SAO: Children with behavioural disorders or at risk thereof and their families lack the support they need


The State Audit Office has audited whether a child with behavioural disorders or at risk of developing them and his or her family have the opportunity to receive the necessary support. Unfortunately, the conclusions are harsh: although responsible institutions and also the society are aware in recent years that it is necessary to notice changes in the child’s behaviour early and get involved in solving them, there is no clear system in Latvia to help children with behavioural disorders or at risk of developing them, especially teenagers, because there is no necessary support services available.


  • According to auditors’ estimates, there were at least 10 thousand children with behavioural disorders and more than 36 thousand children were at risk of developing behavioural disorders in 2020 in Latvia.
  • Local and regional governments have information on only a small part of these children. The data gathered in the audit show that they did not have information even about all children who had committed administrative violations or even criminal offences. Therefore, work with them was not carried out or was started late.
  • Sufficient services are not available for solving children’s behavioural disorders either before the child’s behavioural disorders have developed and work with a family is primarily required, nor when behavioural disorders have already arisen and further work with the child and his or her family requires much more comprehensive solutions.
  • Behavioural social correction programs of local and regional governments for children are developed late when several administrative violations or even a criminal offence have already been committed. Moreover, they are formal because institutions are limited only to defining formal tasks, so most of the time the child’s behaviour does not change or even worsens.
  • The auditors welcome an intention to improve crime prevention work with children and abandon administrative punishment of children, which does not change the child’s behaviour. However, nothing will actually change if social services are not available in local and regional governments for the implementation of the reform.
  • The State Audit Office also supports the action of responsible institutions to terminate Education Institution for Social Correction (EISC) “Naukšēni” and to look for other solutions for the correction of children’s behaviour.

“No child is born bad. Later negative manifestations of a child’s behaviour are consequences, whose causes must be sought elsewhere. The causes can be different such as lack of parental understanding, knowledge and skills about the child’s needs, as well as inadequate care, parental neglect or even violence. The reason for the development of behavioural disorders in a child can also be temporary problems in a family, for example, unemployment, health problems of a family member or divorce of parents. Like previous audits, this audit confirms once again both that children and their families in Latvia still do not have access to the necessary support and services and disapproving attitude and lack of understanding of children’s needs and upbringing on the part of institutions and the wider society,” describes the harsh reality Ms Maija Āboliņa, Member of the Council of the State Audit Office.

The audit findings allow us to conclude that solving children’s behavioural disorders at the national level is more declarative currently. The responsible institutions were mostly unable to notice the initial changes in a child’s behaviour in due time, react to them and find out the causes of the child’s behavioural disorders in order to provide the necessary support for their prevention. Instead, institutions continue a long-established practice of working with children “on paper” or punishing him by believing that this will deter the child from committing offences and that the child’s behaviour will improve. This is confirmed demonstrably by the information that came out publicly last year about flagrant violations of children’s rights in EISC Naukšēni, which is no different from imprisonment in essence and in which no solution was found to change the behaviour of even 20 children.

Prevention of children’s behavioural disorders or risks of their occurrence is inter-institutional in nature because it is implemented in the system of protection of children’s rights, social protection, education, health, internal affairs, and justice. Therefore, timely involvement of all responsible institutions is critical to identify problems or their risk and provide support to both a child and his or her family.

Irregularities in the actions of responsible institutions found during the audit

Identifying children’s behavioural disorders or their risks. The State Audit Office has been indicating for several years that local and regional governments should conduct a study of social environment and identify social problems of their communities to establish a system of social services and social assistance that meets the needs of their residents based on them. In reality, local and regional governments only have information on a small number of children who have behavioural disorders or are at risk of developing them. Mainly only for those children, whose families are being socialized or provided with social services, but in fact, according to the data collected during the audit, there were three and two times more such children, respectively.

Local and regional governments use the information systems of the government and local and regional governments intended for this purpose, especially the Information System for the Support of Minors, by means of which noticing the problems of children and their families at an early stage is possible.

Services available for children and families. If responsible institutions do not have information about children who have behavioural disorders or are at risk of developing them, they cannot assess fully what kind of support this target group needs. It is with appropriate services for a family that the risk of a child’s behavioural disorders can be prevented in due time, and their causes can be eliminated and support can be provided to reduce and prevent the behavioural disorders in cases, where the child’s behavioural disorders have already occurred. However, the audit findings allow us to state that children with behavioural disorders or at risk of developing them and their families do not have access to sufficient services neither before the child’s behavioural disorders have developed and work with the family is primarily needed, nor when behavioural disorders have already arisen and more comprehensive solutions are needed for the work with the child and his or her family.

Children’s behavioural disorders in local and regional governments are mainly solved with social work and psychologist consultations and with the involvement of healthcare specialists such as psychiatrists, narcologists, etc. for children with addictions and social rehabilitation services for reducing addictions, which are not sufficient and available in all local and regional governments.

