As a result of the Allowances affair, 1,115 children were forcibly removed from their parents and placed in institutions. Comedian Peter Pannekoek called it “state kidnappings” last week in This Was The News: “I would like to coin the word so that we realize how bad it is.” Those kids aren’t home yet. And most of those responsible for the Allowances affair are still in power, so the children should not expect any help from them. Until recently, Minister Hugo de Jonge was responsible for youth care – well, then you know.
Rutte’s ruins have gone unpunished for years. And this mess was built on an earlier, much bigger mess by Rutte: the undressing of youth care in 2015. As a result, the number of children placed out of home has increased by 16 percent, according to the report series. Jojanneke and the youth care tapes (NPO2). That’s 19,000 children a year. “We are the largest home provider in Europe,” said youth policy expert René Clarijs last year.
Now you can still think: “Well, apparently they weren’t home safely.” But they are certainly not safe in youth institutions. They are often mistreated and sexually abused. Due to lack of space, innocent children are placed in prisons, and due to staff shortages, they are placed in isolation cells for a long time, which, according to psychologist Peer van der Helm, causes them “permanent brain damage.” They are often transferred, which makes them even more detached. The children come out of youth care much worse than they ever went into.
I recount the findings of Jojanneke van den Berge so extensively because I am quite sick of it. That while I started her documentary series with some reservations. Van den Berge made the comparable series in the past Jojanneke in prostitution, in which she didn’t have her grades in order and about which she was criticized for her bias. In any case, I have checked the above facts. (I came across another shocking one: according to the Verwey-Jonker Institute, one in three children is wrongly in youth care.) Prejudice could be; the program is in any case one-sided. No one speaks on behalf of youth care. Partly because of this, it is not clear exactly how the cases are dealt with. Van den Berge speaks almost exclusively with the children.
Eli prepares her funeral
That makes for heartbreaking television. It is especially difficult to watch the young woman Eli. She was abused in an institution and was imprisoned innocently in a juvenile detention center because there was no room elsewhere. Now she is looking forward to her death. She is in a euthanasia process. She bravely prepares her funeral, with a beautiful dress ready in the coffin and heart lollipops for the next of kin. (On talk show Khalid & Sofie revealed earlier on the TV night that Eli has since passed away.)
The girl Doke is on the run with her mother from child protection, who want to have her dragged out of the house by an arrest team. Under the eye of the camera, mother and daughter start arguing at their hiding place, whereby you can hear from the recriminations that there is more going on than an unjustified custodial placement. In any case, it produces a striking scene, enhanced by the glued-up windows in the background – presumably shielded from any law enforcement officers peeking in.
Is this shameful situation hopeless? Nope, says Peer van der Helm, the lecturer in residential youth care at Leiden University of Applied Sciences, who acts as an expert in the program. According to him, it is much better to provide intensive guidance to problem families, and if it really doesn’t work, to place the children in small-scale family homes, where they can lead as normal a life as possible. But yes, that costs money.
This column will be written by various authors until April 25.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad of 8 April 2022