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Everyone is mandated to report to child protection services if they have reason to believe that a child is putting its health and development at serious risk.

Child Protection Act 16, Art. c.

A child's risk behaviour

If a child behaves in a way that harms or is likely to harm its health and development, it is called risk behaviour. This doesn’t just happen in some troubled homes, but rather all families can experience this.

Examples of a child’s risk behaviour are:

  • Use of alcohol or drugs.
  • That a child harms itself by causing itself injuries.
  • That a child is violent towards others.
  • A child’s difficulties at school in spite of parents’ support.
  • That a child commits an offence, for example, vandalization or doesn’t respect the statutory curfew.
  • Engages in unsafe sex.

Youngster violence

Lately pages and closed groups have popped up on social media showing videos of youngsters in rough fights while others stand idly by or cheer them on. These are both girls and boys, usually teenagers in primary schools. These fights show repeated punches and kicks into the head and torso of an opponent which obviously is very dangerous.

We need to change the common attitude with a youngster that physical assault like this is normal and even desirable behavior. Parents, and people who work with youngsters, need to discuss these matters with them, the responsibility that comes with taking parts in events like these and the danger they pose. Standing by when things like this happen also comes with responsibility.

Emphasize to the youngster to not take part in these fights, not subscribe to these violent social media pages or watch violent material on social media and definitely not record fights or share videos of fights. Encourage them to walk away if they see a fight breaking out and let the police know by calling 112. It could save a life.

Drug use

Even though children from all types of families can start using drugs, there are several factors that indicate that children in serious drug use are dealing with some kind of mental or psychological problems. For example, children who have experienced some type of trauma, experienced rejection or have disorders or diagnosis which makes them more vulnerable to drug use (such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, depression and autism). These can be children who were bullied, subjected to some kind of abuse, or just a child who is insecure by nature and has little confidence and low self-esteem.

When a child finds itself on the outside, feels that it doesn’t fit in with the group or feels bad inside, drug use can be its way to numb the discomfort, escape reality, be cool, fit in and be accepted into a group of friends.

The following may be indications that the child has started to use drugs:

  • Success or school attendance gets worse, lack of interest at school.
  • Becomes at odds with school authorities or other authorities.
  • Petty crimes, such as shoplifting or vandalising.
  • Loses interest in friends, hobbies or other interests.
  • Sudden change in behaviour and opinions.
  • Change in the group of friends.
  • Carelessness regarding looks or hygiene.
  • Change in eating- and sleeping routine.
  • Contact with parents and family gets worse, disinterest in the family.
  • Starts going behind parents’ and familys’ back, lies, sneaky behaviour.
  • Abnormally strong reactions to things and very bad reactions to interference with their affairs.

Even though some of these signs are manifested, it doesn’t mean that the child has necessarily started using drugs. These can however be signs of the child not feeling well enough and is dealing with some kinds of problems. In turn, it puts the child at the risk of falling into drug use.

Get help

You can talk to a teacher, school counsellor or another individual who you trust within the school and receive support and guidance.

The staff at health care centres can also assist you, for example by referring a child onwards to the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Department of Landspitali - the National University Hospital of Iceland or other professionals.

Counsellors work at Foreldrahús (Parents’ House) who specialize in these cases. They offer for example appointments, courses and support groups for children with risk behaviour and their parents.

The Reykjavík Social Service Centres and child protection services assist and support families in trouble. Do not fear the child protection services, most parents experience strong support when child protection services have become involved in the case as well as child protection services being able to apply for special resources for the child and its family. The Government Agency for Child Protection supervises the following treatment resources:

Fjölkerfameðferð (MST) (multi-system treatment) is for families of 12-18 years old children who deal with serious behavioural problems which manifest in interference by the police, difficulties in school, violence and drug use. The treatment involves, first and foremost, increasing parents’ skills in dealing with their children’s problems. The treatment takes 3-5 months. The aim is that the child lives in their home, attends school or work, doesn’t get in trouble with the law, doesn’t use drugs and is not abusive or making threats.

Stuðlar is a treatment centre for 12-18 years old children who deal with various problems. Children’s problems are diagnosed in the treatment department and a treatment that takes 6-8 weeks is provided.

Meðferðarheimili Barnaverndarstofu (the Government Agency for Child Protection’s Treatment Centre) is for 13-18 years old children who have been in treatment in Stuðlar before. There are two treatment centres and they are located in the countryside. The reasons for treatment are for example behavioural disorder, criminal behaviour, violence and drug use.

Available resources

View all resources

Child Protection Services

Child protection service committees in each municipality help children who exist in unacceptable living conditions and provide support for families.