Runaway children in alternative care in Finland – to safeguard the best interest of the children?

Julkaistu 11.05.2017.

Children from alternative care that go missing or run away are according to Finnish practice called executive assistance by the police to Child Welfare Authorities. These police tasks are not called investigations of missing person. Our national police database literally separates these tasks in those two categories. Separating has its pros and cons affecting statistical and operational level. The best interest of the children has to be paramount in all childcare issues, but in runaway children´s cases the best interest of the children seems to be a distant goal.

Runaways are often described as children who run away or are kicked out of home or the institution where they have been placed. In my opinion runaway children are a vulnerable group of children with fewer opportunities. Instead of discrimination a positive discrimination should be applied in terms of runaway children. Executive assistance is, as it describes, assisting another authority in its legal duty. In runaways the police are assisting Child Welfare authorities. In other words, runaway children are not a part of police duties, but the police are asked to give assistance in these tasks when the child welfare authority can’t conduct them itself. The investigation of a missing person is a task solely led by the police. This leads to a problem of prioritization where runaway children are not the winners.

In 2013-2014 the police of Finland wrote 5009 reports of an executive assistance to child welfare authorities. Every report is not a runaway case, because runaways are just one category of assistance executed by the police. When a report is about a runaway it may include more than one child or it may be concerning a child that has ran away more than once.

Repeated runaways are a common phenomenon and an identified risk to the children’s development. In addition to this the police can give executive assistance to many other authorities such as social authorities or the health authorities. Sometimes runaway may be documented as an executive assistance to one of the other afore mentioned authorities. This leads to a statistical error. Described in words, the number of runaways remains unclear.

In my research I’m highlighting the overall picture of this interface between child welfare and police work. The research is a comprehensive approach to runaway reports, legislation and practices. One aim, besides its academic contribution, is to develop the practices in order to safeguard our children.

Sami Isoniemi
Doctoral Student
Public Law

Doctoral Programme of  Administrative Sciences



Missing Children Europe Brochure

The Police Act of Finland 872/2011.



Kirjoittanut Ebo 15.05.2017 12:22:47

Thanks Sami, It's a growing menace in our society and accurate record and data would help reduce police applications of executive assistance. At best, children have to be brought up by their parents in their homes. But now, the least thing a parent does to a child is taken as maltreatment and therefore agencies are quick to step in. Such children grow up without any proper upbringing to the detriment of society. Sami, carry on with your research!

Safeguard our children

Kirjoittanut Thanh 15.05.2017 19:47:43

In general, as parents, I am very concerned for the welfare and safety of our children who have runaway. Unfortunately, in many countries, all too often runaway youth are often considered a family problem, rather than a child welfare and societal concern. Independent of that, the most important thing here is that runaway children are at risk, and they need help immediately. According to Runaway Safeline in the US, over 70% of runaway youth have been considered to be endangered. 7% of youth in runaway & homeless youth shelters and 14% of youth on the street had traded sex for money, food, shelter, or drugs. And finally, 32% of runaway and homeless youth have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. Without the facts in Sami’s blog, I would not have been aware of this problem in Finland, because I have never heard from anyone about this earlier. However, as a matter of fact, runaway children are in danger, Sami’s research subject is interesting and useful for the national safeguard for our children. Good luck Sami with your research, I am looking forward to seeing your progress. Best wishes!

Much-needed research

Kirjoittanut Muna Khattab 16.05.2017 00:28:04

This article draws attention to a silent crisis in our societies. Children run away from their homes for different reasons. It is very important to identify each reason and try to solve it independently. However, this would be very difficult to achieve without accurate data and statistics as Sami mentioned and Ebo commented. Children who run away are not bad children; they are children with problems that need to be solved. Some of these cases are not flashy enough to make it to the newspapers headlines but still, they result in deep wounds in some neighborhoods and unbearable aches in parents’ hearts. Children are the seeds of the future and safeguarding them is a cornerstone to the progress of our nations. All the best of luck Sami with your research!

Thank you for your comments and feedback

Kirjoittanut Sami Isoniemi 22.05.2017 18:27:34

Thank you all for your comments and feedback. As you all mentioned, this is a silent social problem and because of several reasons it is not considered so important. Hopefully this research will change matter at least a bit.


*Pakollinen kenttä


Päivitetty 11.05.2017 - Verkkotoimitus