Meaningful participation for children in the Dutch child protection system: A critical analysis of relevant provisions in policy documents.

Helen Bouma, Mónica López López, Erik J Knorth, Hans Grietens - Child Abuse & Neglect


Policymakers are increasingly focusing on the participation of children in the child protection system (CPS). However, research shows that actual practice still needs to be improved. Embedding children's participation in legislation and policy documents is one important prerequisite for achieving meaningful participation in child protection practice. In this study, the participation of children in the Dutch CPS under the new Youth Act 2015 is critically analyzed. National legislation and policy documents were studied using a model of "meaningful participation" based on article 12 of the UNCRC. Results show that the idea of children's participation is deeply embedded in the current Dutch CPS. However, Dutch policy documents do not fully cover the three dimensions of what is considered to be meaningful participation for children: informing, hearing, and involving. Furthermore, children's participation differs among the organizations included in the child protection chain. A clear overall policy concerning the participation of children in the Dutch CPS is lacking. The conclusions of this critical analysis of policy documents and the framework of meaningful participation presented may provide a basis for the embedding of meaningful participation for children in child protection systems of other countries.