reading time 5 minutes
Child protection is having a hard time. Youth protection services are overburdened, partly because of the mass divorces. There are waiting lists for many young people and families in need. Juvenile judges who request help from youth care or Child Protection often find that this help does not arrive on time. They also complain that they often have to rule on the basis of bad information in the reports, they also conclude that all too often when placed under supervision, the path to which a family guardian is appointed stalls due to due to staff shortages.
It would be even worse if all the people who need help actually ask for help. We at 1ouderpunt, the largest platform for single parents in the Netherlands, know how often mothers do not ask for help for fear of being watched, or worse, losing their children. The child benefit case has shown that excessive fear is not always the case. Since 2015, 1,675 children of victimized parents have been removed from their homes. This is the point. There are certainly situations where a parent or parents are truly incapable of taking good care of a child, and then detention is an ugly but necessary measure. Unfortunately, a study from Leiden University shows that the attention and help for the children who have been taken away is lacking.
If we look at the crisis that many of the parents found themselves in when they had to pay back thousands of euros that they obviously did not have, it is clear that it was never just due to the parents’ incapacity, but accumulated problems: job loss due to of lack of childcare, placements outside the home, debt, poverty with no prospect of a solution, enormous stress and therefore a significant crisis. Instead of the help actually being given to the family, the children are taken away. And what does that mean? Among other things, a lot of suffering, and huge costs for society, which, if the same money had been invested in solving the problems that the crisis had caused in the first place, would have been used much more effectively.
At 1ouderpunt, we know how complex the situation can be for single mothers in particular. When we talk about confrontational divorces, we have to remember that almost nine out of ten single parents are mothers who have suffered a significant financial loss as a result of the divorce and for whom it is usually very difficult to find work. to reconcile is with caring for the children, with whom she can earn enough to live with children. It’s usually welfare, but these days living with children isn’t enough. Child support battles are often grueling and just as often futile.
In the Netherlands we are talking about 555,000 single parents and 9% of all children are born to a single mother. That group grows every year. About half of them live at or below the poverty line and often cannot get out of it. Almost one in five single mothers live on social benefits. Every fourth recipient of social assistance is a single mother. We should therefore conclude that lone parents are a chronically vulnerable group that, as a target group, is too often overlooked by national and local politics and by political parties. One problem with this is that the ministries should work together on a coherent and effective policy because it is about poverty, housing and justice. The government is aware of what they call ‘child poverty’, a misleading term. There are no poor children with rich parents. Poverty has negative effects on children, including in the long term. To limit especially these long-term effects, a child is much more helped by a stable family situation; a parent who is not worried about paying the rent or the energy bill, so with gifts in kind, such as packages of clothes, a laptop or a day at Efteling.
We should know: Poverty isolates, makes you lonely, makes you sick, reduces children’s chances of a good education and threatens to be passed on from generation to generation. What is needed is a coherent policy. Fortunately, Minister Franc Weerwind, minister for legal protection, has stated that he is aware that parents in need are concerned with removing uncertainty about shelter, tackling debt and personal problems. With us, the prime minister who wants to do it knows that it is about the connection between different problems. We wish him strength.
And we have a proposal to improve the policy. Let ministers and local authorities recognize that there is much to be gained by supporting low-threshold and less formal aid. 1ouderpunt succeeds in bringing together a large number of single mothers and parents with a striking diversity of backgrounds. Many of them are mothers who do not dare to turn to the public for help, or who do not know where to go and what they are entitled to. 1ouderpunt offers parents and their children mutual contact, support from experienced experts, training courses that restore self-confidence and self-esteem and give hope. As a result, parents are better able to raise their children, and Youth Services can stay out of the picture. Life has meaning again for many of the 38,000 parents we associate with.
And that is the point we are making. Organizations like 1ouderpunt are themselves threatened in their livelihoods. Each year they have to spend a lot of time and capacity submitting numerous plans and writing pools to raise enough money to pay a limited staff to oversee all the volunteers. And that, we believe, while this relatively much cheaper low-threshold help in many cases has a preventive effect to prevent the far more expensive help from the overburdened youth care system and the misery of supervision and placement outside the home. We warmly recommend this kind of help, close to the people concerned themselves, also to the minister.
Foundation 1 parent point
Eva Yoo Ri Brussaard