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Children’s rights

Each child has the right to:

  • life, health, and development;
  • protection from all forms of violence and abuse;
  • have a say in all issues related to them in the family, in school, and in the society in general.

A new version of the Child Protection Act entered into force at the beginning of 2016. The Act seeks to comprehensively ensure the rights and well-being of children. The Child Protection Act also foresaw the establishment of a child protection unit at the Social Insurance Board to support local governments in their development activities and in resolving individual cases.

Each child has the right to protection from violence and abuse. The child’s parents and all other people surrounding the child are obligated to:

  • refrain from any physical and mental violence towards the child;
  • explain the child their rights and encourage the child to speak about their fears and worries;
  • take note if the child may have been abused and communicate this suspicion to the local government, the police, or the 24-hour child protection hotline 116111.

In case of any kind of abuse, but especially in case of sexual abuse, it is important for the child to have the courage to talk about what happened to them, and for them to be taken seriously. More detailed information about sexual abuse can be found on the criminal policy sub-page of the website of the Ministry of Justice.

Any sort of physical punishment, humiliation, and intimidation of the child is forbidden in Estonia. If you or someone that you know needs assistance in raising their child without using such methods, helpful advice can be found in the portal

It is important to prevent violence and bullying between children. When witnessing bullying, it is up to everyone to intervene and seek assistance.

Services for children in need

A child in need is a child whose welfare is endangered or whose behaviour endangers their own and other people’s welfare. The Child Protection Act stipulates that a person noticing a child in need is required to notify the local government or the child protection hotline 116 111.

The local government is obligated to decide whether or not they should initiate the management of the case within 10 days. The initiation of case management is not required only if the child’s need for assistance can be satisfied by an individual measure.

Services for children in need

Social rehabilitation service

In accordance with the current Social Welfare Act, the following persons have the right for state-funded social rehabilitation services:

  • children with disabilities; see also below (sub-page ‘Disabled child’);
  • children assigned by the juvenile committee.

At least three of the following specialists will cooperate to provide social rehabilitation service to the child and the family: psychologist, physiotherapist, speech therapist, physician, nurse, activity therapist, creative therapist, special education teacher.

The goal of the service is to develop the cognitive and physical capabilities of the child and knowledge of everyday life: to provide support in education, increase self-awareness, develop self-regulation, communication and cooperation skills and participation in the society, and support readiness for taking up employment corresponding to their capabilities.

Closed childcare institution service

Closed childcare institution service is a measure of last resort for children whose behaviour puts the child’s own life, health, and development or the life and health of other persons at serious risk. Due to the fact that this service significantly limits the child’s freedom of movement, one of the most important basic rights, a child can only be assigned there by a court.

The new draft legislation gives local governments the right to request a court for a permission to limit the freedom of a child. The duration and extent of the limitation of a child’s freedom must not exceed what is necessary for helping them. It is important for the local government to carry out intensive work with the child’s family while the child is away.

Conciliation service

Conciliation is a service whereby a neutral person (conciliator) helps the parties of a dispute find a solution to their dispute. As conciliation is a more efficient intervention than punishment from both the perspective of the victim and the prevention of new infringements, the development of the conciliation service is one of the central activities related to children who have committed offences. Draft legislation currently under review would extend the use of conciliation service to misdemeanour offences in addition to criminal offences. On the practical side, the conciliation process will also be made more flexible, the involvement of different parties increased, and conciliators trained.
Last updated: 6 November 2017