‘Soon there will be nothing left for children at risk’

Many youth care regions keep institutions for closed youth care on a financial drip pending national direction. Meanwhile, solidarity between the municipalities is crumbling. “I sometimes think: it’s about millions … imagine if it all soon disappears into a black hole?”


The desire to phase out closed youth care has broad support in society – especially after more youngren announced that they suffered new traumas here. In the meantime, closed youth care is actually being rapidly phased out. It even happens too quickly, the Danish Youth Agency recently warned in a report Key figures Youth CarePluswithout always having a clear overview of the consequences. Of the eleven institutions for closed youth care, six are currently ‘in case studies’ with the Danish Youth Agency. Half of them have serious concerns about their survival.

Youth care region

SGP spokesperson Hugo van der Wal van Krimpen aan den IJssel closely involved in the continuity of the Youth Care Plus institution iHUB. In fact, Van der Wal believes that healthcare providers should fend for themselves. After all, they are also entrepreneurs. But as a youth care region, we must also keep an eye on whether the care for our children is not in danger, we as municipalities are responsible for that. And it is often quite complicated’.


Van der Wal supports the phasing out of closed youth care. “Locking kids up, it’s not this time anymore,” he says. But he also believes that there will be no full-fledged alternatives for the time being. ‘I can see Youth Care Plus providers making the switch. It takes time because it involves very specific expertise for a specific target group. Children from closed youth care cannot just go into open settings like a family home, as much as I would like to. The ambulatory safety guarantees required for this do not yet exist.’

To survive

According to Van der Wal, the desired changes are jeopardized by the financial problems that the institutions are now facing. ‘You can see that, in addition to developing alternatives, they are also primarily concerned with survival, among other things as a result of the rapid reduction in group size at the Youth Care Plus locations.’

Smaller scale

While much has changed in a short time, the way in which closed youth care is funded remains largely the same. unchanged. For example, iHUB reduced the number of children in the groups from ten to six. It is one of the many measures that iHUB has taken to make its locations smaller and more child-friendly.

The rural districts

However, most regions pay the institutions per child, and the rates – which vary widely – are not always sufficient. ‘It will get us into trouble’, says iHUB director and AmsterdamUMC researcher Lieke van Domburgh. ‘A good solution would include national funding of Youth Care Plus and reimbursement per facility instead of per child as it is at present.’


The number of children at iHUB is steadily decreasing, just like at all other youth care Plus institutions, because judges less often pronounce the measure ‘closed youth care’. Van Domburgh: ‘We have phased out at an enormous pace in the past year. This provides the desired smaller groups, but also financial challenges. For example, our locations still require the same maintenance. To have the right effect, these types of transitions require the corresponding financial investments. So it can really be about the content, rather than the financial results.’

rescue operations

Like the Rijnmond region, several youth care regions are currently involved in rescue operations of Youth Care Plus institutions – often in collaboration with the Youth Authority. All involved are now waiting for an ‘integral plan’ from The Hague that will make it clear where things are going. In the end, providers and municipalities must decide nationally which locations should be preserved and which will disappear permanently from the scene.

Expensive drip

Meanwhile, Van der Wal wants the government to help pay for the expensive ‘supply’ of municipalities, like everyone else locations must be maintained. “When I look at what we have already given in terms of liquidity guarantees to Youth Care Plus from our own region, it is in the millions. It places a disproportionate burden on our youth care resources, but we have no choice.’


If a youth care region lets ‘its’ institution collapse, it will also have major consequences beyond that. Children come from all over the world. “As regions, we cannot carry this burden on our own,” says Van der Wal. “These are institutions with large complexes on large grounds, so the costs are also large. Something must be done, because if no one does anything, the care of extremely vulnerable children will be at risk. We have therefore repeatedly called on the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports to take the lead in phasing out closed youth care. Because in the end, that’s where system responsibility lies.’


The solidarity between the municipalities is now threatened, notes Van der Wal. “The municipalities have agreed to it Memorandum of Understanding with which they undertake to contribute to the phasing out of closed youth care. But now in some regions there is a fear of investing a lot of money in an institution that could potentially collapse. I must honestly say that I also sometimes think: it is about millions; imagine if it all soon disappears into a black hole?’

Worst case

If something doesn’t change soon, Van Domburgh is closing one worst case not turned off. co-founded by her The Small Scale in Youth Care Consortium is currently investigating good alternatives to closed youth care. iHUB already works with a number of them, such as treatment places for families, education for children who have not seen a school for years and studios where young people can practice living independently.

Out of sight

Only when it is determined which alternatives work can Youth Care Plus be reduced further responsibly, according to Van Domburgh. But she warns that if the current funding system is not changed soon, this type of youth care may soon no longer exist. “Therefore, it is important to organize the removal carefully and in cooperation with other providers, so that there is enough space for the most vulnerable group of children. We can’t let them out
lose an eye.’

Police cell

The goal was to lift closed youth care – how bad is it if it is now accelerated? “It’s very bad,” says Van Domburgh. ‘Because we do not yet have a solution for children who need protection from themselves or their surroundings. For example, because they are suicidal or bewitched by loverboys. And that’s why we in the Netherlands, if we really can’t remember, might do irresponsible things like lock these kids in a police cell. Children will be harmed by this.’

Read the full article in this week’s Binnenlands Bestuur No. 24 (log in).

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