Homeschooling Family in Finland Harassed by Authorities in Jakobstad and Pedersöre
by Tommy Karf, Guest writer • January 7, 2019
For 34 months our family—mother, father and five children—has been under investigation by the child protection authorities in the Finnish town of Jakobstad and the municipality of Pedersöre.
The investigation began in February 2016 when for six months malicious reports and false statements were made to the child protection agency (CPA) claiming that the children in our family were isolated. In all the reports the fact we were homeschooling was used as evidence to prove these accusations.
Homeschooling is protected by law and under the Finnish constitution. Nevertheless, the social workers proceeded without legal justification and exceeded the maximum time for an investigation, which the law clearly states may not last more than three months.
In December 2017, the Parliament Deputy Ombudsman of Finland, Maija Sakslin, stated that the Public Health Care and Social Services had acted against the law regarding the time limit of the investigation. But in April 2018, social and family services officials continued the investigation, completely disregarding the law.
We believe officials have placed themselves in a position where they need to keep investigating in hopes of ultimately justifying their aggressive and unlawful actions. In addition to threatening us with force and with taking our children, they have singled out aspects of our lives that are protected by law—homeschooling and our religious beliefs.
Much of our time during the school years has been a constant struggle with the education officials and the CPA.
They contribute nothing of value. The social workers have contacted different health care departments, two schools and the police. The officials and those who have made the reports have harmed relationships, caused strain and damaged our family. The investigation has also generated heavy expenses which we have paid for from our savings.
But our homeschooling has been effective. In a written statement to the social workers a school official writes that our children’s learning has progressed excellently. In our opinion the children are balanced and healthy, and everything appears in order from our standpoint, the statement says.
Friends of the family, relatives, people from the local community and others have testified against the accusations and spoken up in defense of the family. Mike Donnelly, attorney and Director of Global Outreach at HSLDA, has written a letter on behalf of our family to the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Annika Saarikko and to national and regional oversight authorities in Finland.
The social workers’ own research has also disproved accusations and verified testimony from the family’s side. The outside help from private citizens, some politicians and from HSLDA have been important.
Despite all this support, the CPA continues to assert that they don’t need evidence of wrongdoing in order to keep investigating.
In January 2017 the leading official of the social service said, “It’s enough that someone makes a report to us saying that they are worried about the children in this or that family; they do not have to give numerous reasons why they are worried, but their subjective worry [a feeling] we have to take seriously and that worry we have to investigate.”
This is unlawful. The more unspecific an accusation is, the harder it is to refute. It’s also a reversed burden of proof.
With help from the local and broader community, we hope to finally refute these accusations and put an end to these investigations. In the meantime we will continue to homeschool because we believe it is the best we can do for our children.
This November the administrative court dismissed a request by the leading official of the social service, asking for approval from the administrative court to examine our children by force. According to the verdict the case was based on an error by the authorities.