Kids placed out of their home can return after longer periods under new directive
The Netherlands Youth Institute (NJi) is changing its directive so that children displaced from their parental homes can return to their parents after a longer period. Youth protectors can then work more flexibly with the "acceptable period of return" and hopefully preserve more families, the Volkskrant reports.
About 46,000 children in the Netherlands live in foster families or institutions. Over 20,000 of them were placed out of their parental home by the juvenile court.
The term "acceptable period of return" was included in the Civil Code in 2015 with the intention to prevent children from living in uncertainty about where they would grow up for too long after a custodial placement. The NJi established two periods based on scientific insights and practical experience. It is six months for young children under the age of 5, and for kids 5 and older, it is a year. "If it is not possible to improve the conditions sufficiently within this term, then a permanent custodial placement is necessary," the directive reads.
The idea was that the "acceptable period" would encourage social services to work as quickly as possible on children's return to their parents. But in practice, it meant children being unable to return home because their parents did not have enough time to improve the home situation. Or courts placing children with other families due to waiting lists and staff shortages at youth care.
The new starting point is that social services must determine per family what is possible without applying a generally applicable strict period. "A period of time must never be the only argument for not returning a child," said NJi board member Rutger Hageraats. "The incentive remains to work on return as quickly as possible and to create clarity."