Pesäpuu ry is a national child welfare organization established in 1998. We are a non-profit organization supported by the Veikkaus.
Pesäpuu works to improve the situation of children who are clients of child welfare services and to strengthen the children’s involvement. Our vision is that every child placed in care is safe, participating and valuable.
Children and young people who are clients of child welfare services are at the core of Pesäpuu’s operations. The goal is to highlight the needs for change, customer experiences and weak signals found in the child welfare sector. The customers, i.e. the children, young people and their parents, are also involved in Pesäpuu’s professional and development work as experts by experience.
How can we help, encourage and bring security to children and young people whose lives have not gone as they should have? How to meet and interact with children placed in care in foster families, family homes, agencies, receptions and schools so that the children feel that they are appreciated and listened to? How can we adults, child welfare professionals, teachers and foster parents know how to appreciate and understand the children and young people who have gone through a lot?
Pesäpuu’s dream is that every child and young person who is a client of child welfare would take an active part in their own lives and in the decisions that concern them. Pesäpuu wants to make sure that each adult that is part of the life of a child or young person is prepared for their role as a person who supports, encourages and motivates the child.
By involving children and young people in the development work, we can develop our own operating models, tools and methods that make child welfare better, more systematic and attentive to children. We train child welfare experts, foster families, support persons and other people who are important in the lives of the children and young people to meet and interact with them better.
Through our activities, we bring the experiences, wishes and dreams of children and young people placed in care into the spotlight and make the children visible and valuable. Just as they have always been. Each and every one of them.
Pesäpuu also brings together methods developed elsewhere and cooperates with developers and researchers in the field. We invite representatives from the private and organizational sectors as well as from municipalities and the state to work with us. This allows us to share and disseminate the good practices.
Establishing the results of the development work is central to Pesäpuu’s operations. The results are available for everyone to use, and our goal is that good practices are passed on to benefit the children and their families. The methods and tools produced are a promise to the children of the fact that their experiences are not ignored. That is why they bear the registered name, LUPAUS LAPSELLE® (“A promise to a child”).
Focus on children
The development of child welfare work is done together with the placed children and young people. On their terms, listening to their individual experiences and appreciating them. Every child and young person deserves to be heard, understood, appreciated and loved.
Equal cooperation is a valuable asset. We want to develop things together, help our partners and for them to help us. In an equal way, because nobody can do it alone.
Experiences are the road to inspiration. Instead of jumping to conclusions and rushing things, stopping to think, sharing perceptions and marveling at different things together with the children, parents and partners are needed in child welfare.
Promoting the well-being of children and young people requires courage to enter new places, to move forward and to defend our values.
Making children and young people placed in child welfare visible and heard throughout the whole society.
The aim of the development work in Pesäpuu is the realisation of children’s participation and rights in child welfare. We develop concrete methods and tools for the workers who meet children and families. Children, families, workers and schools that are involved in child welfare also take part in the development work. Pesäpuu is maintaining and developing the PRIDE-program in order to meet the diverse needs of today’s foster care. Learn some more below.
The experience makes the expert – not the age.
What are we doing?
Children and Adults together!
Detective Club is a functional method aimed for the children between ages 6 to 10. The goal is for children to be able to participate in developing child protection and substitute care with adults. Children investigate child protection in a focus group with Badger the Puppet, who is the most important member of the group. Children help Badger – they don’t have to talk straight about themselves and their own experiences. Detective Club isn’t a therapy group but it has elements of empowering participation and peer support.
In Detective Club children find out together how they could help Badger in different situations and with different themes, for example:
What home means to Badger?
”Badger doesn’t know. Who would help him – what is home?”
”Home is a place where people live. Sometimes you can’t live with your parents and then you live in a foster family.”
”Why can’t Badger live with his own parents?”
”I think it’s because the social worker thinks that he’s not safe at home. I agree with it.”
Good home is..
When the children were describing a good home, the most important thing was taking care of the basic needs:
What does it mean, that Badger is not safe?
