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Fragile childhood



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Little Fox Has a Secret -storybook

Little Fox's evening goes wrong when Daddy Fox gets invited to party. All sorts of trouble ensues.What would make Little Fox feel better? This storybook can be used in the early childhood education setting to facilitate discussions about alcohol use and other difficult issues at home. 

» Download in English (pdf)

Parental drinking affects children far more often than we'd like to think.

According to research by the A-Clinic Foundation, a quarter of children and young people are at least occasionally affected negatively by alcohol use at home. The most common harm stemming from alcohol use at home is fighting: over half of the young people who have experienced harmful effects say that they have experienced this. The shame caused by the parent’s drinking and loss of trust are also commonly felt by those who have experienced harmful effects.

Fragile Childhood emphasises the importance of taking the child’s point of view into account and prioritising the child’s need for help. Family life is observed through the eyes of the child, respecting the child’s own experiences. It is not always borne in mind that alcohol use at home affects children’s emotions, life choices and future substance use. It is often thought that only once drinking has become a problem can it harm the child.

Fragile Childhood seeks to influence all adults so that they remember to consider whether they are using alcohol responsibly. We reach out to the adult population through activities linked with the In the company of children programme. For children and particularly for young people, Fragile Childhood develops and offers various kinds of support. Our most important example of this is the online service Shadowworld, aimed at young people.  For professionals working with children and young people, we produce and distribute information and tools relating to the experiences of and support for children and young people. Since Fragile Childhood came into being, much literature has been published and translated, and new research has been carried out.

Initiated in 1986, Fragile Childhood has persistently sought new and efficient methods to secure a less troubled life for children suffering from their parents’ substance abuse. The activity is funded by Finland’s Slot Machine Association.

The President of the Finnish Republic, Sauli Niinistö, is the patron of Fragile Childhood.


Fragile childhood – putting pieces together

The ongoing project aims to prevent substance and mental health problems from becoming cross-generational.

Fragile Childhood’s current project is called Putting Pieces Together. The project is based on the observations that we have made in our earlier work. Our surveys, writings sent by young adults to our campaigns and the concerns described by young people in our Shadowworld online groups all tell the same story: In the lives of many people growing up, substance abuse at home is linked to anxiety, depression and uncertainty about coping as an adult. It can be hard to move on from hostility, shame and lack of trust to become an adult gaining more independence and with a positive view of the future.

Fragile Childhood - Putting Pieces Together aims to reduce the harmful effects caused by parents’ substance abuse and prevent substance and mental health problems from becoming cross-generational. Our target groups are young people and young adults starting a family. We want to reach young people carrying the burden of childhood experiences and allow them to take part in peer group activities as well as help equip people working or training to work with young people with information production and new materials. Fragile Childhood also always strives to keep the issue on the agenda in public, in the media and with policymakers.

Putting Pieces Together is coordinated by A-Clinic Foundation’s Fragile Childhood, while the Finnish Central Association for Mental Health and the Finnish Association for Mental Health are partners to it. All project partners arrange face-to-face or online support groups and take part in researching the topic and spreading good practice.  One central development mission of the project is to disseminate the experience gathered from helping people online to partner organisations. Involved in this cooperation are the Finnish Association for Child and Family Guidance, Kriminaalihuollon tukisäätiö (a nationwide non-governmental aftercare organisation) and Tukinet, which contributes the required technology. Together, we develop skills to support young people online using discussion boards and chats.

Fragile Childhood is actively involved in the In the company of children resposibility programme, which is funded by Alko, where it is joined by the National Institute for Health and Welfare, the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare and the Finnish Parents’ League. The programme has funded Fragile Childhood campaigns and offered much visibility for the issue through different publications, websites, and events and seminars that are either scientific or aimed at policymakers. As a representative of the A-Clinic Association, we are involved in the ICDP project coordinated by the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters, which pilots a model for encouraging interaction in services for substance abusers and child welfare in the Kymi region. (International Child Development Program)


One of Fragile Childhood’s working methods is to offer thought-provoking materials for public spaces in the form of quality posters and postcards. In addition to traditional print media, Fragile Childhood has also produced videos that have been shown on television and distributed online via social media.  The materials and campaigns produced for Fragile Childhood have received awards in many marketing and non-profit marketing competitions:

2014 The Orphanage campaign:
Mobius award 

2013 Fragile Childhood

Substance abuse education award for the work done over the years

2013 Monsters campaign:
EACA Care Awards Grand Prix (the winner was chosen by the Members of the European Parliament as well as by communications, media and marketing professionals)
United Nations Department of Information Award at New York Festivals
Voitto-mainoselokuvakilpailu (competition for audiovisual advertising) (winner of the public vote and the Non-profit and Cultural category)
Grand One ‘13 digital media competition (the Main Prize and a win in the Viral category)
The award for the best non-profit campaign in the AdProfit competition 
Two Silver Awards in The Best of the Year Competition (Advertising spot and Innovative media or environment)

2010 Voice for a Child film and writing campaign:
Yhteiskuntaviesintäteko (Non-profit marketing achievement) honorary mention 
The Best of the Year special mention

2010 Fragile Childhood posters:
Winner of MediaFinlandia2010

2008 Shadowworld website and campaign:
European Commission e-Inclusion Award

1998 Fragile Childhood posters and postcards:
First European Health Education Award

1992 Fragile Childhood materials:
The best health education materials of the year

Contact details:

Project Manager
Minna Ilva tel. +358 44 353 4932

Project Coordinator
Janne Takala tel. + 358 50 362 9014

Project Coordinator (Shadow World online service) 
Koko Hubara

Emails: firstname.lastname(at)a-klinikka.fi


Laura Barck from the Finnish Central Association for Mental Health (firstname.lastname(at)mtkl.fi) and Marika Ketola from the Finnish Association for Mental Health (firstname.lastname(at)mielenterveysseura.fi) are also part of the project group.