Cross-border child protection situations require special expertise

How are the best interest and rights of the child realised in cross-border child protection situations? Practices for supporting children who have returned from war zones and acute so-called transnational child protection situations require special expertise in social work. This is a topical issue, among other things because, as a result of the Russian war of aggression, Ukrainian children arrive in Finland without guardians. A joint project between three universities produces new information and service paths.

There is little researched information on cross-border child protection situations, or so-called transnational child protection situations, and there is insufficient legal regulation and practical guidance. The aim of the Suojatie project of the University of Oulu, the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland is to implement researched information into social work practices and model new service paths. The multidisciplinary project involves cooperation in social work, law and gender research.

The project will investigate what transnational child protection cases are like, how they are identified in social work and what kinds of procedures are associated with them. In addition, researchers examine the political and social challenges related to transnational child protection and how authorities understand the situations when interpreting and applying different provisions, how legislation communicates with the reality of the field and in what types of networks these situations are managed.

Conflicting and overlapping guidelines can make it difficult to perceive the situations of children abroad, and cross-border issues can also be highly complex politically and legally. ‘The research produces new information on social work practices related to child protection and the activities of other authorities such as how authorities at different levels of administration deal with issues related to child protection,’ says Johanna Hiitola, project leader and Docent at the University of Oulu.

The aim is to include the research results in practical work by means of a training package aimed at child protection professionals in the wellbeing services counties and the modelling of a service path for child protection with a cross-border dimension. The service path model is also offered to the Handbook on Child Protection maintained by the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the police.

‘Our research will also be an internationally significant definition of a new research area,’ says Hiitola.

The objective of the Suojatie project is to produce research data in co-operation with families involved in transnational child protection situations, authorities that solve these situations and apply the law, and NGOs working in the field.

The scientific results can be utilised in practical work, in basic and continuing education in social work and in the teaching and development of multidisciplinary co-operation.

The Suojatie research is a joint project of the University of Oulu, the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The sub-project of the University of Helsinki is led by Assistant Professor Maija Jäppinen and the sub-project of Eastern Finland by Doctor of Law Sanna Mustasaari. The two-year project began in December 2022. The study will be carried out in co-operation with the Nordic Transnational Childhoods, Transnational Rights? Nordic Responses to Global Challenges in the Field of Child Protection network.

Last updated: 23.1.2023