Linda de Groot
reporter News Hour
Linda de Groot
reporter News Hour
The government is seriously failing to protect the most vulnerable children in the Netherlands. Children who are under supervision or even removed from home due to an unsafe home situation do not receive the attention and help they are entitled to, according to researchers from Leiden University in a study commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and Security.
The researchers have evaluated the Act on the Assessment of Child Protection Measures. They call on Minister of Legal Protection Franc Weerwind to intervene immediately.
For the study, parents, children, foster parents, youth guardians, lawyers and judges were interviewed. Harsh conclusions have been drawn from this. “Everyone starts talking about how bad it is,” says researcher and professor of juvenile law Mariëlle Bruning news hour. “The government has a duty to protect children. But that protection is really insufficient.” The results will be sent to the House of Representatives today.
There are often concerns about these children, and they may well be justified. But when children are removed from their homes, the government does not take good care of them and their parents. Then help must come so that both parents and children can get better and reunite. But that help is lacking, the researchers write.
More damage than protection
The problems are due to, among other things, the lack of crisis center places, a lack of youth protectors and the waiting lists for special help. “It is obvious that youth protection cannot guarantee sufficient quality. This raises the question: Is it still legitimate for the government to intervene in family life?”, says Bruning. “The government must protect these vulnerable children. But that intervention sometimes causes more harm than it provides protection.”
Commissioned by the Scientific Research and Documentation Center (WODC) under the Ministry of Justice and Security, the researchers have looked at how the law works in practice and how it can be improved. They make several recommendations to better protect both parents and children. For example, in the case of placement outside the home, a plan must be drawn up for contact with the parents. In the case of a perspective decision – the decision that children can return to their parents forever – a judge must evaluate that decision.
Because of the welfare affair, the practice of placements outside the home is under scrutiny. In recent years, at least 1,675 children of foster parents have been forcibly removed from their homes. The main reason for this, the parents say, was the debt problem caused by the tax recoveries. The affair revealed the lack of legal protection for both parents and children.
Parents and children should have a lawyer in the case of an out-of-home placement, the researchers say. Now the parents themselves have to arrange and pay for this. “Most families can’t find their way to a lawyer or don’t even realize it’s possible. Even though it’s an important decision: whether their children can stay at home or not,” says Bruning. The researchers also want the children themselves to be heard better and for their opinion to be included in decision-making.
But, say the researchers, these recommendations can only work if the implementation problems in youth protection are solved. For now, “Dutch children who have to deal with a child protection measure are out in the cold”.