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K. and T. v. Finland

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When an emergency care order had to be made, it was not always possible, because of the urgency of the situation, or desirable to associate in the decision-making process those having custody of the child. However for there to be circumstances justifying the removal of children from the care of their parents without prior consultation, the national authorities had to establish that a careful assessment of the impact of the proposed care measure on the parents and the children, as well as of the possible alternatives to taking the children into public care, had been carried out before implementing any care measures.

The taking of a new-born baby into public care at the moment of its birth was an extremely harsh measure. There needed to be extraordinarily compelling reasons before a baby could be physically removed from the care of its mother, against her will, immediately after birth, as a consequence of a procedure in which neither she nor her partner had been involved. It was incumbent on the national authorities to examine whether some less intrusive interference into family life, at such a critical point in the lives of the parents and the child, was possible.

The guiding principle is that the public care of a child should in principle be regarded as a temporary measure, to be discontinued as soon as circumstances permitted. Any measures implementing such temporary care should be consistent with the ultimate aim of reuniting the natural parents and the child. The positive duty to take measures to facilitate family reunification as soon as reasonably feasible became more pressing the longer the period of care lasted, subject always to its being balanced against the duty to consider the best interests of the child. The minimum to be expected of the authorities is to examine the situation anew from time to time to see whether there has been any improvement in the family's situation.

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