Child protection in the Netherlands
Dutch child protection is a family-oriented system (Gilbert et al, 2011), characterised by the recognition of the best interest of the child and a family-friendly approach with an emphasis on supporting families rather than intervening and reporting child abuse (Knijn and Nijnatten, 2011). Child protection policy developments in the Netherlands have been highly influenced by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights. All families must have access to parenting support and family coaching in their municipalities, and great efforts are made to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to detect it at an early stage. Out-of-home placement of a child is considered a last-resort intervention and should be temporary (Harder et al, 2013).
The number of children (0–18 years old) in the Netherlands is estimated at 3,429,193 (CBS, 2015). Research on child abuse shows a prevalence rate of 33.8 children per 1,000 (Euser et al, 2013). Although the prevalence rate appeared relatively stable between 2010 and 2015, the number of victims reported has increased by 67 per cent in this five-year period. Likewise, an increased number of child protection orders has been registered (Netherlands Youth Institute, 2007). This growth has been linked to greater social attention to child abuse and the occurrence of fatal cases.
The Dutch child protection system has undergone important structural changes with the introduction of the Youth Act 2015 (Jeugdwet 2015). The main features of this new framework are: the decentralisation of responsibilities for provision and quality of care for children and families to the 393 Dutch municipalities; the aim of reducing the number of children in specialised care by increasing preventive and early intervention measures; and promoting the use of the families’ social networks.
Dutch municipalities are responsible for the identification, investigation, intervention and monitoring of child abuse cases. The two key child protection institutions are the Advice and Reporting Centre for Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment (Advies-en Meldpunt Huiselijk Geweld en Kindermishandeling – AMHK), and the Child Care and Protection Board (Raad voor de Kinderbescherming – RvdK). After a report, the AMHK can investigate a possible situation of child abuse and refer children to voluntary care. The RvdK and the Juvenile Court are involved in investigating and deciding whether compulsory child protection measures are necessary.