Dutch juvenile law failing kids placed out of parental home: report
The Netherlands' juvenile law insufficiently protects children and parents in a custodial placement, in which kids are removed from their parental home, Leiden lawyers concluded in a fact sheet drawn up on behalf of parliament and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), Trouw reports.
Juvenile court judges cannot sufficiently check whether the measure is really required. The courts have insufficient control over whether youth care is working adequately on family reunification. And researchers can't rule out that kids were taken from their homes because of their parents' financial difficulties. Last year 37,500 children and teenagers in the Netherlands were not living with their parents. The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, will debate these custodial placements on Thursday.
The childcare allowance scandal raised concerns that the out-of-home placement of 1,115 children from affected families directly resulted from the financial difficulties caused by the Tax Authority's fraud witch hunt. Youth protection institutions and judges denied this, but the Leiden researchers said they couldn't rule it out. The law does not make clear enough that it is only necessary to place children away from their parents if their parents interpret their upbringing in the wrong way, for example, if they're being abused. If this was clearer in law, "children may be prevented from being placed out of their homes because of other problems, like financial problems or a parent's physical disability," the researchers said.
The researchers also said that Dutch courts cant sufficiently assess whether the out-of-home placement is the appropriate measure or whether a less far-reaching action would also be effective. In 40 percent of the cases researched, the Child Protection Board did not give a reason why a less severe measure, like help to the parent, would not suffice.
The Child Protection Board also does not have to specify the exact cause for the child's removal from their parents' home. Therefore, a court cannot determine whether the parents fixed the issue and whether the custodial placement is still necessary. It can also cause cases where parents think they're working hard to solve the problems but still can't get their children back because the Child Protection Board keeps coming up with new objections.
If a youth protection institute decides the child should not be reunited with their parents, the legal protection for the family decreases even more. The institute doesn't have to immediately inform the court of its decision, which means that by the time the court has to assess whether reunification is possible, contact between parents and child may have already been phased out. In some cases, the child and foster family have become so attached that returning to their parents would no longer be in their interest. The researchers listed several known cases in which the court ruled that youth protection did too little to reunite parents and children during the period that this was still possible.
"Minors and their parents are weak in the face of a powerful executive apparatus," the researchers said.