Around a hundred home carers: “These children are stuck in education”

Not going to school because of autism, giftedness or because you are bullied. In the Haarlem region, around a hundred students are forced to stay at home. It is a problem for the parents, but also for the school. That’s why there is now Kennemer Kids, a new organization aimed at home caregivers.

‘An intermediate step and shelter between home and school’, Kennemer Kids founder Sarah Berkhout (41) calls her new organization, which has been active since this week.

“We are in a classroom in an old school building at Nova College in Haarlem-Noord. It is a suitable place. Here, among other things, we have started a day activity for young people who are at home, with space for 6 children per day (max. 18 per week ).We can also guide and coach home carers with the aim of getting them back to school.”

Home sitters

According to Vereniging Balans (a national organization for parents of children who need extra guidance with learning or upbringing), there are around 15,000 children at home throughout the Netherlands. The organization explains how difficult it is for parents to keep a child at home.

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“School is the norm, and if you leave your child at home, you are in violation. It is a very big step not to let a child go to school,’ says a spokesman for Balans. “Also consider the financial aspect, some parents have to work less to supervise the child.”

So why do parents choose it? “We see it, among other things, in children on the autistic spectrum or with giftedness. If every day they have to go out into an environment where they do not fit in, which in some cases is detrimental to the child’s well-being, then a parent can still make that choice. No matter how difficult it is,” says Balans.

“My son was bullied so much that I chose to leave him at home”

Sibel Özoğul-Özen, left son at home.

Haarlem Sibel Özoğul-Özen chose years ago to keep her son at home. “He was bullied so much at the elementary school in Haarlem (the name of the school is known to the editors) that I saw it as the only way out.”

Court

That choice brought her into contact with education officials—her son had an obligation to teach, after all—and it eventually turned into a lawsuit. At first she lost that case. But on appeal, Özoğul-Özen was right, because according to the court, the parents’ duty of care outweighed the duty to go to school.

The case of Özoğul-Özen is extreme. Her son has never found a connection throughout his school years, suffers from mental disorders and is currently in a GGZ program for trauma support.

According to Özoğul-Özen, there should therefore be an organization that ‘also accompanies the parents’.

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Together with the school and the child, parents form the important ‘triangle’ for Kennemer Kids. According to Berkhout, the home carers are often mentally tired, do not feel heard and have arrears. The step of going back to school is often a big one.

“They think they are the only ones. By letting them work with fellow sufferers on their well-being through sports, creativity, play and nature, we believe they relax. Because a less busy head and that leaves room for growth,’ says Berkhout.

“This is really the intermediate step between home and school”

Rosalinda de Haan, Kennemer Kids coach

Nevertheless, there is already such a thing as special education, so what else does Kennemer Kinds offer? “That special education is also education, and they stick to it,” says coach Rosalinda de Haan of Kennemer Kids. “We’re not schools. Sure, we teach school skills, but this is really a step between home and school. We make them feel comfortable again.”

From February 1, the old classroom in the old Nova College building will be filled with six children every day. With sports, games and nature, they learn to find joy in education.

Waar kunnen kinderen met problemen terecht? 

De Wet passend onderwijs legt schoolbesturen een zorgplicht op. Dat betekent dat scholen verplicht zijn om een passende onderwijsplek te creëren voor leerlingen die extra ondersteuning nodig hebben. 

Sarah Berkhout is ook zorgcoördinator op het Hageveld college in Heemstede. Constateert een mentor een probleem, dan wordt zij ingeschakeld. 

Mocht dat probleem te maken hebben met de gezinssituatie, dan komt Centrum Jeugd en Gezin helpen. Spijbelt het kind, komt het te vaak te laat of is het afwezig, dan wordt de leerplichtambtenaar ingeschakeld. Beide instanties zijn onderdeel van de gemeente. 

Moet er voor het kind passend onderwijs worden gevonden, dan gaat de school samenwerken met Het Samenwerkingsverband. Het geval van Hageveld College is dat Samenwerkingsverband Zuid Kennemerland. Deze organisatie heeft het erg druk. Dat was voor Berkhout een van de redenen om Kennemer Kids op te zetten.

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