Youth protection in the Netherlands is falling apart, and something must be done about it immediately. That is the message that youth protectors want to pass on with their protest at parliament in The Hague on Wednesday. Vulnerable children are waiting weeks to find a safe place, they said to NOS.
If a child is not safe at home, a juvenile court may decide to place the child under supervision or guardianship. A youth protector then makes a plan and looks for the right help for the family. If it is really unsafe at home, the youth protector finds a place of safety for the child, such as a foster home.
But due to significant staff shortages in youth protection and long waiting lists in youth care, vulnerable children have to wait in unsafe situations longer and longer.
“There are children who are a danger to themselves, who run away and are found in cellar boxes. But we cannot place those children in safety now,” youth protector Ilona Simons said to the broadcaster.
“I’ve been trying to get a girl placed somewhere for ten weeks now,” her colleague Tobias Baruch said. “I’m no longer looking for the must suitable place, but for any place at all.”
On Wednesday, the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, is debating the youth care action plan the government announced early this month. According to the youth protectors, the plan contains great plans for the future but does nothing about the current dire situation.
“There is a huge staff shortage,” Simons said to the broadcaster. “You hear that come up in debates, but the Cabinet is not coming with the money to do something about it.” Youth protectors are currently carrying double the workload, caring for up to 16 children or families at a time. “Youth protectors aren’t campaigning because we want to earn more money. That money is a means to help the children better. That’s what matters to us.”
In addition to easing youth protectors’ workload, the system must also change. Since the decentralization of healthcare in 2015, the municipalities have been responsible for youth care. But the care many municipalities buy does not fit the need in practice, especially for more specialized care, like for young people with eating disorders. The youth protectors are, therefore, also calling for the government to speed up reform plans.
“I now have to make do with the available supply, but that is increasingly insufficient, or there are long waiting lists,” Baruch said to NOS. “That is incredibly frustrating. And I then have to explain the policy to that girl and her parents.”