In its turn, targeted social rehabilitation programs in which the child’s behavioural disorders are solved comprehensively with different types of services and involving several specialists, incl. for the treatment of addictions, and which, according to experts, is the most effective service to achieve a change in the child’s behaviour, was found only in Riga during the audit.

The auditors also draw attention to the fact that, even if the aforementioned services will be available, they will not achieve their goal if the service of a mentor or support person who motivates the child to solve problems will also not be provided to children with behavioural disorders, incl. with various addictions. The audit found that almost every third of the children included in the audit sample had refused the offered service or had stopped using it. Namely, at the time of the audit, the service of a mentor or support person was available only in 12 local and regional governments (before the Administrative and Territorial Reform).

Actual work with ‘problematic children’. The Law on the Protection of Children’s Rights stipulates the obligation of a local or regional government to get involved in solving a child’s behavioural disorders and to develop a program of social correction of the behaviour. Although the program should be developed early, while a child has not yet committed offences, but his or her behaviour can lead to illegal behaviour, and it should include services aimed at eliminating the causes of the child’s behavioural disorders, the audit results confirm clearly that working with children is started late and is formal in fact. In the programs, the responsible institutions are mainly limited to the formal definition of tasks, for example, not to commit crimes, not to smoke and to attend school. Therefore, a child’s behaviour does not change or even worsens most of the time. In cases where a child’s behaviour had not changed, local and regional governments saw the placement of the child in EISC Naukšēni as the only solution, thereby freeing themselves from working with the child and his or her problems for some time.

Punishing and upbringing of ‘problematic children’. Another tool for solving children’s behavioural disorders in local and regional governments is the examination of administrative violations committed by children in municipal administrative commissions (a specially created institution of a local or regional council to ensure the process of administrative violations in the local or regional government). Unfortunately, when assessing the activity of these commissions, the auditors did not get confirmation that their “educational” work differed from “usual punishment” in reality. For the most part, the educational work of the commissions was formal because they did not delve into the causes of children’s behavioural disorders. For instance, a child was given a warning for violence against another child as a coercive means of an educational nature, without paying attention to the fact that the cause of the child’ behavioural disorders was violence and addiction problems in the family. Likewise, the causes of the violation committed by a child were not analysed and taken into account, even in those cases where the child had obviously committed the violation due to his or her mental health or mental development disorders. Paradoxically, most of the commissions had applied a coercive measure of an educational nature such as a warning, which did not solve the causes of the child’s behavioural disorders and was not effective in the evaluation of the commissions themselves.

The auditors wish to “highlight” the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs especially, which punishes children for ignorance and loss of an identity document administratively and does not use other mechanisms provided for by law to perform explanatory and educational work.

Reforming the educational institution of social correction. During the audit, the auditors monitored how the responsible institutions prevented significant violations of children’s rights detected by the State Inspectorate for the Protection of Children’s Rights in the autumn of 2021 in EISC Naukšēni, where the “correction” of one child cost the state an average of 29,000 euros per year in the last four years. The State Audit Office supports the action of the responsible institutions to terminate this institution and suspend the service (placing children in an educational institution for social correction) temporarily taking into account the violations found in the institution, incl. violence. However, if placement in the educational institution for social correction will be maintained as a service, the State Audit Office calls upon all participating institutions, that is, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Welfare, and their subordinate institutions, as well as local and regional governments both to find a solution to prevent the violations that were the basis for closing the institution and to review the content of this service so that it meets the needs of children.

Recommendations of the State Audit Office #PēcRevīzijas

The Ministry of Welfare as the leading state institution in the protection of children’s rights and social protection has been given 14 recommendations, the implementation deadline of which is February 2026. Since several problems found during the audit regarding the change of approach in working with children who have committed violations of the law and the refusal of administrative punishment of children can be solved only under the leadership of the Ministry of Justice, five proposals have been presented to the Ministry of Justice. In their turn, six proposals related to the work of educational institutions were presented to the Ministry of Education and Science.

In general, the State Audit Office draws attention to several problems by this audit that have already been detected during previous audits, for example, the need for local and regional governments to conduct research on the social environment and to provide preventive support measures for families with children in all local and regional governments, including family assistant services  (“Legality and effectiveness of social assistance provided by local and regional governments”, “Stolen childhood. Every child has the right to grow up in a family” and “Does the national social inclusion policy achieve its targets on poverty reduction?”). No new recommendations are given for these problems because they will be addressed by implementing the recommendations already given.


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The State Audit Office of the Republic of Latvia is an independent, collegial supreme audit institution. The purpose of its activity is to find out whether the actions with the financial means and property of a public entity are legal, correct, useful and in line with public interests, as well as to provide recommendations for the elimination of discovered irregularities. The State Audit Office conducts audits in accordance with International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions INTOSAI (ISSAI), whose recognition in Latvia is determined by the Auditor General.


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