Steps forward and steps back: Children’s rights monitored in the Netherlands Photo: Kinderombudsman

Steps forward and steps back: Children’s rights monitored in the Netherlands

The Child Law Department of Leiden Law School wrote the Advice or scientific concept report for this Children’s Rights Monitor 2013. The Monitor provides a overview of the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in the Netherlands.

"Children have a distorted image of the world and of sex, because everything on Facebook looks nicer" (Kim, 15 years)

This is a quote in the Children’s Rights Monitor presented by the Dutch Children’s Ombudsman in September 2013 in The Hague, showing the impact of web technology on children’s lives. It is only one of the issues addressed in the Monitor. The Child Law Department of Leiden Law School wrote the Advice or scientific concept report for this Children’s Rights Monitor 2013, with the assistance of the Dutch Bureau for Statistics. In 2012 the first Monitor of the Dutch Children’s Ombudsman - who was installed in 2011 – was prepared. This time it was possible to compare certain outcomes.

The Monitor provides a thematic overview of the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in the Netherlands. It does so by describing new research and policy developments and by presenting and analysing figures that give an indication of the implementation of children’s rights. The report is divided into six chapters on the following themes: 1.Family situation and alternative care; 2. Protection against exploitation and violence; 3. Deprivation of liberty and juvenile justice; 4. Adequate standard of living; 5. Education; 6. Young immigrants.

Steps forward ...

In general children in the Netherlands are doing well. They belong amongst the happiest in the world and they are healthy. In the past year relevant steps forward have been made in terms of the implementation of children’s rights. Think of the so-called ‘Kinderpardon’ which made it possible for a group of young asylum seekers who had been in the country for more than five years to stay and build up a future in the Netherlands. Concerning child abuse, there has been intensified attention, partly due to the in-depth research of the Deetman and Samson commissions, which showed that many children in the last decennia have become victims of sexual violence in the church, residential care and foster families. The Taskforce on child abuse and sexual abuse was installed. Efforts by the Ministry and the Children’s Ombudsman on child abuse are good examples of how joint progress can be made. Children and the internet received more attention and protection measures against the (sexual) abuse of children or online bullying have been set up.

In the field of education we see a small decrease in the number of children who are not going to school because of a lack of adequate education. The Children’s Ombudsman has opened a complaint box and has repeatedly stressed the importance of changing policy in this regard. The education cuts, which were mentioned last year, were cancelled and there are less so-called ‘weak or very weak schools’. In juvenile justice the tendency towards repression has diminished. The number of children in closed juvenile detention centres has decreased. Room has been made for developments such as restorative justice (victim-offender mediation).

And steps back

Violations of children’s rights, however, do still occur in the Netherlands. The five main areas for concerns in the implementation of children’s rights, presented in the monitor of 2012, still exist. These are the areas of child abuse, refugee law, poverty, education and juvenile justice, although different accents should be made. Poverty is an item that is more visible now due to the economic crisis. One out of nine children is growing up in poverty. The expectation is that this group will grow further. Municipalities appear to have very different policies and that there is a lack of monitoring of actions in place for young people. The Children’s Ombudsman advises that municipalities create a ‘child package’ for all children who live in a household with an actual income under the norm of 120% of the social minimum.

Continuing waiting lists in the youth protection system and the fact that thousands of children are not going to school is worrying. Obese is one of the most common welfare diseases. Research shows that Dutch children do not move and sport enough.

Still more than 118.000 children are victims of child abuse. Recent UNICEF research on children’s rights in the Caribbean part of the Netherlands (Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba) shows that the use of violence in the upbringing of children is deeply rooted and of serious concern.

Even though more asylum children can stay due to the five years criterion, there are still many things not properly put in place for refugee children. One concern is that children who live with their parents in a care centre have to move often to new places in very different parts of the country. Just when they have adapted to a school and their surroundings. This group needs better protection, more geared towards the best interests of the child.

Way forward

The transition of the youth care system needs to be done carefully, so municipalities are well equipped to give children what they need. The collection of the data used to provide a clear indication of the implementation of children’s rights needs more attention. For example, this year we saw a lack of data on children with a handicap and on missing children. Furthermore, young people themselves need to be involved in drafting priorities. The consultation done for this monitor shows that many of them do not know the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its content.

The way forward is to advise the government to take children’s rights seriously in every decision, policy and law made. We reiterate the need for a child effect report, such as that used in Belgium. At the same time, we advise the Children’s Ombudsman to continue questioning the government on these issues and to be pro-active in doing research and making the results available to the public, also in the Dutch Caribbean.


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