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Vulnerable Dutch children are unhappy

In The Netherlands, the Children’s Rights Tour revealed children growing up in difficult circumstances feel  they are insufficiently seen and supported. This is according to the Dutch Children’s Ombudswoman Margrite Kalverboer findings.

At least 1,700 children and teenagers have also completed an online questionnaire about their lives. What is going well in their lives, what are their concerns and what do they think should change in the Netherlands?

Children’s Rights Tour

Every two years the Children’s Ombudswoman and her team go through the Netherlands on the Children’s Rights Tour. The first Children’s Rights Tour took place in 2016. The aim of the tour is to listen to as many children and teenagers as possible. An online questionnaire is also published around the tour. With the stories, experiences and opinions, the Children’s Ombudswoman wants to give children and teenagers a voice in her work and raise any problems with the responsible parties.

In early October the second Children’s Rights Tour began. All in all the Ombudswoman spoke with over eighty children and teenagers. From young top athletes to teens living on the streets, and those who suffer from an eating disorder. 

Great differences in satisfaction and happiness

The analysis of almost 1,000 questionnaires shows that most children in the Netherlands are doing well. They rate their lives with the score of 7.7. There is also a group of children that are not doing well. Ten percent of the children rate their lives a heavy inadequate, on average a 3.8. Children who indicate that there are problems at home, judge their lives almost two points lower than children who have no problems at home (6.3 versus 8). This also applies to children who have to deal with child service (6,4) and children with little money at home (6,9).

Children who grow up in a vulnerable situation are more negative in all aspects of their lives than children who have no details. They score low especially in terms of certainty and stability. They feel insecure and worry about their future. They wonder if they can get the help they need, if they can continue with their education, will they live in the same house next year? They also lack help and support at school and adults in their environment and often feel unequally treated. 

Kalverboer is worried about these big differences: “We do a lot of good in the Netherlands, but there are children that we hopelessly leave in the cold. Who end up between shore and ship again and again. So we do not do it well enough. “

Children happier than teenagers

It is striking that children between the ages of eight and twelve are much more positive about their lives than youngsters between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. Children up to twelve years of age spend an average of 8.5 on their lives, while teenagers from the age of 13 assess their lives by 7.1.

Kalverboer also said “As adults, we often think that we have arranged everything well. But children tell a different story. Especially in the aid to vulnerable children, we are really lacking.” For 2019 her goal is to address this issues. In the coming two years she will encourage the government and organizations to contribute to the improvement of the lives of children in the Netherlands, especially the children in vulnerable situations. She will also conduct in-depth research into the different results from the Children’s Rights Tour, for example why young people give their lives a lower figure than children.

The Children’s Ombudsman calls on everyone who works with children to get started with what the children have said: “This report shows that children who grow up in a vulnerable situation miss security in all areas of their lives. So we must all work together to ensure that these children get confidence in the future again.”

Author: Julia Zvobgo

Julia Zvobgo is a Cultural Anthropologist. She is also the Community Manager and Events Manager of Child in the City.

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