City of Helsinki

The Migrant Youth Helsinki project – Support for parents

In the support for parents operating model, immigrant parents get assistance and coaching from within the immigrant community regarding the education and employment opportunities of their children, as well as for situations where the family has mental health or substance abuse problems. The coaching is provided by proxies, peers who speak the same language, who meet the immigrant parents in their homes, cafes or other low-barrier environments. Coaching immigrant parents about these important issues helps them support their children better, which is known to have an enormous positive impact on the lives of the youth. Solita and its’ service design unit helped the City of Helsinki to develop new models in the Migrant Youth Helsinki project.

Substance abuse and mental health services

  • 4

    language groups

  • 48


  • 2000

    parents reached

Education and employment knowledge

  • 6

    language groups

  • 52


  • 3000

    parents reached

It became apparent early in the Migrant Youth Helsinki project that one of the biggest problems for the youth was their parents not being familiar with the opportunities offered by the Finnish society and the risks faced by the youth in their lives. Their parents might recommend a training in nursing or business or medical training for the simple reason that they had no better knowledge of the various education options. Substance abuse and mental health issues may be taboo and subject to unhealthy attitudes in many immigrant families. Support offered to parents proved to be a way to solve many of the children’s problems.

The idea of “if only the parents knew better” was repeated in the joint planning teams and the discussions with the youth. We could not start guiding the parents from the outside – we needed support from within the community and in their native language.
– Irma Sippola, project manager, Migrant Youth Helsinki

The model for supporting parents was created in a design competition held over the summer and early autumn of 2016. The competition was organised by Solita’s design unit and the city of Helsinki to find a service model that would improve the knowledge of immigrant parents on education and employment, raise awareness of substance abuse and help deal with mental health problems that arise in families.

Professionals and organisations from various fields participated in the competition, and five proposals were selected for the finals by a panel of experts. The winning proposal was the peer visitor model proposed by Kalliolan Nuoret ry. The idea was to offer immigrant parents the option to invite a peer to their place of choice to receive support in their native language. The winners were awarded €10,000 for their idea.

This activity provides immigrant families with more tools to handle their children’s problems, and it also helps young people find employment and plan their future. Working builds understanding and knowledge in the communities, allowing parents to better support the lives of their children.