The corona took away the income of the foster family – House Security gave the renovation as a Christmas present

Articles on housing, plumbing repairs, energy, renovation and single-family homes, produced by Hausoturva.

The corona took away the income of the foster family – House Security gave the renovation as a Christmas present

Articles on housing, plumbing repairs, energy, renovation and single-family homes, produced by Hausoturva.

35 years of support for children

From the outside, the Riekkisten detached house in Kotka looks like an ordinary Finnish home. The fence gate says “Mummola”. When you enter the house, the dogs come to greet you and get to know you. Children’s voices can be heard in the background. Someone is playing a video game. Every now and then the dog gets excited to bark. You could almost describe the whole thing as controlled chaos, but the house is just too tidy and there are carefully placed Christmas decorations everywhere.

“Everyday life requires planning: picking up the children from school, taking them to hobbies and therapy,” says Pirjo Riekkinen, the hostess of the house. Children entering foster care often have traumas from their past lives, which is why many go to therapy.

Pirjo and Jouko Riekkinen are foster parents with 35 years of experience. “We have had a total of 80 children, maybe a little more,” Pirjo Riekkinen estimates. The living room display cabinet is full of photos of children who have been to “grandma’s house”. “The oldest child we had is about to turn 50.”

Children who have been in care with the Riekkis for a long time have naturally developed a strong bond with their foster parents. Former children sometimes contact the Riekkis. “A girl who lived with us for over 20 years contacted us a while ago and asked if we still remembered her,” Pirjo Riekkinen says. “Of course we remember. He promised to come over,” Riekkinen says.

Foster care started when the Riekkis were unable to have biological children. “Originally we had adoption papers going to Ethiopia, but then foster children came to live next door. When it took so long with the adoption papers, the idea came up that we could also take in foster children,” Pirjo Riekkinen recalls.

“Then we called the city of Kotka and that’s where it started. We had a two-year-old girl and one day she said she wanted a baby brother. Then a one-year-old boy came into the house. Soon after that, a teenage boy joined the family.”

The Riekkis have since also adopted one foster child, making them the official guardians of the child.

Continuing shortage of foster families

Children end up in foster care if the biological parents die, but in most cases the parents are still alive. In these cases, parents face challenges in their lives that prevent them from providing the care they need.

“Today, drugs are often in the background. In the old days it was mostly alcohol,” says Pirjo Riekkinen.

If the child cannot be placed in a foster family or a professional family home, he or she will be placed in a children’s home. The Riekkis use the word “institution” to describe the children’s home. The children’s home is a miserable place, at least for some children.

“One boy said he never wanted to be institutionalised again. Home is always home,” says Pirjo Riekkinen.

Children are also concerned about the uncertainty of how long they will be placed in foster care. Riekkinen says that in the past, children knew when they came to the foster family whether they would be living there for a long or short period of time.

“Nowadays, they often don’t know whether they will be here for a month, six months, a year or longer,” says Pirjo Riekkinen. “One boy who had come to us ‘just for a little while’ has been with us for five years. In fact, he asked me only last week if he would be with us until I retired. I replied: ‘No, you’ll be with us as long as necessary.'”

“Nowadays, children are also not as permanent as before,” Jouko Riekkinen adds. This is not a good development, as a lack of stability and constant uncertainty can have a negative impact on a child’s well-being.

When asked what they would like the rest of the public to know about foster care, the message is clear. “More and more foster families are being sought all the time. There is a shortage of them, especially in the Helsinki region. Although the number of foster families has increased over the years, there are not enough,” says Pirjo Riekkinen with a sigh. Riekkinen trains several couples every year in foster parenting.

The corona closed the support taps

Foster families receive a fee from the municipality for their work and a reimbursement of expenses. However, the subsidies are modest.

“You always wish there were more subsidies,” Pirjo Riekkinen laughs. “Nobody does this for money”. The Riekkis spent their first years as foster parents without being paid by the municipality. “Back then Jouko was still working,” Riekkinen says.

When the corona epidemic began in the spring, the Riekkis’ everyday life was transformed.

“Now, when the corona came, we had no foster children because Jouko is at risk. We couldn’t place anyone. We only had one boy at the time,” Pirjo Riekkinen says.

As the municipal subsidies are linked to the number of foster children, they ran out. “This ate up all the pension savings,” Pirjo Riekkinen says.

Naturally, the second wave of the koruna is a major concern. If the infection situation gets out of hand, the Riekkis will again be left without children and the children without a foster family.

A renovation gift to light up the dark year

A difficult year brought new worries when the smell of sewage appeared in the indoor air of the Riekkinen family home. When the plumbing system was inspected by Hausoturva, a camera revealed a blockage in the pipe. A drainage service was then carried out and the blockage was cleared. The smell disappeared, but cleaning the sewer surfaces revealed more bad news.

“It turned out that the roots of a tree had come through at one point in the pipe,” says Pirjo Riekkinen.

Although the pipework was otherwise in good condition, something had to be done about the broken section and money was tight. That’s when a representative of Taloturva came up with the idea to give the renovation of the pipe as a Christmas present to Riekkis.

“When he started talking about it, I asked him if he was serious. But he was serious,” Pirjo Riekkinen recalls.

Hausoturva repaired the broken section of the sewer by socketing, i.e. installing a new plastic pipe inside the old sewer pipe.

“It went really well! There wasn’t even any extra noise. Best plumbing job we’ve ever had done,” Riekkinen praises. “Previously, we had a plot drain renovated by another company – it was a real circus. The house renovation, on the other hand, was done professionally.”

The Riekkers are now looking forward to Christmas in a slightly lighter mood and hoping for a less exciting New Year. “Let’s take it one day at a time and see what tomorrow brings,” says Pirjo Riekkinen.

Articles published by Hausoturva

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