VOIKUKKIA introduction in English
Parenthood can blossom, even through foster care
There are approximately 45 000 parents in Finland, who have a child in foster care. Placing a child in foster care is always a crisis for the whole family. You have every possibility to make it through this crisis, but most need help on the way.
Support and help can come in many ways. We all have different ways of coping, different strengths and needs. One tried and tested method is a peer support group. It’s strength lies in the shared experiences. You are not alone. Others have similar feelings and have been in the same situations. Support from those who truly understand what you are going through is irreplaceable.
VOIKUKKIA peer support groups
VOIKUKKIA peer support groups usually meet about 10 times. The meetings are often held once a week for two hours at a time. Each meeting has a theme. They start from getting to know each other and sharing experiences. One important subject in every group is how children and adults react and cope with crisis. What is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, and how can we spot these in our children and in ourselves. Last meetings usually focus on individual strengths, future prospects and celebrating the groups journey.
A group can have 4-8 participants and 2-3 counsellors. The organizers and counsellors in VOIKUKKIA groups are professionals. They are responsible for the group’s wellbeing. They also organize the funding, so group meetings are free of charge for all participants. But the main point in group meetings is not professional expertise. The counsellors’ role is to set the discussion in motion and make sure that everyone has a chance to speak. The most important things are the shared respect and open discussion with other parents.
Experts by experience
In the 20 year history of VOIKUKKIA peer support groups, we have come to appreciate the knowledge and wisdom of the participants. The different viewpoints and solutions parents share and teach each other in these groups, can’t be replaced by professional knowledge (alone).
Parents themselves often ask questions the child protection professionals don’t think of. Some groups have become so inspired, that they have asked social workers and municipal commissioners or directors to visit their meeting to discuss different policies in child protection.
Many parents have taken the course to become group counsellors themselves. About half of VOIKUKKIA groups now have an expert by experience as an equal partner to professional counsellors. The VOIKUKKIA experts by experience are also a very sought after commodity in seminars, work groups and committees. And in educating child protection professionals and future VOIKUKKIA group counsellors. The parents’ views and experiences are finally becoming an essential part in developing child protection services.
In all this success of the experts by experience, It is vital to remember our motto. No one should be left alone, neither in crisis or in utilising these experiences for public good. VOIKUKKIA workers strive to better support the experts by experience in all their work: in peer groups, as sponsors, as public speakers and in developing child protection together with government officials.
VOIKUKKIA model was first developed in Sininauhaliitto. Counsellors in substance abuse support groups noticed that children in foster care was a taboo subject for parents, even though it was a very significant factor in their lives. When the VOIKUKKIA groups started, it was also noticed that participants came from very different backgrounds and life situations. In many groups a child in foster care is the only link between group members.
It made sense therefore to pass the torch of developing these groups from an NGO tackling addiction problems to an NGO who work with families in crisis. Kasper – Kasvatus- ja perheneuvonta ry has had the main responsibility of spreading the VOIKUKKIA method since 2008. This kind of work is never done alone though. Kasper co-operates closely with the originator Sininauhaliitto, public sector child protection services as well as several child protection and family orientated NGO’s.
NGO Kasper and VOIKUKKIA workers
VOIKUKKIA© is a registered trademark and Kasper oversees that it is used according to agreed principles. The four VOIKUKKIA workers in Kasper organize courses and keep in touch with group counsellors. Over 300 family work professionals and over 50 parents in Finland have taken the four day course to become a VOIKUKKIA peer group counsellor. VOIKUKKIA workers meet local counsellors annually to discuss problems and successes. The peer group model, it’s principles and materials are updated together with parents and professionals.
The nationally collected ideas from VOIKUKKIA network have generated peer groups for children at home whose siblings are in foster care and low-threshold anonymous pop-up meetings for parents who can’t or won’t participate in peer groups. And much more. VOIKUKKIA workers’ main task is to keep this network well oiled and supported and deliver the generated ideas and materials for all to use. So that no one is left alone.
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