RIWC_PARA_A115 immigrated children with disabilities and their families within the finnish welfare services
The need to construct a new model story
– Immigrated families with children with disabilities
within the Finnish public welfare services
Senior researcher, DSocSc Ulla Buchert
Researcher, MSocSc Mirkka Vuorento
1) Immigrated children with their families cannot cope with everyday life and need help and support in
integrating to Finnish society. Families might be illiterate or their knowledge of Finnish language is limited,
they have no understanding of the service system and they don’t understand the information and advice
they get from service providers. This makes the use of services problematic.
2) The integration advisor clarifies the information of the service providers for the families, she takes care of
their affairs and teaches them how to use services. She shares information about recreational activities for
children, corrects misconceptions regarding income support, participates in meetings at hospital, sends text
messages to remind about doctor’s appointments, guides how to deal with broken mobility aid, speaks for
the family at school and encourages parents to deal with a social worker by themselves. The integration
advisor also clarifies support for informal care, finds out about therapies available and investigates
modifications needed for apartments.
3) It is possible for the integration advisor to detach herself from the work with the families when illiterate
parents have learned to read and write and/or parents have learned Finnish, adequately enough to be able
to navigate in the service system independently. They are able to find out solutions for their problems and
know how to take care of things over the phone and in writing online. Parents are healthy and they have
resources to take care of a child with special needs. Families are aware of their rights and responsibilities;
they are determined to find solutions for possible problems and know where to seek help in case of need.
1) Professionals working in welfare services do not know how to manage the complex situations of immigrated
families with disabled children and need external support for their work. They don’t know how to support
families with illiterate parents or with limited proficiency of Finnish. Professionals are not able to provide
information, guidance and advice to families understandably enough, and they don’t take into account
families’ need for personal customer services.
2) The integration advisor takes care of things on behalf of the professionals, assists them and teaches them
how to manage things by themselves. She answers queries regarding situations of the families, conveys
information from professionals to families and from families to professionals and advices teaching assistants
to use plain language and other supportive means to facilitate interaction with families. She tells
professionals at a hospital that it is their responsibility to reserve an interpreter and guides them how to
reserve one and how to act with him/her. The integration advisor also instructs professionals to give
information and advice to families regarding exemption from payments, therapies, medication, assistive tools
and holiday activities taking into account their possible need for personal customer service.
3) It is possible for integration advisor to detach herself from the work with professionals when professionals
have learned different kinds of ways to take into account possible illiteracy of parents, limited Finnish skills
and social background of families. Professionals use family-centered and comprehensive approach, they have
means to facilitate communication with families. They are asking the right questions and give adequate
information for the families, understanding that they might have difficulties in perceiving their possibilities
and responsibilities. When needed, they can arrange personal support for the family.
• We interpret that the conventional story is a Finnish model story of integration
- With the concept of a model story it is referred to stories, according to which certain
situations are generally perceived and people in such situations are expected to
behave in a certain culture or community (Hänninen, Valkonen 1998.)
• Therefore, we argue that the conventional story is used generally to perceive
integration-related situations and create expectations of behaviour in such situations
- The story implements the spirit of Act on the Promotion of Immigrant integration
- The story itself as well as included professional activities and practises appear
familiar and worth pursuing
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