Itla’s annual report 2021 was published 16.5.2022.
From the Chairperson of the Delegation
Making children and youth visible at all levels of decision-making
At the time of writing, it’s been two months of war in Ukraine. Just when it began to look like the corona pandemic was easing up and light was visible at the end of the tunnel, the shadow of war spread over Europe.
It is the duty of us adults to protect our growing children from the shadows and various threats. Amid all this, we must nurture hope for a better future. Parenting support is more important than ever, and adequate resources must be secured for it. Tackling child poverty, lowering the threshold for family services and building a safe childhood are the most important issues.
At the beginning of 2023, a significant proportion of services for children and families will be transferred to wellbeing services counties. Going forward, maternity and child health clinics, mental health services for children and child welfare will be handled by the wellbeing services counties. The councils of the wellbeing services counties will decide on how these services will be produced in the future.
The National Child Strategy was adopted in spring 2021 and is now being implemented. For the first time, municipalities and wellbeing services counties have a nationwide strategy to push through children’s rights at all levels of government at their disposal.
Decision-making requires a strong understanding of what proportion of public money is spent on children and the impact they will have. It is important that child budgeting and child impact assessment are integrated in the operations of the wellbeing services counties from the start. Our common mission is to ensure that children and young people are made visible at all levels of decision-making.
To ensure that the right assistance reaches as many children, adolescents and families with children, decision-makers and managers of family services must have access to the latest, evidence-based information. The central focus should be on knowledge-based management, measuring the social impact of services and the inclusivity of children.
Itla Children’s Foundation Chairperson of the Delegation
Member of Parliament, anesthesiologist
Itla’s Year 2021
Itla’s vision is to make Finland the best place in the world for children by building a child-friendly society. It will benefit not only the approximately one million children of today but also future generations.
In a child-friendly society, the best interests of the child are taken into consideration in all decision-making and the rights of the child are realised for every child. The National Child Strategy and its implementation programme were completed in Finland in early 2021 and have increased awareness of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. For its part, Itla has been involved in building and promoting the implementation of the child strategy and wants to continue building a future where children’s rights and child-oriented actions are the mainstream in decision-making and service activities.
Itla’s social impact objectives
The wellbeing and resilience of children, youth and families with children living in Finland are strengthened and children have a good future in Finland.
The nature of child-friendly society is advancing – greater equality and respect for the rights of the child.
The service system for children and families conforms to their service requirements, in cooperation with the professionals involved in everyday growth environments.
The realisation of social impact objectives requires child welfare professionals and decision-makers to succeed in their work. Itla’s activities primarily target professionals and decision-makers: by influencing their evidence base, working practices and cross-sectoral cooperation, we can improve the living conditions of children and youth where decisions concerning them are made and where services are planned and implemented.
Itla’s social impact objectives are directed at large-scale social change. Such a transformation occurs little by little, but choosing the most impactful parts is pivotal.
Itla’s activities focus on evidence-based wellbeing information, innovating children’s and family services and developing leadership competences that promote child wellbeing as well as communication. During 2021, Itla also launched a research and development programme on child poverty called An Equal Start for Everyone – Solutions to Family and Child Poverty (Samalta viivalta – ratkaisuja lapsiperheköyhyyteen).
“Itla aims for change through these particular activities because they can impact known critical points in services for children, adolescents and families, as well as their status and future in Finnish society”, says Petri Virtanen, CEO of Itla.
We produce and refine knowledge to develop services
Itla’s work is centred around research-based knowledge to strengthen the social impact of measures to promote the wellbeing of children and adolescents.
Itla conducts research both on its own and in collaborative projects with other actors. The foundation has also endowed three professorships at Finnish universities. The research themes are all relevant to child wellbeing.
We review research on the social impact of psychosocial interventions to help children and families with children through services. The Samalta viivalta programme tackles child poverty as a phenomenon and look for new research-based solutions to reduce poverty.
In 2021, we opened Itlasto, a data bank for the wellbeing of children and adolescents, and launched the Kasvun tuki journal, which aims to broaden the knowledge base on the wellbeing of children, adolescents and families.
The Nordic cooperation of Early Intervention continued through the NordicDataPrev network and The First 1,000 Days in the Nordic Countries project.
“The foundation has achieved the status of a reliable and competent actor in research activities related to the wellbeing of children, as proved by the fact that the Foundation is often invited to join various consortiums”, explains Virtanen.
