AS AN IMMIGRANT TO NORTH FINLAND Ester, originally from Africa, came to Oulu as an applicant for asylum at the end of 2010. She had previously lived in southern Europe, where she had become a victim of human trafficking. Ester had a 5year old daughter with her. At that time she was also pregnant. Her baby was born at the beginning of 2011. Once, while living in the Oulu Reception Center in Heikinharju, Ester’s daughter complained about a physical pain. Ester sought help for her child, and so she took her daughter to see a doctor.
The doctor confirmed that the child had an injury. At the same time, the suspicion of mistreatment began. The child was taken immediately into custody before the charge of mistreatment was proven medically. Ester did not understand why she and her child should get separated. Heli, Support person It came as a complete surprise to the mum. The mother said that, The doctor didn’t say anything like that! You first have to investigate. I’m not giving my daughter away. Why should you take her away from me A SUDDEN CUSTODY PLACEMENT.
Two days later, social workers came to Ester and told her that her firstborn daughter will not be returned to her. The distraught mother started to shout and cry. With the help of the police, the Finnish authorities who were accustomed to more discreet behavior immediately removed the fivemonth child and placed her into foster care. Ester was alleged of being aggressive during the visit of the authorities. There are discrepancies between the written record of events and accounts of the witnesses. The frantic mother reportedly threw her baby in the presence of the social workers.
LOST CHILDREN A child custody story of an immigrant family
Another worker present at that time said however, that nothing like throwing took place. The Child Welfare social workers describe the event in a very wild manner. They said the mother was holding the baby by one leg and throwing her to the air. According to one social worker they caught the baby in the air while the mother was throwing her up and down, but according to another social worker the mother was lying on the floor with the baby and they took her off the floor. However, according to the mother she gave the baby to a reception centre staff member to hold before she started crying,.
Because in African culture they think that it is not appropriate to cry whilst holding a baby. In the beginning, it was promised that Ester would be allowed to visit her baby at the Onnela children’s home every day. After the shouting episode, visitations were canceled. Ester pumped and bottled her breast milk, but had not been allowed to meet the infant for about a month nor her firstborn daughter for four months. In the time that passed until their next meeting the firstborn daughter had already forgotten English. During the investigation of the alleged mistreatment,.
The children were placed into foster care with a family that already had many children. Lokakuunliike October movement found out that the one of the foster parents is employed as an authority with a connection to child protective services in Oulu. Ester still does not have the right to know the location of her children because the social workers involved in her case suspect that she would try to kidnap her own children. CHURCH AS A REFUGE According to rpd Kovcs, Pastor responsible for international work, child protective services has made many errors in handling Ester’s case.
The first thought that rises is that it is really difficult to believe that the aim of the Child Protection measures is to reunite the family at some point. It’s really hard to believe. This was a strange reaction from a white, middleclass Finnish person that led to the Child Protection authorities ‘bouncing off the walls’. I also think that when the social authorities don’t have anything else to say they pull out the card, but we have qualifications , as if it would somehow help in this case. In 2008, more than one tenth of involuntary custody cases handled in the Administrative Law Court of Finland concerned families,.
Which were originally not Finnish. In the Administrative Law Court of Helsinki,the amount of immigrants was no less than a third of all clients. Much cannot be said about immigrants in child protective services because ethnic background is not recorded statistically. We do not have comprehensive information about the reasons for children being taken into custody or about the experiences of the clients of child protective services. In the case of Ester, despite her numerous requests, authorities have denied the arrangement of English language lessons for her children. Use of the African mother tongue has been forbidden during visitations from the very beginning.
The children’s connection to their entire family and culture has been broken. They have truly destroyed the mother tongue of the children. The children are not in touch with their own culture at all. I think that especially in this case they use the consultants’ statements arbitrarily. Statements are used if they backup the point of view of the Child Protection workers, otherwise they are not mentioned. I also think that it has been really difficult for Ester to be able to express herself and to be heard. I have attended several meetings between Ester and the authorities,.
And it was really hard to get Ester’s view to be heard at all. Ester is actively involved in church as Christian woman whose life is in order. She does not use intoxicants and does not suffer from any mental illnesses, except she often cries because she has been separated from her children. Despite her sorrow, she has managed to continue living in Finland, study Finnish and acquire a Finnish driver’s license. Kaisa, Ester’s friend Ester has sought refuge, for herself and her displaced children, in the Lutheran Church. Only a short while earlier,.
Fifteenyear old Henriikka from Oulu also sought refuge in the church after being placed into foster care. In Henriikka’s case, pastor rpd Kovcs negotiated with child protective services. Both parents and the new social workers cooperated and consequently it was possible to start the process of returning Henriikka to her own family. How would you act if they came to take away your children for that kind of reason I think you don’t want to hear it now. Maybe something even more than just frenzied behaviour would take place. DEMOLISHING DECISIONS FROM THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT.
