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Force judges to listen to parents before placing children in care

Parents are not always heard before their children’s placement in care is extended. They can only have their say if they ask the judge for a hearing themselves. ‘It should be the other way round,’ says Mariëlle Bruning, Professor of Child Law in a ‘De Nieuws BV’ broadcast.

It's the parents' own responsibility

A child is placed in care for a period of one year, explains Professor Bruning during the broadcast. ‘If youth protection agencies want a child’s placement in care to be extended, judges need to make a decision on that extension request. The parents will receive a letter from the judge beforehand asking them whether they want to speak at that extension hearing.’ If the parents do not respond to that letter, the judges will make their decision on the extension request without even speaking to the parents. The child’s placement in care may then be extended by one year.

Bruning says that before making such a major decision, judges should talk to the parents as standard practice. ‘It’s strange that the responsibility is on the parents to respond if they want to speak at the hearing. It really should be the opposite way round.’ She says that judges wrongly assume that parents have actually had the opportunity to respond to the letter. Bruning continues, ‘It could also happen that parents don’t understand that they have to respond or that they never received the letter in the first place.’

Court procedure

The current situation is not dictated by law, but by court procedure, Bruning explains. Due to past criticism, from judges too, the courts have been promising a change in this procedure for years now. Bruning says, ‘But that’s just not happening.’ The parents affected and the lawyers who assist parents and children in these cases are fed up with the situation, and that’s why they’ve initiated legal proceedings against the Dutch State. The verdict in the case is expected to follow later this month.

Listen to the full radio interview with Professor Mariëlle Bruning in De Nieuws BV (in Dutch, 8 minutes) on the NPO Radio 1 website. Articles in Dutch daily newspapers Algemeen Dagblad (€) and Trouw (€) provide more background information on the case.

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