NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 12:03
Parents and children are not adequately protected in court cases that can have far-reaching consequences for their lives. This emerges from discussions that the Council for the Judiciary has had with parents and children, and with judges and other parties involved.
The Council investigated the actions of family and juvenile judges in far-reaching youth protection measures such as custodial placements, supervision orders and termination of custody.
Too little time
Juvenile judges believe that they do too little to investigate facts presented by child protection and other authorities. They would like to, but things are often too complex and the time they have is too short.
Due to the long waiting times, it is not always in the best interest of the child to carry out a longer examination. In addition, there are no other bodies that can take on this task.
Parents are also dissatisfied with the current practice. They feel insufficiently heard and helped and sometimes put under pressure. In addition, the parents are often addressed collectively, ignoring the individual roles they have played.
In addition, they believe that they are not given enough time to tell their story and that what they themselves have said is insufficiently reflected in the statements. This happens more often at courts than at the appeal bodies, the courts of appeal.
One of the recommendations to judges is therefore to invest in trust. This can be done by making contact as a judge at the start of a hearing and explaining what will happen. In addition, it is important that judges give parents the space to tell their story and actually listen to them.
The researchers acknowledge that the interviewed parents do not reflect daily practice. Only one parent with a non-Western background was interviewed.
Although this study does not focus on matters that are the result of the child benefit affair, it was the reason.
In 2020, the parliamentary inquiry committee concluded that judges had insufficiently protected citizens in benefits affair cases. It insisted on a “hard-as-nails implementation of the rules” that did not necessarily follow from the law.
After this conclusion, various judicial authorities investigated their own actions. The administrative law department of the Council of State came to the conclusion that a strict line had been followed for too long and apologized to the parents who had been affected. The administrative courts concluded that most of them followed the lecture of the Tax and Customs Administration, even though they did not feel comfortable doing so.
The family and juvenile judges then announced a broad investigation into their own “blind spots”. That’s there now. A specific investigation into matters related to the benefits affair will follow later.
Minister Weerwind for Legal Protection also has the protection of parents and children in court cases that seriously interfere with family life on the agenda. For example, since the beginning of this year, parents have been given a lawyer free of charge if custody of their children is in danger of being terminated. The minister intends to expand this scheme by the middle of this year. Then parents who have to deal with a custodial placement should also be assigned a lawyer free of charge.
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