In autumn 2014, three years will have passed since Ester’s children were taken into custody by child protective services. Throughout this entire period, Ester has not been allowed to meet her children unsupervised. Nowadays, Ester has supervised visitations with both children at the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters in Oulu once a month for three hours at a time. Ester is not allowed to be in contact with her children in between visits. Ester’s visitations have been decreased in frequency invoking mainly the foster mother’s claims that the child reacts strongly after the meetings.
Social worker Maritta Nikkinen is one of the people responsible for decreasing the frequency of the visitations. The children have not been allowed to visit their mother at home, where she moved in summer of 2012 from the Reception Center of Heikinharju. Despite Ester’s requests, social worker Tuula KivistPyhtil has not come to visit Ester at home. The social worker meets the children with their foster family about once a year. Adeolu, Pastor and Entrepreneur Ester’s previous lawyer did not tell Ester about her rights therefore, the process did not proceed.
The Administrative Law Court of Finland did not probe the allegations that Ester’s fiveyear old daughter would prepare food for the family and care for the infant, and that the mother would hit her children, though no one had seen nor could prove that these had happened. According to the Administrative Law Court, shortcomings in the care of the firstborn daughter have led to mistreatment of the child In fact, the police found out that the mistreatment of the child happened in Africa, when Ester coming from a poor family.
Had left her child in the care of her parents so that she could go to Europe to search for work and a better future for her child. An investigator from the police of Oulu told Ester, soon after the investigation began, that she would not be charged with any crime against her firstborn daughter. However, Ester did not get the official decision about the withdrawal of the crime investigation until the spring of 2014, after the Supreme Administrative Court had already confirmed the decision to place Ester’s children into foster care.
I only ask that the Oulu police would rule it out for this document if it is not true that children have been placed in the home of your staff member while the investigation has been going on. It would be important information for us if that is not true. I understand you cannot say if that is the case but as I understand it you can tell if it is not. I can only say that the custody placement decisions don’t affect the preliminary investigation but the investigation process follows its own path.
According to support persons, during meetings with child protective services, Ester is not given much opportunity to speak. She gets hardly any information about her children. How was the atmosphere in the meetings An atmosphere of extreme confrontation comes to my mind first. It was not very constructive. Many times things were ignored and we had to repeat our questions. What are the child protection meetings like It kind of breaks you up emotionally when there are usually two social workers, the foster mother and possibly other authorities and everyone is against you and.
You only hear negative information about yourself that is not even true. They don’t listen to you or give you a chance to present your views, and even if you are allowed to, it doesn’t seem to have any impact at all. Ester has been charged with child abuse of her fivemonth old daughter this refers to the situation when the social workers visited Ester just before the urgent custody placement. The legal proceeding will be held in autumn of 2014. Until then, how does it feel for Ester an innocent mother.
Who has already endured the groundless accusation of mistreatment of her firstborn daughter for nearly three years If you did something wrong, would you understand why this is happening You spoke about arbitrariness of the actions of the authorities What do you mean It is the use of power in its worst form. They hide behind their status and qualifications. When I don’t have anything to say to a client I don’t close the discussion saying But I have a Master’s degree Like it were somehow meaningful in itself. It looks like in Finland the solidarity among authorities is taken to an extreme.
The answer is usually that the authority is always right. We tried to make a Child Protection complaint over the actions of the authorities, both the decisions of the immigration services and the actions of the police, but the response from the Child Protection services was that the authorities are always right. If I remember right, this kind of attitude was in fashion in 1930’s Germany and 1950’s Soviet Union and we all know where it led. If someone hasn’t understood me, I have made a direct comparison to Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union.
That’s a fairly shocking comparison. Where else has it been said that the authority is always right and you are not allowed to, and don’t need to investigate the actions of the authorities. ENDLESS FUTURE AHEAD Since the children have been placed in foster care, there has not been support in any way for Ester being a parent. Instead the authorities ask Ester to accept the court’s ruling and support her children’s life in the foster family. Ester has asked many times, what should she change in her life so that her children can be returned home to her.
Social workers have not given any answers. Meanwhile the children grow more estranged from their mother, native language and culture. No one knows how the situation is explained to the small children why their mother cannot come to see them. Her children are everything to her. She always talks about them and suffers every day because she isn’t allowed to take care of them. She doesn’t know where they are and how they are doing. She cannot participate in their care and upbringing, except for 3 hours a month which makes 1.5 days a year.
It’s an appallingly small time. Do you think this family should be reunited In autumn of 2011, only two weeks before the children were taken into custody, the immigration office notified Ester that she was not granted permission to stay in Finland. If she would have accepted it and returned with the children to southern Europe, she and her children would be living together. However Ester listened to her lawyer of that time, changed her mind, and made a complaint against the decision of the Administrative Law Court. So there is one thing that Ester now regrets.