Dutch gov't failing to protect, help vulnerable kids in custodial placements
The Dutch government is seriously failing in its duty to protect the most vulnerable children in the Netherlands, researchers from Leiden Unversity concluded in a study commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and Security. Kids placed under supervision or placed out of their parental home due to an unsafe situation do not get the help and attention they need and are entitled to. The researchers called on Minister Franc Weerwind for Legal Protection to intervene immediately, Nieuwsuur reports.
The researchers evaluated the Child Protection Measures Review Act and spoke to parents, children, foster parents, youth protectors, lawyers, and judges. There’s nothing good to say about the system. “Everyone starts talking about how bad things are,” Marielle Bruning, researcher and professor of juvenile law, told Nieusuur. “The government has a duty to protect children. But that protection is really lacking.”
There are often concerns about the involved children’s safety at home, and these concerns are often justified. But once the child is removed from their home, the government fails to care for them and their parents. Both children and parents need and are entitled to help so that their situations can improve and they can be reunited.
But no such help is available, partly due to the lack of places of safety, a shortage of youth protectors, and long waiting lists for specialized help.
“It is obvious that youth protection cannon guarantee sufficient quality. This raises the question: is it still justified then for the government to intervene in family life?” Bruning said. “The government must protect these vulnerable children. But that intervention sometimes causes more damage than it brings protection.”
The researchers made several recommendations on how the government can better protect children and their parents. If a child is placed out of their home, there must be a plan on how to maintain contact with their parents. And if youth protection determines that a child cannot return home, a court must always assess the decision.
Parents and children should get access to a lawyer. Now parents have to arrange and pay for legal representation themselves. “Most families cannot find their way to a lawyer or are not even aware that it is possible. While it is a life-changing decision, whether their children can stay at home or not,” said Bruning. The authorities must also listen to the children themselves and count their opinions in decision-making.
The researchers stressed that these improvements could only help if the staff shortages and waiting lists in youth protection are dealt with.