“Several times I have asked the judge to get my children back”: 10 years of foster care complaints at the Flemish Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner

Lieselot De Wilde & Bruno Vanobbergen - Child & Family Social Work


European societies struggle with the question of how to deal best with, and organize care for, those children who, for various reasons, need to be placed out of their home. In an attempt to protect these children, states organize different forms of care. Under the influence of testimonies of abuse and neglect, the image of residential care has become tainted and the placement of looked‐after children in foster families has become increasingly favoured. This evolution towards a manifest choice for foster care is defended as being more in “the interests of the child.” However, the “best interests of the child” notion is applicable in decisions concerning substitute care in many different ways. During the last decade, the shift towards a child's perspective away from a family‐preservation perspective is noticeable. We argue in this paper that this focus on children's needs is at the expense of the rights and identity of the parents. Based on an analysis of 342 complaints concerning foster care reported to the Flemish Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner, we analysed which “alarming situations” are reported and highlight a number of pressing concerns from the perspective of parents.