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Flash interview with alumna Kartica van der Zon

Did you know that PhD candidates are also alumni of your alma mater? High time to put a PhD alumna and her research in the spotlight. Besides, this month our UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

Alumna Kartica on her research in child law

What did you study and when? What made you choose Amsterdam?

I studied law at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and graduated in 2008. I lived close to Amsterdam and thought (and still think) that Amsterdam was the most beautiful city in the country.

Did your degree in Amsterdam meet your expectations? What did, and what didn’t? What were you like as a student?

I always enjoyed studying, but most of all the student life when I was doing my bachelor’s. I wasn’t an exceptional student by any means at that time. But when I started my master’s in international law, I became really motivated and more involved. On top of the compulsory courses, I also did some courses at the University of Amsterdam on children’s rights and a minor in development studies. I also did an internship in South Africa on a street children project. Those experiences with children and children’s rights shaped my career.

Do you have one memorable moment from 

time as a student that you would like to, or dare to, share?

When I was doing the course European Human Rights Law, I met the man who would become my husband. The lectures for the course started at 9.00 am and because I had a job in a pub and often only got to bed at 3.00 am, that was pretty early … But still, I never missed a lecture on the European Human Rights course ...

Looking back, is there something extra that you might have wanted in the law curriculum? Perhaps a specific subject that wasn’t taught, or an internship or something else you missed?

I would have preferred to focus totally on children’s rights. But that wasn’t possible back then. Now, there’s a master’s degree in child law at Leiden and I’m very happy teaching on the programme.

Can you explain why you chose not to remain in the legal profession?

After I graduated, I was able to work as a junior lecturer in child law at the UvA, which was a great challenge. I was soon offered the opportunity to also work as a lawyer at Defence for Children, where I worked with my future PhD supervisor Marielle Bruning. I never consciously chose not to become a lawyer, I’ve always enjoyed working in the places where I ended up. 

10 years Master Child Law

You were awarded a PhD from Leiden University. Can you tell us more about your research?

I now work as an Assistant Professor and obtained my PhD in 2020. My dissertation dealt with the position of foster children. In recent years, much attention has been paid at the international level to the rights of children who can’t live at home. For example, the United Nations has welcomed the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, which elaborates on the article in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that deals with children who cannot live at home. The European Court of Human Rights has also commented on placement in care in a number of its judgments.


However, it had not been mapped out before which rights for foster children can be derived from these different frameworks. In the dissertation I examined which rights of children who have been placed in a foster family by an authorisation enabling an out-of-home placement can be derived from child and human rights provisions. I looked specifically at four decisions in foster care: the decision to place the child out of the home; the decision on where the child is to live (in which foster family, or in an institution for example); the decision on the access arrangements and the decision on where the child will eventually grow up (back home or a continued stay in the foster family). I then compared these children's and human rights with national laws and regulations and assessed the extent to which children's rights are protected under national laws and regulations and whether children actually have the opportunity to stand up for their rights when these are not respected.

And then something about yourself and Leiden:

What’s your favourite restaurant/pub/place in Leiden?

First, I still want to mention my favourite place in Amsterdam: the Monumentje pub on the Westerstraat. On Mondays, the whole pub joins in singing typical Amsterdam songs. But I’ve got favourite places in Leiden too – the Hortus and the Kinderrechtenhuis. 

How do you relax (to get away from work/research)

I enjoy cooking, reading and above all my three children who constantly remind me that it’s the little things in life that are important. 

To conclude, do you have a guilty pleasure? 

Eating a kroketje at the station.

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