Sam is seventeen years old. His father used to work a lot and not be home much since he was young. Sam can get very angry all of a sudden. He used to have it, in second grade he was the only boy banging his fist so hard on the door. In seventh grade, Sam started at a gymnasium, but had trouble concentrating and making the wrong friends. He no longer sees many of these friends, they are in prison. Not toxic. He lives in a youth care institution and considers himself lucky with the trauma treatment he receives there. His head is less full and he can learn better again.
Sam’s mother often asked for help when he was young, but there was never any real help. Cool, because what would have happened if Sam’s mom had received that help? Did he now also live in a youth welfare institution? Was he still in high school? Did he also attempt suicide at the age of fifteen?
The perspective of youth care must change radically. Let’s stop taking care of the youth and focus on taking care of the family. Helping parents rather than just helping children. This is a solution that is still not revealed in the current debate, which mainly revolves around the lack of personnel and the lack of financial resources.
Focusing on caring for the family is essential, because children’s behavioral problems usually stem from parents’ problems. The shock causes Sam to throw tantrums. And the basis of that trauma is not with Sam, but with his parents. Research of 46 children living in a youth institution shows that 72 percent of them have problems with their parents. Parents suffer from debt and psychological problems or addictions. As a result, they are not always able to properly care for their children. Now often the symptoms are treated. For example, men like Sam get “aggressive management therapy” instead of shock therapy. Or even better: instead of helping parents with their problems.
Read also: Youth protection does not help children improve the home situation
The health care system is not designed to provide family care. The Youth Act fixes problems that occur in other areas such as work and income, debt assistance, housing, adult mental health care, and addiction care. With the final measure of placing children in care. What if we replace the youth law with the family law? A law whose goal is zero detentions. So those involved do everything they can to prevent the holdouts. For example, by identifying the problems and concerns of the whole family. By entering a single family budget instead of up to four separate family cash flows. By prioritizing waiting list parents in mental health care. And with a warning (temporarily) to remove the parents from the house instead of the children.
When Minister Weerwind (Legal Protection, D66) and Minister of State Van Ooijen (VWS, ChristenUnie) return home to explain their plan for youth welfare, it would be good for them to pay attention to family law as an alternative for young people to represent. But even without a political stick behind the door, we can start providing family assistance to families like Sam’s. This requires networked collaboration, involving not only youth care but also experts in addiction, adult mental health care, social care, work and income, housing and debt assistance. Where there is one familiar face in every family, rather than fifteen bona fide professionals working at cross purposes. Where professionals ask questions and listen to kids and parents. As a result, parents feel heard and dare to share their own concerns. A world where parents accept help because it is actually helping them move on and not out of fear of more drastic measures such as placement in foster care.
Family assistance as a solution is more complex than releasing finances or recruiting new young protectors, but it offers a more structural solution. That must be used. for Sam. Among them are the 43,999 children who have been placed in care in the Netherlands.