News Release

How to create a child-friendly support system for dually involved children?

Reports and Proceedings

Estonian Research Council

During this age of crises, it is clear that children in vulnerable positions are needing more help due to the combined effect of accumulating risk factors. In order to ensure the rights and well-being of all minors, a child-friendly support system is needed. This could notice a need for help as early as possible and provide support accordingly, says Koidu Saia, who defended her doctoral dissertation at the School of Governance, Law and Society of Tallinn University.

“One of the science- and evidence-based components for a child-friendly support system is well-functioning interprofessional collaboration. This, in turn, is based on necessary knowledge and skills, a child-friendly culture of collaboration and sustainable interdisciplinary education that can adapt to new circumstances and needs,” summarises Koidu Saia on how to create a support system for juveniles and their families who have gotten caught up in the judicial system. The requirements of each juvenile in need and their family are different and therefore require individual supportive measures. It is neither cheap nor easy, but developing a network of adequate support systems and ensuring their sustainability is critical.

Saia's doctoral dissertation is based on data collected between 2010–2016 and published in 2018–2020. This includes content analysis of minors’ rehabilitation plans, court files and interviews with rehabilitation specialists, children and their parents who have received rehabilitation services. From the analysed court files appeared that all cases of minors who made it to court were characterised by risk factors identified at an early age and the complexity and severity of their problems, which were noticed too late. Saia pointed out that the behavioural problems and the severity of the offenses became more serious by every year, and the ineffectiveness of the implemented measures was repeatedly acknowledged.

"The analysis of rehabilitation plans revealed that there were significant duplications of work in the assessments gathered through interprofessional collaboration, and the assessments were inconsistent, all of which pointed to inadequate collaboration," commented Saia on areas of concern in the system. As the needs assessment is one of the most important pillars of the social rehabilitation service, its quality and good functionality is essential in determining the impact of the subsistence support on a child in need.

Saia acknowledged that interviews with rehabilitation professionals reflected strong collaboration at the individual level, but was weak at the group and organisational levels. However, specialists are motivated to work together and they see this as a key factor in effectively resolving complex cases. At the organisational level, the key shortcomings were found in management and communication, and at the macro level, additional requirements and growing administrative burdens were seen as a sign of mistrust of the service financer. Rehabilitation professionals see individual budgets based on the children’s needs, a reduction in administrative burdens and improved access to the system and other support solutions as the future of the service. The latter is needed to prevent children and families to whom there are no other aid to provide from ending up in rehabilitation services.

Saia's interviews with minors receiving rehabilitation aid, their parents and specialists indicated that the case manager has the key role in helping children and families in need. The families also expect flexible (including innovative ICT-based) service provision solutions and substantive involvement in ‘’granting’’ the family the right to participate and decide on their life choices. "It can be concluded from the interviews that the development of a culture of interprofessional collaboration will take time, and for this, a sustainable system of interdisciplinary education and training must be created," says Saia on how to start creating a better system.

"The basis of child-friendly justice is ensuring that three categories of children's fundamental rights – the right to protection, participation and provision – are met," sums Saia up the importance of her research. “A child helped at the right time is an investment for the future of our society, where as many of us as possible are able to cope independently or with little help and in turn are able to support the well-being and development of our own children. It is important to start by listening to the child and ensuring that they have a voice and involvement in matters that affect their lives.”

On April 25, 2022 Koidu Saia from the School of Governance, Law and Society will defended the doctoral thesis "Interprofessional collaboration in social rehabilitation service for dually involved children in Estonia".

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