”Social worker thinks for example, that mom and dad behave badly.”
Our Goals and Values
Challenge to the professionals:
Read Detective News (published 2/2021)
Detective Club is organized by Pesäpuu ry with local and national partners.
According to research children taken into foster care tend to be low achievers at school. Social exclusion later in life can be prevented by supporting these children at an early phase. SISUKAS-model has been developed to prevent the marginalization on of children in foster care by testing foster children’s strenghts and needs. One of the main goals is to develop dialog. A closer cooperation and better communication between the foster family, school and social services will be created and further enhanced. The other goal is to create more positive attitude towards education among the children included the project and also to meet the needs of the children. The suitability of the SISUKAS-model and its eﬀectiveness has been assessed by research.
More about the SISUKAS-model
At the start a psychologist and a special education teacher test each child with standardised tests. The results of the cognitive test (WISC – IV) done by psychologist are compared with results of standardised tests for reading, spelling and numeracy done by special education teacher, and also to achievements at school, as perceived and reported by the teachers. Standardised tests are also used to assess baseline psychological well-being and behavior (SDQ, CBCL), as well as child-teacher relations (VAS-scale, STRS).
The results of the tests are communicated to the children, their foster parents, teachers and social workers by the psychologist and the special education teacher at meetings where all the parties are present. This approach is chosen in order to create good working relationships among child´s network, and also to demonstrate that the child is not a person with problems but rather a member of the team.
Potential for school achievement, strengths and obstacles are identiﬁed in co-operation with children, teachers, carers and social workers. As a result a written individualised plan for each child will be created, indicating his or her needs for educational support and other types of interventions. During the 24 months´ interventions, the psychologist and the special education teacher are key players, as one fundamental principle is that they should constantly motivate and tutor the teachers (and foster parents) on how to assist each child to attain the set goals. The psychologist and the special education teacher do less work on a one to one basis with the children and work mostly with and through the teachers. Also, they closely monitor the individual progress and difﬁculties of each child, as perceived by foster parents and teachers. This information is used in planned meetings every three months with all parties present. This model makes it possible to evaluate continuously the interventions and support provided.
Foster and build on hope – views on school from the perspective of a foster child
The project #Munperheet (#Myfamilies) – for methodical family reunions was launched at Pesäpuu in late 2017. The name of the project reflects that more than one family can simultaneously be in the mind of a child placed in foster care. In this project, we cooperate with the city of Tampere and a number of other partners. We get support from Veikkaus, and our project is one of the projects in the programme named ”Kaikille eväät elämään”, (a good start in life for everyone).
Methodical family reunions with foster care
The discharge of a child requires as careful and systematic work as taking a child into care. If a child is to be discharged, the reasons for the taking into care must have ceased to be valid, and the discharge must be in the interest of the child. A reunion cannot be successful if the experiences of the child, the parents and the foster parents are not considered, or if the support measures are not integrated and planned according to the needs of these persons. If there are no concrete and clear objectives and the cooperation between the adult services, and the child welfare is insufficient, reunions will be delayed and hampered. Placed children, their parents and foster parents receive varying support, and no organizations seem to take full responsibility for it all.
We cooperate with
According to the Child Welfare Act, a transfer of guardianship is valid for the present, and the discharge of a child should be judged and negotiated annually. In Finland, it is not known exactly how many per cent of placed children are discharged, but, according to an estimate, it is only 10 %, and most of these have been discharged from institutional care. This percentage may increase. The need for reuniting more families concerns a great number of children and families. The matter is of humanitarian, social and economic importance.
Children living in foster care and their families have often been living in vulnerable, risky circumstances for long periods of time. If a child and its parents do not receive adequate support during foster care, there is a risk that the situation of the placed child and its parents will deteriorate even more because of the placement. A transfer of guardianship and a placement of a child, even if these are based on an agreement, may be the greatest crisis in the lives of the child and its parents. If the child and parents do not get help in their crisis, or the help is delayed, their situation is likely to deteriorate. Foster parents also need strong support to secure the child’s and their own well-being. Placed children’s family relations may be fragile and affect the success of the placement or prevent the family reunion. Functioning relations are of vital importance to aftercare.
