The Netherlands

Source: Annual Report 2014

In the Netherlands the Bernard van Leer Foundation has separate strategies for reducing violence in young children’s lives and for early learning. In our analysis of the Netherlands, we found that issues related to the physical environment were not a major priority for children, and for that reason we elected not to programme on that goal.

The two strategies overlap and complement one another, both having some components which are national in scope, but focusing mainly on the four largest cities in the Randstad (or coastal provinces): Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague, and two municipalities still to be selected from rural areas of Friesland and Groningen. The goals are:

Reduced violence in families with children under 4 years of age growing up in socially and economically disadvantaged conditions

The National Prevelance study in 2005 estimated there were 107,200 cases of child abuse and neglect, 88% of them by the child’s biological parent. Although children aged under 4 represent only 22% of children, they were the victims of 31% of these cases.

Violence in the family affects children not only as victims but also as witnesses to intimate partner violence, which is also more likely when children are young. 1 out of 8 people in the Netherlands say they have experienced intimate partner violence, and it is estimated that up to 90% of incidents may go unreported.

Family factors correlated with child abuse and neglect included having low educational level of parents (risk increases 7 times); being in a large family (risk doubled); being in single parent family (risk doubled); and parental unemployment (risk increases 5 times when both parents unemployed), the latter being especially significant given the current economic instability.

Improved learning outcomes for children from low socio-economic status (SES) families

Children of parents with a low level of education and of migrant families enter school with a disadvantage in Dutch language and mathematical skills. This is a double disadvantage for children in migrant families, who are more likely to have parents with limited education and grow up speaking a different language in the home.

This handicap is reflected in data from Cito tests carried out at the end of primary school. On the total scores, the gap between non-native, non-Dutch-speaking children and native Dutch children is 10 percentage points. The gap in language is 11 percentage points . The impact of this apparently small difference in their 12th year of life is a major factor in defining whether they are tracked into a school system that sends them to university, college or vocational education. The consequences for their role in the workforce are enormous and affect them throughout the rest of their lives.

In the Dutch context, where the principal reasons for poor learning relate to a poor educational environment at home and low proficiency in the Dutch language, there is a range of early learning services that have the potential to reduce this disadvantage. These include modalities such as home visiting, childminders, pre-schools, playgroups, daycare centres, after-school care, and the first years of primary school. However, the quality of these services, especially for children under 4, is low across the board and 16%  of low-SES children in that age group do not participate in any learning programmes at all.

Highlights from 2014

  • 184 out of the 403 municipalities in the Netherlands took up a tool developed by the Netherlands Youth Institute to improve monitoring of child abuse services.

    Providing Dutch municipalities with a tool for bet ter policymaking on child abuse

    Until recently, there was no easy way for a Dutch municipal government official to access up-to-date information on child abuse reports in his or her municipality – since these are collected at national level – or to track the effects of child abuse policies. Given that the municipalities would be responsible for reporting and preventing child abuse and caring for its victims from January 2015 onwards, as part of the decentralisation of the Dutch youth care system, this information gap needed to be addressed.

    In May 2014 the Netherlands Youth Institute (NJI) launched Monitor Aanpak Kindermishandeling (Monitor on the Approach to Child Abuse), a monitoring and management tool commissioned by the Foundation. It enables municipalities to access municipal figures from the national Advice and Reporting Centres, track the effects of and identify any gaps in their policies, anonymously compare performance with that of other municipalities, and share knowledge.

    ‘We started by conceptualising and co-creating the Monitor with 21 municipalities,’ says Dr Erik Jan de Wilde of the NJI, who has led the Monitor’s development since 2012. ‘We knew that if we wanted the municipalities to use the tool, they needed to be a part of creating it. We had seen rankings before on child abuse that didn’t give anyone ideas on what to change. So we deliberately asked them what kind of data would be helpful to them.’

    In parallel, the Foundation worked with the Augeo Foundation, Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland and Defence for Children to advise the Children’s Ombudsman, Marc Dullaert, on a report on the state of child abuse in the Netherlands and the preparation of the Kind Veilig Preventiepakket (Child Safety Prevention Package), a set of child abuse prevention guidelines for municipalities. The guidelines, report and Monitor were launched at the same time.

