Fact for Minors. Fostering Alternative Care for Troubled minors (2016–2018)

The EU-funded project focused on young people in the intersection of penal measures, child welfare, and mental health services. Research interests in mental health problems in juvenile justice have grown over the past years as several studies throughout the world have shown that mental disorders are highly prevalent among children and young people in juvenile justice system. Previous research worldwide has also paid great attention to the consequences on mental health of penal measures. The appropriate address of mental health care needs of young people is not only a well-established clinical necessity, but is also mandated by significant ethical and moral principles as part of the right to health and of the Rights of the Child. The 1959 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child states that “the child who is physically, mentally or socially handicapped shall be given the special treatment, education and care required by his particular condition” (Principle 5).

European child welfare- and juvenile justice systems are different. When trying to address the issues posed by children with psychological, psychiatric or personality disorders in penal or child welfare institutions, the partner countries are exploring different arrangements, but facing similar problems. In many European countries, the therapeutic care and the socio-educational care of these children are organized under different institutions or agencies, for example, and cooperation between Juvenile Justice and Health sectors may be insufficient.

The project aimed at reinforcing the capacity of alternative care communities in five EU countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Finland) to adequately support and respond to the special needs of the children with psychological, psychiatric or personality disorders. The project identified good practices and disseminated them between the partners. The Finnish substudy focused on reform school care. Two units with an emphasis on psychiatric support were chosen as test sites in Finland: State owned Reform School Sairila (located in the city of Mikkeli in Eastern Finland), and a NGO owned Family Rehabilitation Center Lauste (located in Turku in Western Finland).

Research team and collaboration

The project was coordinated by Italy, CNCA ‐ Coordinamento Nazionale Comunità di Accoglienza (National Coordination of Care Communities). The Finnish substudy was supported by the National Institute of Health and Welfare in Finland. Funding: EU/JUST2015 action grants.

Research team: The project was directed by reseach manger Kaisa Vehkalahti, and conducted by post doctoral researcher Elina Pekkarinen and researcher Noora Hästbacka.

National Advisory Board
Special expert Päivi Känkänen, National Institute of Health and Welfare (Chair)
Development manager Jussi Ketonen, Lauste Family Rehabilitation Center
Senior researcher Marko Manninen, National Institute for Health and Welfare
Professor of Social Work Tarja Pösö, University of Tampere
Manager Matti Salminen, Child Welfare Units of the State, National Institute for Health and Welfare
Councillor in Medicine Helena Vorma, Ministry for Social Affairs and Health
Senior researcher Miika Vuori, The Social Insurance Institution of Finland


Handbook For Practitioners.

Guidelines For The Strategic Implementation Of Processes Regarding Children With Psychological, Psychiatric Or Personality Disorders Hosted By Alternative Care Communities As A Consequence Of Penal Measures.

Country Report from Finland. Hästbacka & Pekkarinen 2018.

Pekkarinen, Elina (2018) Lapsen syyntakeettomuus oikeusvaltioiden haasteena [Irresponsibility of the children as a challenge for the nations of justice]. Haaste 2:2018. http://www.haaste.om.fi/fi/index/lehtiarkisto/haaste22018/lapsensyyntakeettomuusoikeusvaltioidenhaasteena.html 

Pekkarinen, Elina (2017) Lapset, nuoret ja rangaistukset [Children, young people and punishments]. Haaste 3:2017. http://www.haaste.om.fi/fi/index/lehtiarkisto/haaste32017/lapsetnuoretjarangaistukset.html 



Kaisa Vehkalahti

Kaisa Vehkalahti

Research Manager

PhD, Adjunct Professor of Cultural and Social History

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Researcher profile
Elina Pekkarinen

Elina Pekkarinen

Senior researcher (on temp. leave from 14th of January 2019)

Adjunct Professor / Title of Docent in social work (University of Helsinki), PhD, Licensed Social worker

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Researcher profile