This past week, the members of our team were able to spend a first day on their own personalized vocational visits. Tara was able to spend the day with Juha Taanila who showed her multiple facets of the social services available and operating in the city of Kemi. Their first stop of the morning was to Pohjantahtiopisto where they first participated in a multidisciplinary meeting. There were professionals from all different specialties who came together to solve some common problems in their community. The main focus of this day’s meeting revolved around children whose parents were divorced or in the process of divorcing. The problem in Kemi is that the process for deciding on their children’s custody agreement in court is a long and painful one (primarily for the children involved in the case). So, this community has an alternate route that they encourage parents to take. The parents are encouraged to use the aid of an advocate and think about their children first. A judge is brought into these meetings and lawyers are present but silent. The parents speak for themselves and the advocates and judge ensure they are acting in the best interest of the child. By minimizing the impact of the lawyers and by bringing the judge directly into the negotiation process, decisions are made much more quickly and the case does not remain in the court system as long. It is reportedly too soon to tell if this system will work for Kemi as well as it has in other cities of Finland but hopes are high.
The next meeting was in the same building, just down a short hallway. This was a support group for women in the community, specifically women with children. The women are invited to come to this place and gather with their children and support one another. Sometimes the women are in abusive relationships and needing support, and sometimes they just come to socialize but it is always a positive environment. Tara met with the staff and patrons of this group and also met their children. Women and children have been served here for years and most are not from Finland at all. This organization sees women from around the world, primarily war torn countries. The women present today were from Ghana and Burma and 80% of the group’s participants come from other countries. The organization has other groups for family work, independent living skills, etc on other days of the week.
Overall this visit was eye opening and exciting. They do so much through motivation and cooperation and are able to really make an impact on the quality of life of those in their communities. It is so exciting to have gotten a glimpse into this facet through this vocational visit.