The MONIKU-service supports multicultural families in strengthening their children’s native language development

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2021-01-11 15:55

The MONIKU-service started as a pilot project in 2017 and is now a permanent part of maternity and child health clinics in Espoo. The service was developed to support multicultural families living in Espoo who have a native language other than Finnish or Swedish, and who have children from age 0-6, or are expecting one. The MONIKU-service provides support and assistance in native language development, parents’ interactional skills with children and the families’ integration into the society. In addition, it reduces the cost of rehabilitation services and increases operational equality.

The idea of establishing the MONIKU-service was based on the multilingual family’s needs

According to population projections, the number of multilingual children in Espoo has been growing. In 2016, more than 20% of children under 1 year and 18% of children under 7 years spoke a native language other than Finnish or Swedish; 29% of children receiving speech therapy and 52% of the children receiving multiprofessional support (psychologist and speech therapist) were multilingual. Even though many of children from foreign-background families have been involved in Finnish education, they still need extra support from their families and from city services. Based on the holistic analysis of customer data and experiences of social and health care professionals, the concept of the MONIKU-service was developed from 2017 to support the parents in understanding their child's language development and the benefits of multilingualism.

 “We have recently begun to offer pregnancy meetings for multilingual families in Espoo. In these meetings, we can provide information and discuss with parents about the importance of their native language, about cultural pride, early interaction with their baby, and the importance of avoiding screen time. Additionally, we can discuss together with parents the importance of preventing stress for the mother, and that if extra support is needed, family work (perhetyö) and home service (kotipalvelu) are available. This is especially important for those immigrant mothers, who do not have access to support from their own family in their new living environment. We also introduce different methods of interaction and stress reduction, such as story massage” says Kaila Michelle, Kokki Alba & Tucani Leudita, MONIKU-service counselors.  

MONIKU-service is free of charge and offers support to multicultural families in strengthening their children’s native language development

The MONIKU-service is provided in maternity and child health clinics in Espoo. The service includes three visits (2, 6, and 10 months) with the MONIKU counselor, which are carried out in connection with the regular inspections of the clinic, the first meeting being partly in cooperation with the nurse. After that, the appointments are only with the MONIKU counselor. Additional meetings are offered, and interpreters can be ordered, if needed.

In addition to the MONIKU meetings during the baby’s first year, MONIKU-service counselors also offer meetings for multilingual families during pregnancy and for families with older children. MONIKU-service also organizes monthly group meetings for multilingual families, in which guests are invited to talk about various services in Espoo, and other topics of interest for families.

Some activities of the MONIKU-service.

Some activities of the MONIKU-service.

MONIKU-service counselors are immigrants

“We believe that this is important because the clients and the counselors have shared similar experiences (i.e. the immigration process and building a new life in a new country). The experience of immigration creates a basis of understanding between the counselors and the clients, therefore facilitating the level of trust and communication from the clients. The immigration experience also provides the worker with the knowledge of the kinds of services, guidance and assistance the client might need” says Kaila Michelle, Kokki Alba & Tucani Leudita, MONIKU-service counselors.

Currently, three multicultural social service counselors are providing the MONIKU-service to multilingual families throughout the whole of Espoo. Michelle Kaila is working in the Leppävaara-Perkkaa-Kilonpuisto neuvolas, is originally from Canada, and speaks English and Finnish. Alba Kokki is working in the Matinkylä-Kivenlahti-Tapiola neuvolas, is orginally from Italy and Spain, and speaks Spanish, Italian, English and Finnish. Leudita Tucani is working in the Espoon keskus-Suvela-Kiltakallio neuvolas, is originally from Kosovo, and speaks Finnish, Turkish, English and some Albanian.

MONIKU-service counselors

 MONIKU-service counselors.

Multilingual families in Espoo engaged with the MONIKU-service

The MONIKU-service have received tremendous positive feedback from multilingual families. After two MONIKU visits, the customer's own perception of the service before and after has changed as follows:

•The value of teaching one’s native language has increased by 27%.

•The fear that teaching one’s native language will affect the child’s Finnish language development negatively has decreased by 53%.

•Speaking one’s native language to the baby has increased by 27%.

•Speaking to the baby during care and other interactive situations has increased by 20%.

•Understanding of the dangers of screen time for the baby’s development has increased by 43%. 

•30% of babies spend less time in front of a screen than when the families started receiving the service.

Multilingual families in Espoo engaged with the MONIKU-service.

The concept of the MONIKU-service is developing for the desired future

During the coronavirus pandemic, there have been some challenges to implementing the MONIKU-service events. “We have had to cancel our group meetings for multilingual families, which we have held over the last few years. This is unfortunate, as many parents appreciate to opportunity to meet and talk with other parents with babies, and to learn about available services. We hope to be able to continue these group meetings next year at some point, when it is safe to do so” says Kaila Michelle, Kokki Alba & Tucani Leudita, MONIKU-service counselors.

In the future, it is still crucial and valuable to create new initiatives to develop the concept of MONIKU-service in Espoo. MONIKU-service is looking forward to synergies and cooperation possibilities between NGOs and other organizations to achieve more goals. In particular, MONIKU-service counselors have presented MONIKU-service to students of Universities of Applied Sciences and NGOs, during events such as Integration2018-2020, as well as on many other platforms. The aim of MONIKU-service is to ensure that every multilingual family with babies and small children receives the service.

You can contact MONIKU-service from Monday to Friday at 8–16. The service is also on Facebook, tel. 040 506 9359, tel. 040 519 1876, tel. 043 826 8999

This article is part of the International Espoo series, through which the City of Espoo aims to share information about ongoing activities and initiatives that are developed for the benefit and active involvement of Espoo residents.

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Please write to us! Stay tuned to the International Espoo series for more information regarding the City of Espoo’s international initiatives! Please feel free to contact for any further queries.