Saturday, August 20, 2005

State provides home assistance to families with children

An article in today's Helsingin Sanomat newspaper highlighted yet another source of assistance for families with children: kotipalvelu or home-based services. It wasn't clear to me what all it covered, but it seems to be various kinds of assistance and services to help families cope with newborns, sick children, sick parents, situations where family counseling is needed or when parents are just plain exhausted.

The article was based on a survey of how well local districts are in providing this legislated support. The legislation is evidently vague enough that districts don't have to provide any specific amount or types of support, but simply have something that qualifies as home-based services which are funded each year.

The current situation varies dramatically among big cities and was described as dire in some areas, such as Oulu. It was best in Tampere and Lahti. In Tampere, the city has made a concerted effort to focus on preventative measures to keep families from falling into crisis situations by supporting families when a new baby arrives, during divorce, and dealing with stress caused by long-term illness or disability in the children or parents. Helsinki was better than average. In Turku and Espoo, the services focus on 'lastensuojeluperheille' (child welfare families)

Help in Oulu
A very nice example of how valuable this assistance can be was of a family in Oulu. The third child had just been born, the birth had been traumatic, the family moved house and dad had to travel on business for several weeks and the new baby hardly slept. As a result, mom was totally burned out, but didn't realize it until she was asked at the neuvola how she was doing. In answer, she burst into tears.

A family worker was requested. She came once a week for 3 - 4 hours to play with the children. It was just what the mom needed - a few hours to sleep, take a bath, go to the store or to talk a walk. This relief gave her new found strength to cope with the situation. The family worker came for four months.

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