New concerns have been raised about how children are taken into social care against their family’s wishes in the Netherlands.
According to a report from the health and youth care inspectorate, which studied a number of last year’s 3,301 care placements in depth, professionals do not always properly build their case.
The inspectorate looked at 45 cases and said that although social services and youth care institutions think that they listen to what the parents and children expect, around half do not feel understood or taken seriously.
‘They experience the decision-making about their family as a “black box”,’ the inspectorate wrote in a news release. ‘One of the inspectorate’s recommendations is to ensure that children and parents are involved in the decision-making process about whether and why it is necessary to take them into care, ensuring that they feel taken seriously and understood – even if the result is not what they actually want.’
The report is one of a number of critical notes being struck about how the ‘complex system’ of youth care in the Netherlands still functions, even if people working in it have the best of intentions.
The Dutch judiciary this week launched an investigation into children who were taken from their families as a result of the childcare benefits affair, where tens of thousands of Dutch parents were incorrectly accused of fraud by the tax office and had all childcare benefits ever paid clawed back.
The behaviour of the tax office – which has now admitted ‘institutional racism’ – was dubbed an ‘unprecedented injustice’ by a parliamentary inquiry, and led to the fall of the last government in 2021. Around 1,675 children of childcare benefits victims were taken into care between 2015 and 2020 according to the CBS statistics office.
The judiciary, which has admitted that it did not adequately protect benefit scandals victims when they tried to fight the Dutch tax office in court, now wants to investigate the involvement of children’s judges in sending children into care.
Critics have previously said too many children are taken into care in the Netherlands, and a 2015 law aimed to reduce the numbers.
Thimo van der Pol, a forensic psychotherapist working on a family intervention scheme in Amsterdam Zuidoost, said that the Netherlands used to be number one in Europe for taking children into care, but that this is often not the best option.
‘For some children, you need to do it, but for most children, it doesn’t work out,’ he said. ‘You just accelerate the deterioration of those kids. We have to work together with the families and the system around the children.’
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