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.