In all out-of-home placements, children and parents will receive legal support

AP

If child welfare services want to place a child from their home, the family must have legal support. Justice Protection Minister Franc Weerwind wants to introduce this rule after a damning report on Dutch child protection.

Children placed under supervision or even removed from home because of an unsafe home situation do not receive the attention and help they deserve, the report concludes. “Children and parents often do not know what happens to them during a detention. I find that undesirable,” says Weerwind news hour.

Ultimately, a juvenile court judge, based on a child protection advisory, decides whether a child in a troubled family should be placed outside the home. In that process, says Weerwind, parents and child “need to have damn good legal support and understand what’s being said. And they need to know what to say against it.”

‘Millions’ for extra staff

Weerwind has previously acknowledged that youth protection “creaks and creaks”. The new report “confirms my observations,” he says. Youth care Netherlands, judges and child protection also support the conclusions. They argue for clear political choices.

“Recent years have shown, among other things, that the introduction of more agencies does not lead to more and better legal protection for the child and the family,” replies Ungdomsplejen. “We are now doing double duty which does not contribute to the legal protection of parents and children.”

Youth care warns that the workload for the youth protectors is far too high. “There is a lack of available (youth) help, which leads to waiting lists. Therefore, the right, appropriate help is often not available.”

To ease that pressure, Minister Weerwind wants to make “millions” available to attract extra staff. He will also reduce the administrative tasks. The details of Weerwind’s plans follow in a letter he will send to the House of Representatives before Budget Day.

We have expressed our concerns, but the situation has worsened.

juvenile judges

Juvenile judges also recognize the picture of a juvenile system that is not functioning properly. “Despite several times when the Judicial Council has expressed concern in recent years, the judges do not experience an improvement, but a worsening of the situation,” reads the reply.

If a child’s safety is at stake, a juvenile court can take action. “The judge empowers the government to intervene, often radically, in the lives of children and their parents to get the help they need.” However, the judges see that help often takes a long time. “With all its consequences.”

The judges emphasize that the problems in the entire youth care chain must be tackled. “We will not only get there with legislative changes. These must also be able to have an effect in practice.”

End of decentralization?

Employees of the Council for Child Protection (RvdK) experience daily that they cannot protect children properly because there are too few are (special) carers or because municipalities have bought too little care. “This creates unacceptable risks for children and poses huge dilemmas for our staff,” a spokesman said. The council wrote a letter about this earlier this year and called on the government to come up with solutions.

Juvenile court judges base decisions on, among other things, placement outside the home on the advice of the RvdK. That “independent advice is an important guarantee of careful decision-making and legal protection of children and parents,” the council says.

According to the RvdK, the cause of many problems lies in the system change and the decentralization of child protection in 2015. The council believes that the care for children with complex and multiple problems – “and these are the children we meet most in our work” – must once again be procured centrally and is led by the state or by regional partnerships of municipalities.

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