One of the research projects launched in 2021 is a study funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture on the impact of population changes on early childhood education and pre-school and primary education. The research project will be carried out during 2022–2024 in cooperation with the University of Helsinki and MDI, a regional development consultancy.
Leadership to enable child-oriented approaches
We promote change by providing training both in leadership and in adopting and instilling research-based methods. Management has the opportunity to influence decision-making and services so that they are built with the needs of children, adolescents and families in mind. We provide long-term leadership training for leaders and decision-makers in child wellbeing services that reinforces leadership competency, systemic agency and people-focused and child-oriented management philosophy. Supporting leadership competence contributes to the transition from sectoral activities to child-oriented approaches at local, regional and national levels.
Bridges from research to practice and decision-making
In addition to research knowledge, we also need practical experiments and a dialogue between the knowledge and the people who use it. We strengthen learning, social impact and broad resilience-oriented everyday wellbeing related to child wellbeing.
The regional learning network Childhood Builders (Lapsuuden rakentajat), run by Itla and the University of Oulu, brings together different bodies and helps improve services to function better together. The regional learning network has a population base of more than half a million people, of which 100,000 are children. The activities of the regional learning network are based on the principles of social impact, which Itla has actively promoted in Finland in recent years.
“The importance of Itla, like many other foundations, is particularly reflected in the fact that we can promote cooperation that other actors may not have the opportunity to. In complex issues, cross-sectoral cooperation is often a prerequisite for success”, Virtanen continues.
We have collaborated on implementing the child strategy , mental health strategy, the Child and Family Services transformation programme, the Child Advisory Board and OECD’s OPSI (Observatory of Public Sector Innovation).
Itla’s international approach was also well supported by the work of a three-person international panel of experts launched in 2021. We have continued our international cooperation with, among others, the Norwegian University of Tromsø, the Canadian McMaster University and the Dutch University of Vrije. Itla also launched a collaboration with the University of Canberra, Australia.
In spring 2021, the Foundation carried out a stakeholder survey for a mid-term review of its strategy. According to the survey, several responders considered Itla a “high-profile” actor and a valuable partner. Bridgemaking and cooperation are important principles and objectives for Itla. The only way to build a child friendly society is through cooperation.
A prerequisite for Itla’s operations is the foundation’s assets and its good management. Itla’s operations are mainly financed by return on investment. At the end of 2021, the market value of Itla’s investment assets was EUR 64.1 million. Itla’s realized budget in 2021 was EUR 2.3 million. The purpose of Itla’s financial management is to safeguard its operations in accordance with the foundation’s rules now and in the future.
View to the Year 2022
2022 will still be marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects, albeit diminishing. The pandemic has had direct effects on children, young people and families, for example in the form of a mental health load and learning deficits. Moreover, in the early 2022 during the preparation of this annual report, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has put the world in a new situation, forcing Finland to rethink its perspectives on child wellbeing and the sustainability of our society.
The change in our security policy environment is reflected in the wellbeing of children. With this in mind, the Foundation has been active in launching measures related to the war in Ukraine in early 2022.
2022 will be the last year of Itla’s current strategy period. During 2022, the Foundation, together with stakeholders, will develop a strategy for 2023–2026 as an open process.
2022 is also Itla’s 35th anniversary year. We celebrate our jubilee anniversary with signs of work and under the patronage of our President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö. The main themes of our jubilee is the future and social and resilience of children’s everyday life – supporting excellence and ensuring the services for families with children in changing situations.
The emerging theme in Itla relates to the children’s relationship with nature and, by extension, the planetary wellbeing of children. For example, talk about mitigating climate anxiety is becoming commonplace in Finland. In 2022 we we are also likely to see phenomena that challenge the wellbeing of children and families with children in new ways. One such phenomenon is associated with the otherness and loneliness experienced by children. Certain challenges are brought by rapidly progressing demographic changes such as the decline in birth rate and the ageing population, which rapidly affect access to services for children and families with children. The welfare areas that start their activities at the beginning of 2023 for their own chapter in this transformation process. Solutions such as service integration and family services will be made by each welfare area separately by the end of 2022.
The 2022 operating year will see an increase in demand for the Foundation’s research expertise, which has been a strategic objective in recent years. This follows the renewed interest in recent years in being able to collaborate with the Foundation on issues relating to child welfare.
The core of Itla’s activities will not change in 2022. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the strengthening of equality, the reduction of inequalities, internationalism and bridge-building by bringing together actors of change will remain the leading stars of organising and activities for the Foundation.