Kids in Dutch children's homes forced to take sedatives for years: report

Pills (Photo: MorgueFile / Wikimedia Commons)Pills (Photo: MorgueFile / Wikimedia Commons)

Children in Dutch children's homes were forced for years to take sedatives and antidepressants in the 1970s, RTL Nieuws reports based on its own research.

Among other things, the broadcaster spoke to five former residents of girls' boarding house Maria Regina in Stevensbeek, Noord-Brabant. In the 70s they were given drugs like Valium and Seresta. According to the De Winter Committee, which is investigating violence in youth care, this was also common practice in other children's homes. 

Maria Regina was a shelter for girls with behavioral and education problems, often from broken families, according to the broadcaster. They were placed there by the government, sometimes after a court removed them from their parents' custody. 

A former employee of Maria Regina confirmed to RTL Nieuws that children were often given heavy tranquilizers, a practice that only stopped at the end of the 70s. The children in the boarding house also had to work in the launderette as therapy and did not go to school because they were exempted from compulsory education.

Els Dijks lived at Maria Regina between the ages of 13 and 16 years. "When we woke up, there were pills on the plate. We went to eat, then we went to the launderette, but then I was half-asleep folding sheets. It made me really tired. In my eyes they were just sleeping pills", she said to the broadcaster.

Sylvia Brochard also spent three years in the boarding house in the 70s. "I do not know what I got them for or who prescribed them, but you just got them and were obliged to take them. If you were in the isolation cell, you got extra medicines to keep you calm."

The other former residents RTL Nieuws talked to tell the same stories. They called their time in Maria Regina "hell" and a "terrible period". 

According to the De Winter Committee, Maria Regina was not the only children's home to sedate their residents. "I can not name numbers", Committee chairman Micha de Winter said to RTL. "We're also investigating that, but the stories you mention from that particular institution are in any case not the only ones."

The former residents of Maria Regina are angry about how they were treated. They want apologies from the government and want to know more about the time they spent in Maria Regina. "I want to read my report", Sylvia Borchard said to the broadcaster. "And Indeed: why the pills? Why did we have to work? Why did we not have to go to school? I want answers to that."

Children's psychiatrists are shocked about the forced medication given to young children, RTL Nieuws writes. The fact that it happened in the 70s, when medication was thought about differently, is no excuse. "What I see here is a step further", Robert Vermeiren, a professor of child- and youth psychiatry, said to the broadcaster. "At that time, it was also not the intention to make people dull, to drug them and at the same time force them to work. That can simply not be. That is not a good medical practice."