Why have the thrown children from the unemployment benefit affair not been returned to their parents? Comedian Peter Pannekoek mentioned it recently in a broadcast of This was the news mindblowing that these “state kidnappings” have not yet been resolved. There was also indignation in the House of Representatives after the announcement that a national support center for affected parents is opening this week. Where is the persistence? Why not act faster and more?
At least 1,115 children from families who got into serious trouble because the IRS and Customs identified them as scammers were placed out of their homes between 2015 and 2020, figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) show. Whether their sudden debt played a role in this – they often had to pay thousands of euros back in one fell swoop – is not clear, although experts spoke of ‘a strong over-representation’.
What is certain: Many children did not return. No matter how hard it may be, says driver Arina Kruithof from Youth Protection Rotterdam Rijnmond (JBRR) and Youth Care Netherlands, there is no simple solution. Practice is complicated. “The image that children have been removed from their parents just because of a tick in the IRS is simply not correct.”
In recent months, an attempt has been made in Rotterdam to find affected families and help where possible. The JBRR, the body convened when a child is placed under the supervision of a judge, worked with the municipality. They review files again.
Do you understand the anger over the postponements?
“Of course. What these parents went through is incredibly intense and shocking. Not only the debt and their impact, but also how we as a society have handled them. The reason we started working in Rotterdam is that we as youth protection “We feel co-responsible for helping. No matter how complicated it is in practice.”
How many children are involved in the Rotterdam-Rijnmond region?
“Of the 1,115 children named by CBS, 230 live in Rijnmond. But that number requires nuance: it is the sum of the years 2015-2020. At the end of 2020, according to CBS, there were still 420 children in the Netherlands with a youth protection measure that resided elsewhere, 70 of which were in our region. ”
Do you know these children?
“They come under youth protection, then under our organization. But we do not know specifically who they are.”
“Fortunately, data in the Netherlands is not just shared between authorities. We as youth protection know that a parent has debt, but not why and to whom.
‘This also applies to the supplementary case. We have made a statement among our employees, but only when parents report themselves as victims, directly or through the municipality, do we know who they are. We currently know of 10 families who have been deceived by the Grants affair, with 27 children. ”
What these parents went through is incredibly intense and shocking
What can you say about their situation?
“Because of the traceability, I can not be too specific about it. In any case, the questions these families have for us or the municipality are very different. Sometimes these are very practical issues, for example, a parent does not have enough money to visit a child who lives three municipalities away. Or they struggle with forms from the IRS. The common thread is that almost all parents want to know what exactly happened. Why has my child been removed from home? ”
Also read the story of these duped parents: First debt due to the Unemployment Benefit affair, then placed outside the home
Do these families still have financial problems?
“I think it’s a difficult question to answer. It makes it possible to trace back.”
Debt in itself should never be the cause of a deprivation of liberty. But financial problems often have a snowball effect. For example, I talked to a mother who became depressed and a mother who became so stressed that she started beating her child. How does JBRR handle this?
“That is exactly the question we are asking ourselves. We actually know that debt can amplify or cause other problems. Debt causes the same symptoms as congestion: you can no longer focus on the long term. So we ask ourselves: how can we better help parents in debt? Child protection is now the last link in a long chain. We only have opportunities in youth care. We therefore argue for more cooperation in the social field: other forms of assistance, such as adult psychiatry and housing, should become part of our work. ”
But it is of no use to affected fathers and mothers who have lost their child.
“It simply came to our notice then. See, I understand the feelings, the need to lay back. But the difficult thing is: youth protection only comes into the picture for a family if a child’s development is seriously threatened. Such a family has often already been through several utilities without success. Ultimately, the safety of the child is paramount, and it is the judge who decides. ”
The children in question have sometimes been away from their parents for years. Is fait accomplis created here?
“It is our responsibility to protect children. Our legal duty. The actual situation is crucial, no matter how disturbing it is that it was partly caused by the actions of a government. It does not change the fact that we as a society should help these parents as much as possible. They must have the support they deserve. ”
You are looking at files again. Is it with the intention of opting for reinstatement?
“Our intention with this is broad. It is our intention to answer questions from parents as well as possible, whether it is with others. To help them understand what happened and even learn from it. If there is a desire “about moving, we help parents to go the right way. But again: it is the judge who decides.”
Also read: Divorced, Unemployed, and Depressed: The Impact of the Benefits Affair on Rotterdam’s Victims
Is that already the case?
“Not in our region yet.”
Have you talked to parents yourself?
“No, although of course I know the stories. Everyone wants to talk to these parents, the whole world is toppling over them. I think youth protectors can do this best. We have formed a team with youth protectors, but also with behavioral researchers and lawyers. People with the necessary knowledge and expertise. But if there are any parents who need to talk to me, I’m ready to go. ”
A version of this article was also published in NRC Handelsblad on April 7, 2022