Study in the Netherlands of Violence against youth in care, 1945-present

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Study in the Netherlands of Violence against youth in care, 1945-present

Since November 7, 2016, the Committee for the Study of Violence against Youth in Care, set up by the Dutch cabinet, has been conducting research into psychological, physical and sexual violence in youth services. The study is aimed at children who were put in the care of youth services at responsibility of the government. The committee will report its findings in late May, 2019. The committee consists of a scientific multidisciplinary team under leadership of Prof Micha de Winter.

Research questions

The study comprises a long period, from 1945 to the present. Three questions are at its centre:

  1. What physical, psychological and sexual violence took place in youth care?

  2. How could this happen and what contextual factors played a part?

  3. How did the pupils experience the violence and what consequences has it had for their later lives?

The answers to these questions contribute to a full (scientific) picture of what has happened in youth services in the past 70 years. The committee also hopes that this research will provide the victims with a sense of recognition for what they went through as children.

How does the committee conduct its research?

The committee conducts archive research into all involved youth care institutions and other organisations in The Netherlands. Furthermore, interviews are held and standardised questionnaires are submitted to individuals who stayed at these organisations as children. Former employees at these institutions are also interviewed or asked to complete a questionnaire. Finally, the committee does a literature review, studies black books and other relevant documents and looks at what instances of violence have been reported by the media.

What research does the committee perform?

  • Sector studies

The committee’s study comprises multiple branches in which children stay in the care of the government. This concerns children in residential institutions, juvenile detention centres, foster care, the youth sector of the Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care (jeugd-GGZ), the mild intellectual disability sector, boarding schools for deaf and/or blind children, and refugee centres. In these branch researches special attention is paid to the nature of the violence, the context and the effects of the violence on later life. Think of questions such as: What happened and how could this happen? Did the responsible people and institutions react and if so, what was that reaction? And: how did the lives of the people involved go on?

  • Cross-sectional studies

Besides sector studies, there are also several cross-sectional studies. Among these is a quantitative study into the nature and extent of violence. For this part, the committee makes use of an existing monthly panel of civilians. Moreover there are studies with themes such as supervision, inspection, professionalisation and regulations.

  • Exploration of help offered to victims

At the request of the cabinet, the committee is also looking at whether the help that is currently offered to adults who have been physically or sexually abused is sufficient. The committee does this by speaking to victims and professionals, organising focus groups with specific victim groups and by consulting expert panels.

The committee’s registration point

The committee has set up a registration point, where victims and (former) employees can share their experiences by telephone, e-mail, post or other digital means. Its first and foremost aim is to lend the informers an ear. The victims’ experiences can also anonymously be reported and analysed. This way, the knowledge that is obtained from the victims becomes a source for the study. In some cases, committee members and researchers speak with the informers. As of July 2018, 800 people have come forward to the committee. The registration point still receives new reports.

Previous similar studies

From 2010 to 2011, the Deetman Committee looked into sexual abuse of minors in the Roman Catholic Church from 1945 to 2010. It presented its final report on December 16, 2011. The former committee put forward a number of recommendations, in relation to victim assistance and contentment among other things. It vowed to periodically monitor the execution of the recommendations by those responsible. The committee upheld its promise until its dissolution in July 2016.

The Samson Committee was established by the Dutch government in 2010 to study sexual abuse to children placed out-of-home. On 8 October, 2012 the committee published its final report, titled “Surrounded by care, yet not safe. Sexual abuse against children placed out-of-home by the government, 1945 to present”. The Samson Committee made several recommendations in this report.