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HUMAN RIGHTS: R v Finland (Application no 34141/96)

Date:7 JUN 2006

(European Court of Human Rights; 30 May 2006) The child had been placed in a children's home on the basis of the mother's violent behaviour and both parents' incapacity to raise him. The care order clearly intended placement with a substitute family and a process of separation from the biological parents. At first the father had been permitted to see the child once or twice a month, later this was reduced to once every other month. Three years after the initial placement the child was moved to a substitute family. Over the years, the father had instituted proceedings seeking the return of the child or increased access, without success.

There had been no serious and sustained effort made by social welfare authority to facilitate family reunification. The severe restrictions on the father's right to visit the child reflected the authority's rejection of any attempt to reunify the father and child. The failure to take sufficient steps to facilitate the possible reunification of the family constituted a violation of Art 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950.