Huostaanoton jälkeenkin vanhemmuus voi kukkia

Brief history of VOIKUKKIA (Dandelions / lit. Can Bloom)

Summary of a speech held by Sannariikka Silén and Hanna Hägglund at Nordic 2015 - second joint Nordic Conference for the Social Sector in Helsinki

VOIKUKKIA or The Dandelion project began in the early 2000s when it was noticed that parents of children placed in substitute care didn’t have enough support in their lives. Parents’ situation is often very dire: they have to deal with the original crisis situation that resulted in the child placed in substitute care in the first place, as well as handling the crisis resulting from the family breakdown. Therefore, a structured peer group led by trained professionals was developed in Jyväskylä in order to help parents cope with their situation and understand their children’s reactions as well as their own.

Peer group model to support parents with children in substitute care

Frequently asked questions and answers about VOIKUKKIA peer support groups >> Open and download PDF-document here

VOIKUKKIA peer support groups are a place where parents can share experienses of subsitute care and get valid information about how adults and children react in crisis, how the child protection system works and about parents' rights and responsibilities. But the most crucial role of the peer groups is to provide a place where parents are able to share experiences and emotions and get support from others who are in a similar situation. For many parents it is the first chance to feel that they are not alone, not the only ones in the world in this situation. And it also provides an opportunity to see that it is possible to survive that hard phase in life. To get that hope that even things have been broken, they can be mended and parenthood can grow. (Hence the name: voi kukkia, which literally means: can bloom).

The VOIKUKKIA (Dandelion) project

VOIKUKKIA project 2010 - 2015 in a nutshell >> Open and download PDF-document here

The role of Dandelions is to train professionals and parents in methods and principles of the groups and to further develop the peer group model. As there are more and more peer groups held all over Finland, we also get a lot of feedback from the groups through our national network: what works, what doesn’t work, new ideas and what could be done with the peer groups, how the support for parents should be organized and improvement ideas for the child protection system in general. The next logical step was to ask parents to write about their experiences and to invite those who were interested in developing new ideas of support for parents to join up in Parents’ councils.

"The Noodle book" and Parents' Councils  

The result was a book: "Kun joka makaroniin pitää mahtua pöytätavat" in english: “When all the table manners must be included in one noodle” and three active groups of parents: one in Helsinki in Southern Finland, one in Jyväskylä in Central Finland and one group of parents working very closely with social workers in the North Savolax Center for Child Protection Development: www.pslastensuojelu.fi.

The councils have been active in many ways. First of all, they started as an evaluation group of the Dandelions project, so that the peer support groups would benefit the parents as well as possible. Soon, they started to do much more because the parents in them were eager for the possibility to influence. Parents from councils have been asked to speak in various seminars and trainings. They have taken part in developmental groups alongside with professionals. They were also asked to be part of a jury which selects the receiver of ”The National Child Protection Award”. Various researchers have found participants for their studies through Dandelions. Parents have been evaluating child protection and social work materials but more importantly the parents themselves, wrote a guide to other parents in similar situation.

Even if the peer support is not the main factor in Parents’ Councils, the element of sharing is still present. Some children have returned home, some have grown up and some are still in substitute care. The need for peer support does not seize to exist after an organized peer support group has run its course. Therefore it does not disappear from the councils, but the main focus is in issues on a more general level than the personal experience.

The future of VOIKUKKIA

As the project funding for VOIKUKKIA stops at the end of 2015, new peer groups start all around Finland and new ideas arise. The Parents´ Councils have been in a very active role planning the next project, which is to form a network of support persons for parents whose child is placed in substitute care. Because groups are not suitable or available for everyone and still no one should be left alone in an extremely hard life situation.

More information of this and other VOIKUKKIA activities by january 2016.

You can contact us at or Tel. + 358 44 350 5179 (VOIKUKKIA project co-ordinator)

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