The Dutch youth care system used to face many problems. The system was fragmented; many different organizations funded by different authorities were involved in the care and support of children with physical, mental and behavioural problems and their families.
In addition, local governments were responsible for public health and preventive youth health care. There was insufficient coordination between the organizations and the municipalities, a lack of integrality in the problem approach and an inadequate response to signals of unsafety.
Transformation of the youth care system
Since January 2015, the Dutch youth care system has been under construction. By adopting and implementing the new Youth Act, the Dutch parliament has decentralized all administrative and financial responsibilities related to youth care from the national and regional government to the 393 municipalities. This means that municipalities have become responsible for all youth care services, ranging from universal and preventive services like youth work and parenting support to specialized care, such as foster care, residential care and youth mental health care. In addition, there has been a transformation of the youth care system.
Change of focus
The focus of support and care shifts from the problematic to the normal development of children. The new youth care system should be more efficient, coherent and cost-effective. A focus on prevention, youth’s and parents’ own capacities, care made to measure and better cooperation between professionals should decrease the use of the specialized services.
To support this change the research group ‘Control in Youth Care’ performs practice-oriented research. To contribute to effective child welfare practice, we do applied research in three research areas:
1. Management and organization
As part of the transition youth we conduct research and provide advice to municipalities and institutions in different regions in terms of funding, accountability and control. We focus not only on the organizational level, but also on the professionals in the primary process.
2. Quality and effectiveness of youth care
To increase the quality and effectiveness of child care we investigate the living and learning environment in child welfare institutions, the general operating factors, such as treatment relationship and treatment motivation and the required competencies of youth workers.
3. Preventive youth policy
We also focus on cooperation between sites (education and child care), youth and family centre, youth care protection, present facilities and healthcare providers. In consultation with municipalities and institutions we cooperate with these parties in tasks such as prevention, early detection, light support and intensive care, supported by relevant research.