Child abuse is a serious problem in the Netherlands. Every year, an estimated 119,000 children suffer some form of child abuse. The Action Plan against Child Abuse (Kinderen Veilig) which the government presented on 28 November 2011 forms the basis for action to tackle this problem in the next five years.
What the government does to fight child abuse
The Action Plan against Child Abuse contains information about detailed government proposals that will play a major role in tackling child abuse.
The core objectives of the action plan are as follows:
- to prevent parents from abusing their children
- to encourage reporting of cases of child abuse
- to put an end to existing abuse
- to limit the damaging consequences of abuse.
Important steps taken so far are:
Domestic violence and child abuse protocol
The domestic violence and child abuse protocol is a five-stage plan detailing the best course of action for professionals who suspect that domestic violence or child abuse may be going on. The protocol is intended to become a central aid to prevent and combat domestic violence and child abuse.
A basic model for the protocol has already been devised, but its use is not yet compulsory. The basic model is intended to provide guidelines for organisations and independent professionals enabling them to draw up a code of conduct for their own organisation or practice.
The use of a protocol is effective. The government therefore plans to make it compulsory for professionals to use a protocol when dealing with signs of possible domestic violence or child abuse. A bill was submitted to the House of Representatives in late October 2011.
Campaign on reporting child abuse
The purpose of the ‘Child abuse, what can I do?’ campaign is to raise the public’s awareness of the signs of child abuse, so that a problem is identified more quickly and may become a subject of discussion. This can help speed up intervention so that children can get help more quickly. The campaign focuses on people who know children in their surroundings who are being abused. People in this situation often do not know what to do if they suspect that something is wrong.
In 2009 a public awareness-raising campaign on child abuse was launched. In 2011, people who notice the signs of child abuse in their surroundings were encouraged to contact an Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect. See the special campaign site What Can I Do? (Information in Dutch.)
Another campaign will be launched in the 2012-2014 period. It will focus on the signs of domestic abuse, such as abuse of a partner or child, and what people can do if they suspect it.
Multidisciplinary approach to child abuse
Many organisations and professional groups are involved in tackling child abuse. The government wants to adopt a multidisciplinary approach by bringing these parties together and combining existing measures.
Children can only receive proper help if studies are conducted simultaneously in all relevant disciplines – from the medical, youth care and criminal justice angle – and a joint plan of approach is drawn up. This multidisciplinary approach was first adopted in the USA, and is very promising.
A number of regional pilot projects will be monitored, evaluated and supported in the coming period to see whether this approach should also be introduced on a wider scale in the Netherlands.