and care is monitored in cooperation between municipalities, the Regional State Administrative Agency and the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health.
Based on the Act on Early Childhood Education and Care, the municipality is also responsible for monitoring private early childhood education and care in its area. The municipality must ensure that the service providers fulfil the requirements set on the activities. If the municipality discovers problems in the private service production in its area, it must initiate control measures without delay. The municipality can organise the monitoring in the manner it wishes.
The Regional State Administrative Agency monitors the activities of municipalities and guides early childhood education and care in its region. The Regional State Administrative Agency monitors early childhood education and care in its area based on reports and any problems that arise. The Regional State Administrative Agencies are also tasked with processing complaints.
The supervisory responsibility of the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health includes cases that are national in scope or involve the regions of several Regional State Administrative Agencies.
A private early childhood education and care service provider must also draw up a self-supervision plan for itself. It must be kept publicly available, and the service provider must monitor its implementation.
My child is being discriminated against in early childhood education and care, because my child is a member of a linguistic minority. Which authority investigates suspicions of discrimination?
You should contact the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, if you feel that you have experienced discrimination or if you have observed that another person is being discriminated against based on a personal characteristic. Such characteristics include, for example:
state of health
The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman advises clients, investigates individual cases and assists in legal matters.
The decision of the Finnish Immigration Service in a child’s asylum case was unjust. Where can I get help?
The Refugee Advice Centre can advise you in issues related to immigration and asylum. It is a non-governmental organisation that offers legal advice and guidance for asylum seekers, refugees and other foreigners in Finland.
You can find information on Finland and the services offered to immigrants in several different languages on the website infoFinland.fi.
Elokuvan tai videopelin ikärajat ovat mielestäni liian matalat. Kuka ikärajoja valvoo?
I think that the age limits for a film or video game are too low. Who monitors the age limits?
The National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI) can advise you in issues concerning films and other audiovisual programmes. It promotes media education, monitors the offering of audiovisual programmers, trains classifiers of audiovisual programmers and monitors their activities.
You can find information on KAVI’s website on where to give feedback about media. You can find instructions on how to give feedback on the content of films, TV programmes and games, the broadcast times and age limits of TV programmes, the sales and distribution of recordings, the Internet, advertising, newspaper and magazine articles and journalism, as well as issues within the field of activity of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority.
The age limits of video games are often determined internationally with the European PEGI label. On issues concerning such age limits, you can also contact the PEGI organisation directly in addition to the National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI). PEGI provides information on the age ratings of video games and their content.
Can I do something about inappropriate advertisements seen by my child?
The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority and the Advertising Ethics Council deal with matters related to advertising.
You can report inappropriate marketing to the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority. On the Authority’s website, you can also find instructions on how to give feedback directly to the company responsible for the marketing.
You can request the opinion of the Advertising Ethics Council on whether the marketing is against good marketing practice. For example, an advertisement that discriminatory or inappropriate for children can violate good marketing practice. A private individual can submit a request with an electronic form free of charge. Reasons for the request for an opinion must be provided.
Advertising Ethics Council: Request a statement