    Since the launch, 184 of the Netherlands’ 403 municipalities have taken up the Monitor; by the end of 2015, the Foundation and NJI hope to roll it out to 90% of municipalities. So far, feedback has been good. According to the NJI’s website, one municipality commented that ‘the figures are very informative and help officials to shape government policy. The Monitor can be used as a checklist, a way to see what we do or what we do not do. It is a thorough and solid basis for policy.’

    NJI - Nederlands JeugdinstituutThe Monitor is being used as a basis for discussion both between and within municipalities. For example, six departments of the municipality of Boxtel, including police, youth care and social welfare, have signed up to the Monitor and use it to discuss and refine their child abuse protection programmes.

    One area for improvement is the use of the online platform as a way for municipalities to learn from each other. ‘We’ve found that the municipalities don’t communicate online about their challenges as much as we would like to see,’ says Dr de Wilde. ‘So in 2015, we plan to work with the Bernard van Leer Foundation to organise regional meetings with municipalities who can use support on a specific topic – based on the data – and bring them together. It’s really important they learn from each other.’ With support from the Netherlands Taskforce on Child Abuse, the NJI will also demonstrate the Monitor at one of the monthly closed meetings of municipality mayors in 2015.

    The NJI also plans to broaden the scope of the Monitor in 2015 to include domestic violence. ‘The law now requires municipalities to deal with child abuse and domestic violence as part of the same “safe homes” approach. Before, they were quite separate worlds,’ says Dr de Wilde, ‘so a Monitor that covers both child abuse and domestic violence will make this adjustment easier for municipalities. Again, it’s about understanding what the municipalities need and offering them some help.’

  • The Mayor of Amsterdam asked all schools in the Netherlands to incorporate in their curricula the Klokhuis TV episodes on child abuse, to be rebroadcast in 2015.

    Rallying the whole country to prevent child abuse

    In 2014, we received the results of an evaluation of the impact of a four-part television series on child abuse, broadcast in 2013 by Dutch children’s TV programme Het Klokhuis, as featured in last year’s Annual Report. The series was accompanied by a website and educational package for primary schools.

    Researchers from the Trimbos Institute reported a 12% increase in children calling the Kindertelefoon child helpline during the month the episodes aired, and found that 80% of the children who watched the show said they could do something about child abuse compared to 68% of those who did not watch.

    Het Klokhuis over kindermishandelingKlokhuis editor-in-chief Loes Wormmeester was glad to see these formal results. The team had also received positive feedback from parents, police officers and others. ‘All of us in television want to change the world. But we rarely know whether we do,’ she says.

    The programmes will be repeated in April 2015. At the Foundation’s request, the Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, has sent a letter to all the country’s schools encouraging them to watch: ‘[The Trimbos] report shows the Klokhuis episodes and educational package have had a truly positive effect on communications about child abuse. I would like to encourage you, on behalf of the Taskforce on Child Abuse, to use this opportunity to incorporate it into the course curriculum for Years 6, 7, and 8. It will require a time investment of four hours in four weeks. The returns of this effort could be enormous.’

    The programmes challenged a deep-seated taboo around discussing child abuse, which affects an estimated one in 30 Dutch children every year. The Foundation provided funds and access to experts for Het Klokhuis to produce the four-part series, which was watched by 1.5 million children and parents and honoured at Cinekid with the children’s choice award and a professional jury award for best non-fiction tv show for children. The series was also used to advocate for greater attention to and investment in child abuse among policymakers and educators, with the support of the Augeo Foundation, Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland and the Children’s Ombudsman.

  • Dr Renske Keizer was appointed to a Foundation-funded professorship at the University of Amsterdam, where she will focus on the role of fatherhood.

Programme strategy

You can download a summary of our Netherlands strategy on violence and a summary of our Netherlands strategy on early learning, outlining how we are approaching these two goals. Also available are two-page handout summaries in English and Dutch.


Do you have comments on our goals in the Netherlands? Please contact our Young Kids Campaign Strategist, Barbara Mulder:

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