Hogeschool Leiden

Hope for ordinary life for children who have not been born under a lucky star

A 'place' for Alicia by G.H.P. van der Helm.


The transition of the Youth Aid Act in the Netherlands where municipalities take over from the provinces is now two years underway and concerns also those children who have the most problems. Their future looks bleak at present: they are put by the municipalities in each year to re-apply 'care-parcels' and are too often transferred from institution to institution, something that worsens their problems more and more. The recent documentary ‘Alicia’ that shows how Alicia roamed through the youth care landscape is a sad story of human suffering. I detect three flaws in the Youth Aid Act: underestimation of the intergenerational problem transmission in the context of Adverse (early) Childhood experiences (ACES). These adverse childhood experiences lead to intergenerational problem transfer that cannot be solved easily and conflicts with short-term thinking and spending-cuts by municipalities (1). In institutions and mental health care the problem is compartmentalized linear thinking in the organization and treatment (2) and last but not least the current organization (bureaucracy) and funding of youth aid detracts even more money, destined originally for the children(3). For the municipalities there the problems to design realistic solutions for the long term and prevention. For institutions it is imperative to gain insight into what is needed to replace their ‘disease’ model with an integral pedagogical model, focusing on the development and relationship and learning more from incidents. More institutions should participate in social climate research in the youthcare sector to care for the social living environment in the Netherlands and to create more small-scale facilities and family homes with care and tailor-made (special)education.
But given the vulnerability of these small-scale facilities we should also to be cautious to overburden foster parents and family home parents: they are not the drainage of youth aid. We must retain specialist facilities for this, such as Youth Care Plus, institutions for children with a Mild Intellectual Disability (MID) and victims of sexual violence. For society and the towns, the best care for these children is the best way to go for the society. The cutbacks on youth aid in the new law were a mistake: it is time for a change in thinking and better care implementation for those children who are most in need.

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