In the decision-making processes regarding child protection, a guardian designated by child protection supports:
- the child’s involvement
- the realisation of the child’s interests
- the use of the child’s right to speak in matters concerning the child
A guardian is an impartial representative of the child
The duty of a custodian is to supervise the child’s interests and use their right to speak in matters concerning the child. However, in some child protection situations, the custodian may be unable to act as an impartial guardian of the child. According to section 22 of the Child Welfare Act, a guardian should be designated for a child if there is good cause to assume that the custodian is unable to supervise the child’s interests in the case without prejudice and, at the same time, the designation of a guardian is necessary in order to investigate a case or otherwise to safeguard the interests of the child. However, the custodian retains their status as a party.
What does a guardian do?
- uses the child’s right to speak in place of the custodian in their designated status
- gets to know the child, discusses the child’s situation and keeps the child informed
- investigates the wishes and opinions of the child and brings forth the solution that is the most suitable in terms of the child’s interests
- takes part in child protection negotiations or trials with the child or as the child’s representative
- can also act as the child’s representative in a criminal procedure, whereupon they handle the child’s case in cooperation with a trial counsel
Child protection trustee action at Save the Children Finland
For a long time, Save the Children Finland has advanced the trustee action of child protection at the national level in cooperation with municipalities and other authorities. The child protection trustee project (2005–2012), the foundation of these operations, was a shared development project between Save the Children Finland, the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters, Nuorten Ystävät, and SOS Children’s Villages, funded by Finland’s Slot Machine Association RAY.
The project developed the policies and operational models of child protection trustee action in cooperation with localities and municipalities and utilised the resulted information in the development of work, training, and materials. The results of the project were an electronic trustee action guide, a guardian training programme, and a search engine for guardians specialised in child protection matters.
As of the beginning of 2014, the National Institute for Health and Welfare coordinates the trustee action of child protection in Finland. Save the Children is involved in the national development networks of child protection trustee action.
Guardians working at regional offices
Each regional office of Save the Children has guardians in child protection who can be requested to act as representatives in child protection cases. The guardians are specialised in evaluating a child’s interests and representing children. Please contact your regional office directly.
The legal services of Save the Children acts as legal consultation support for child protection work in different child protection situations. The legal services also provide legal consultation in questions related to child protection trustee action. Our lawyers can be contacted through a service number subject to a fee or by e-mail.
Further information and enquiries
For further information on trustee action, please refer to the Handbook for Child Protection. Sosiaaliportti has been discontinued as an independent service, and the search engine for guardians had to be shut down simultaneously. Guardians can register in the Innovillage community where they can find updated information and forums.