To learn more about the adoption process in Finland and the country’s child welfare infrastructure, Petra sat down for a chat with Paula. Paula and her husband, who are both Italian citizens, have been living in Finland for over 10 years. They have 3 children: one biological, one adopted, and one who they care for through Finland’s Family Support System. To learn more about the adoption process and the family support system in Finland, give episode 23 a listen.
Paula and her husband, who have both earned doctoral degrees from Italy, decided to move to Finland to pursue opportunity and to give their children the opportunity to grow up in Finland. Although they are still enthusiastic about trying to speak Finnish when they can, learning the language was harder than they ever could have imagined. Paula has not given up on the hope of one day becoming completely fluent, and is proud to be fluent enough to understand the conversations that take place around her.
Although Paula still considers herself a foreigner in Finland, she has sensed a shift in her cultural identity since living in Finland. For example, she found it strange to be greeted by strangers when she visited Colombia last summer, because this behavior is so uncommon in Finland. She also feels that she has become accustomed to the Finnish awareness of equality, and she can spot inequality when she travels.
When their child was about one year old, Paula and her husband decided to adopt a second child. The process took about three years-- two years shorter than the average processing time. If you are interested in the details of the adoption process, you can read more about it in Paula’s blog. In general, it was a long and complicated journey, for a couple of reasons. First, there is a high demand for adoptable children in Finland, and would-be parents often have to search outside of the country. Second, There are only two agencies that provide adoption services in Finland, and they do not operate in English.
When her son finally came home, she was overwhelmed by the challenges of raising an adopted child and the lack of services in English. To address this need, she started a Facebook community for foreign families who also struggled through the adoption process due to a lack of Finnish fluency. Paula was shocked at the number of families in similar situations; the group grew into 80 members in just one year. Through the group, Paula offers assistance to families who are struggling and raises awareness about the challenges these families face; as a result of her work, other adoption agencies began offering services in English.
Paula’s third child does not live with her, but visits often. Support family is a service where you regularly host a child in need in order to assist the child and her or his family. They were paired with a nine-year-old child through this program, who decided to learn English in order to better communicate with them. Although the family does not have a single common language among them, they help each other and communicate just fine. You will be able to read more about Paula’s experience with this program in her upcoming book!
Paula loves having a multi-cultural family in Finland, and she enjoys the blend of Italian, Indian, and Finnish cultures that take place inside her home. However, Paula believes that Finland has not yet adapted to its own multiculturalism. She acknowledges that the country has a ways to go in terms of diversifying the services it offers, but she also believes that individuals are responsible for creating opportunities if they are not presented.
Paula recognizes the important role that foreigners play in helping to shape Finland, and rejects the narrative the foreigners are generally a burden to the country; instead, she suggests, diversity is an important asset for the country. Be sure to visit Paula’s blog, where she shares the stories of other multicultural families living in Finland.