Adolescents often stay unnecessarily long in closed adolescent care NOW

Young people in closed youth care who are ready for more freedom must regularly wait longer before they are allowed to leave. There are not enough places where these young people can be helped further. It is often harmful to stay in closed youth care for a long time.

This emerges from conversations that NU.nl has had with experts, interest groups and institutions that offer closed youth care. “Probably after six months, closed youth care has more negative than positive effects for almost all young people,” says family and youth lawyer Maria de Jong.

“Children should be in closed youth care for as short a time as possible. Due to lack of follow-up places and long waiting times, this is more often not possible than it is.” It is not registered how many young people stay in closed youth care for longer than necessary.

Children in closed youth care are not allowed to go outside alone and may even be locked inside their room. This type of youth care is intended for children who at that time are at risk to themselves or others. Last year, about eighteen hundred young people received care in a closed institution. A judge must always give permission before a child is admitted to closed juvenile care.

Outflow is difficult

Children staying in closed youth care almost always need help when they are ready to leave the closed institution. Some children may stay at home with support, but more often they need a place where they can stay, such as a family home, a small residence, or a psychiatric clinic where they can be treated.

The waiting times for these forms of youth care are very long, and sometimes there is no appropriate follow-up assistance at all in the region.

Organizations may also be reluctant to admit children from closed youth care. “They often find the problems with children coming from closed youth care still too complicated and therefore dare not admit it,” writes the spokesperson for the care organization Pluryn.

All this means that some of the children in closed adolescent care have to wait for an appropriate follow-up place.

No alternative for young people

De Jong saw this reflected in the reasons why judges agree to an extension of the stay in closed juvenile care. “The main reason for the extension is the lack of suitable treatment places for these young people.”

“The gripping thing about judge rulings on extension is that one often reads in the decision how harmful a stay in closed juvenile care can be. That children become very aggressive or depressed precisely because of the closedness.”

Waiting is demotivating

The youth care organizations that NU.nl has spoken to for this study all say that they try to offer the young people as much perspective as possible to leave the closed youth care, even though it is difficult to find a follow-up place. They do this, for example, by going to see or eating at the follow-up place, which the child cannot yet get to.

Fietje Schelling from ExpEx, an organization with young people who have experience with youth care, sees that children become demotivated when they are ready for more freedom, but must not leave the closed youth care.

Youth care as a whole needs a major overhaul, wrote State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen (Youth Care) in a letter to the House of Representatives last week. It also states that the closed youth care must be phased out. There should be a plan for that before summer.

How this article came about

  • NU.nl received responses from three youth care institutions for this piece. These institutions offer all different forms of youth care, including closed youth care.
  • We also spoke with experts from MIND, Het Vergeten Kind and ExpEx.
  • Attorney Maria de Jong was also interviewed. She received her PhD on the legal status of young people in closed youth care.
  • Finally, we reviewed several reports. These include reports from the Health and Youth Care Inspectorate and the Rotterdam Ombudsman for Children.

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