“100 Years of Commitment and Dedication to Children”

This was the headline of a Dutch newspaper on 15 May this year. Beneath it was an article devoted to the 100th anniversary of the Vereniging voor Jeugd en Kinderzorg, a youth care organisation based in Zwolle in the Netherlands. So, this time I am not offering a travel report about an area somewhere in the South-East of Europe, but an impression of the celebration of an anniversary of one of the oldest Dutch organisations in the field of youth care.

The Association was founded in 1907 by some Reformed Churches in the province of Overijssel as a reaction to the introduction of the children’s legislation in the Netherlands in 1905. These laws enabled the removal of children from their parental homes and made it possible to put children’s parents under supervision or even remove the children from parental authority if there was evidence of serious neglect or abuse.

The Churches arranged emergency placements in foster families, but soon realised that neutral facilities were also needed, and so several children homes were founded under the flag of the VJK. These children’s homes were for ‘normal’ young people, but later on they provided for young people with a moderate learning disability as well. Later these were followed by other facilities, such as baby and child care for children of single working mothers, and child care for all single under-aged asylum seekers together with ambulant facilities.

At the beginning of the 21st century, all these provisions were accommodated elsewhere, mainly due to amalgamations, and the VJK formulated new goals, such as:

A) attention to identity and giving meaning to one’s life in child welfare,
B) support for innovating projects in the Netherlands,
C) setting up and stimulating youth support networks and projects in South- East Europe,
D) supporting networks in the Netherlands.

It was a festive day on 15th May in the St. Michael’s Church in Zwolle, the church where the Association was founded in 1907. A large number of project members from Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Croatia had come to the Netherlands and were present with their own stands and showed the visitors their projects. The VJK had initiated about thirty projects in these countries, and has frequently used the existing FICE networks, supported by several countries in accordance with their ability over many years.

The projects mainly concern staff training, the social and vocational integration of young people leaving residential care, foster care and attention to children with traumas. Furthermore, there are several practical projects such as the Albanian venture called “A cow, a future” and the teaching project for under-privileged children in distant mountain areas.

During the meeting, a report was given to the Dutch Minister for Youth and Family. The report contained conclusions of a research project involving more than forty employees in youth care concerning the attention paid to fostering a meaningful life, identity and religion in the daily practice of youth care. It was found that little or hardly any attention had been given to these subjects in the institutes. Because of all the instructions, rules, and protocols of the organisation, workers do not have enough time to occupy themselves with the life questions of children.

What is more, the organisation had not paid attention to these issues at policy level.

Production, finance, planning and control have been regarded as far more important.

In consequence, the VJK has decided to ask that regular attention should be given to the so-called ‘slow questions of life’, and that training should also give far more attention to this subject.

With all of our foreign guests, the day was closed on a festive note with the help of traditional music from the Balkan area!

Anton Tobé is Director of VJK and President of FICE-NL.
For more info; www.jeugdenkinderzorg.nl – > Jubileum

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