The primary target group of the #Munperheet project are children between 0 and 18 years of age who have been placed in foster care or have contact with the city of Tampere, Perhehoitokumppanit Suomessa Oy (PKS) or the SOS Children’s Villages, their parents as well as professional workers.
X-link is a project that works to support people who have been maltreated within substitute care. The project welcomes adults who have experienced maltreatment in substitute care to participate, and offers activities for their near and dear ones as well. X-link’s target group also includes professionals who work in substitute care and decision-makers and politicians who currently influence the field. The X-link project is a three-year project funded by STEA.
The main vision of X-link is to ensure violence-free foster care in a way that every child and young person feels safe and secure in their substitute care place. The X-link’s main goal is to develop and provide forms of support for people who have experienced maltreatment within substitute care. Our forms of support include peer support, professional help and self-help methods. X-link organizes forums all over Finland for people who have been maltreated in substitute care where they get the opportunity to meet up with peers and develop child welfare together with professionals.
We also aim to prevent maltreatment within substitute care from happening in the first place through policy changes and better identification of violence. By meeting persons who have experienced maltreatment and hearing their stories, it is possible for us to identify and produce information about the maltreatment that has taken place in substitute care. This information is then taken into the development work of the X-link. Maltreatment is prevented by educating professionals in identifying violent practices and by doing social advocacy to reform child welfare so that maltreatment no longer occurs in foster care. In addition, the X-link brings together a network of experts by experience to strengthen development and advocacy work.
X-link co-operates with Nuorten Ystävät (Friends of the Youth), the Trauma Therapy Center, the Academy of Finland’s Center of Excellence in Experience (University of Tampere) and the State’s Reform Schools (THL).
The purpose of foster care is to create safe conditions for children and young people to live in. Unfortunately, this condition has not always been fulfilled, and major faults and maltreatment cases have been brought to daylight.
The X-link project – Supporting those who have been maltreated in foster care – is a continuation of the historical study of STM (Disadvantages of foster care and child abuse 1937–1983), the apology from the state on November 20, 2016 (Finlandia-hall) and the collection of events “Experienced Together – 100-year-old Finland through the eyes of children living in substitute care”.
The experiences that came up in the survey are particularly tragic, since the adults who were supposed to provide support to the children and care for them were the ones who abused, exploited and mistreated them. The maltreatment went often unnoticed and unrecognized, and many of the interviewees felt that authorities had not listened to them. Fear and shame prevented others from speaking altogether, and many spoke of their experiences for the first time when interviewed for the study.
Finland acknowledged the abuse that had happened in foster care at the state’s apology event on November 20, 2016. The apology is an acknowledgment of the maltreatment that took place in the past, but it is also an indication to the present and future of the fact that foster care must be a safe place for children and young people.
Past and present experiences were heard from the customers of substitute care on the Experienced Together -tour, which was funded by STM and STEA and coordinated by Pesäpuu ry. The customers of substitute care expressed that the forms of support should be diverse – including the opportunity to share experiences with peers with professional guidance and peer support groups.
The X-link project set out to meet the collective needs of support and prevention. In addition to Pesäpuu ry and Nuorten Ystävät (Friends of the youth), three senior experts by experience belonging to the target group were part of the development process. The Trauma Therapy Center, the University of Tampere and the State Reform Schools were then selected as partners.
The project’s development and advocacy work are based on the experiences of those maltreated in substitute care. Part of the project is to study the current risk and problem areas of substitute care so that they can be better identified. The next step is to change the problem areas through advocacy work, so that in the future substitute care will be a safe place for every child and young person to grow up in.
Photographs of the project: Niina Vehmaa