Quicker intervention in cases of child abuse

In order to guarantee the safety of the child, there has to be quicker intervention if it becomes clear that the parents are unable to do so. Faster procedures are necessary, in particular with respect to babies and young children, in view of their increased physical vulnerability, to prevent threats to the safety of the child.

This is written today by State Secretary for Security and Justice Teeven and State Secretary Veldhuizen–van Zanten for Health, Welfare and Sport in a response to recently published reports from the Youth Care Inspectorate (IJZ) and the Dutch Safety Board concerning cases of fatal or near-fatal child abuse that were sent to the Lower House today. The report of the Dutch Safety Board relates to the period of 2004 - 2007. The state secretaries view the conclusions and recommendations in the reports as an important incentive to further deal with the bottlenecks in the child safety system, to the extent these have not already been set in motion. It is, after all, the duty of the government to provide children with safety if the parents do not or do so insufficiently. In addition, the Dutch government has to ensure that professionals in the field are equipped in such a way that they can do their work decisively and that they feel optimally supported when they deal with the often difficult dilemmas they face. In doing so, the state secretaries take into account the sometimes difficult circumstances in which the professionals have to do their job. This government does not tolerate aggression and violence against persons who perform a public duty.

The letter states that the provision of information needs to be improved further. Although there are no legal obstructions to providing information to professionals, it has become clear that these are experienced in daily practice. In the short term, it will be discussed with, inter alia, the Dutch Mental Healthcare Association and the Royal Netherlands Medical Society what obstructions professionals experience and how these can be removed.

In the coming time, further professionalization of the child safety system will be discussed with interested parties, so that the physical safety of the child can be guaranteed. The Child Protection Board and the Youth Care Agencies have recently changed their way of working so that threats to the physical safety of children play a more prominent role during the investigation of the need for protective measures. This will improve the cooperation between the chain partners at crucial moments during the assessment of the safety of the child.

As regards improved identification, the professional groups involved will ascertain whether the existing instruments are adequate. Where this is not the case, a better instrument will be developed.

Both state secretaries will take further steps in the coming months, in consultation with the relevant parties from the field, in order to be able to act as effectively as possible when preventing, identifying, stopping and limiting the damage of child abuse. The House and the Dutch Safety Board will be informed of the status of the aforementioned actions before the summer. After the summer, the Dutch government will present a new Action Plan on Dealing with Child Abuse.