Vulnerable children still inadequately protected | news

News feature | 13-05-2022 | 17:00

The youth protection chain is still struggling with far too long waiting lists. Lack of staff is the main reason. Children and young people on the waiting list stay in insecure situations for too long and become more injured, their problems worsen. Measures that have been taken since 2019 have provided temporary and local emergency assistance. But they do not offer a long-term solution. “Nuts have been built, but they show cracks again.”

It writes the Health and Youth Inspectorate and the Justice and Security Inspectorate. The inspectorates are contacting Minister Weerwind (Legal Protection) and State Secretary Van Ooijen (VWS) about the situation; they are responsible for the youth protection system. But also the municipalities, which must procure sufficiently good youth care and youth protection and are responsible for Tryg Hjemme.

As early as 2019, the supervisors found that the government is not doing enough to protect children whose development is threatened by being in insecure situations.

Supervision allows for unorthodox actions to find solutions. But it must be clear in advance that these solutions will lead to good and timely help and protection for children and young people who need it.

Tried a lot

Since 2019, the municipalities have done a lot in the attempt to achieve a breakthrough. Together with parties such as Veilig Thuis, the Child Welfare Board and the institutions for youth protection and juvenile delinquency. For example, with extra money, better cooperation, agreements on what to prioritize and reduce bureaucracy. But the waiting lists are far too long. This is primarily due to staff shortages (vacancies, absenteeism) and the high demand for youth care and youth protection compared to the care that the municipalities buy.

The sum of waiting lists

Children, young people and families can be placed on a waiting list at different times.

  • With a neighboring team if they will voluntarily accept an offer of youth care.
  • At Trygt doheem, if it needs to evaluate a report and then conduct a survey.
  • At the Child Welfare Board.
  • At a certified juvenile protection and juvenile probation institution, which must carry out the juvenile protection measure or probation order imposed by the judge.
  • By finding and starting a social worker who provides the actual care, especially in the specialized youth care.

If everything goes within the legal terms, without waiting lists, it will take at least 32 weeks after an initial notification before a child, young person or family actually receives help and protection if all these steps are completed. However, due to the waiting lists at different times, this can increase tremendously, to weeks or even many months extra.

Safe home
Safe in the home is legally required to assess a review within five days. There are 26 Safe at Home organizations in the Netherlands and there are figures for 24 organizations. Only eleven Safe at Home organizations manage to meet the five-day deadline for 80 percent of the reports.
After evaluating a report, Safe at Home conducts an investigation. The lead time for this is ten weeks. No organization meets that standard.

The Child Protection Board
The Child Welfare Board uses the standard to start an investigation within ten days. But in early January, the average waiting time was five weeks. On January 1, 4,284 children were on the waiting list for protection research, adoption, school absenteeism, criminal investigation and custody and visitation. That is more than a thousand children more than in 2019. The problem has therefore only gotten worse since 2019, despite all efforts to improve the situation.
Eight weeks of involving the Child Welfare Service are permitted.

Institutions for juvenile protection and juvenile detention and care start
Certified juvenile protection and juvenile justice institutions in the Netherlands must attach a child, young person or family to a permanent juvenile protector within five days of the decision of a juvenile court. Then he goes to work with the family. There must also be an action plan for assistance within six weeks. Many institutions fail to do this because there are structurally too few skilled youth protectors. The actual help should then start within six weeks. But there are also waiting lists, especially in the specialized youth care for complex problems.

Admittedly, the inspectors see good examples of youth protectors who ‘color outside the lines’. They maintain intensive contact with families as long as the intended help is not yet available, or they monitor children’s interactions with their parents. But regulators do not see such examples as a long-term solution.

Picture: Review JenV

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