Introduction to Dutch youth policy

Dutch youth care system

The Netherlands is currently in the middle of a huge decentralization and transformation of the Dutch youth care system. This transition tasks Dutch municipalities with the coordination of most services in the social domain.

Different ministries, different responsibilities

At the central government level, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is responsible for overall youth policy and most specialized services for families and children. The Ministry of Security and Justice is responsible for juvenile justice policy and related institutions. The Ministry of Education is responsible for all educational matters. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment executes labour-related measures, including the Child Care Act for kindergartens and playgrounds in the Netherlands.

Care geared to local and individual needs

The transition means that most youth care tasks have been transferred to local authorities. This should enable the 393 municipalities to develop integrated policies and offer well-coordinated care geared to local and individual situations and needs. There will be a bigger role for families and social networks in the care process, more prevention and better coordination and integration of services. This should lead to more coherent, more effective, more transparent and less expensive services for children, young people and families.
Read more about this in the factsheet Generalist working with youth and families in the Netherlands.

Universal, preventive and specialized services

The Dutch youth care and welfare system consists of different services: universal services, preventive services and specialized services. Examples of universal services include youth work, child care and schools. Preventive services include child health care, general social work and parenting support. And examples of specialized services include youth care services, youth mental health care services and child protection services.

Pyramid Dutch youth care

The aim of the new Child and Youth Act is to: decrease the number of children in specialized care and increase preventive and early intervention support, and to promote the use of social networks within the direct environment of children (the civil society as 'parenting together').

Dutch legislation on youth care

There are four acts that are relevant to the new Dutch youth care system:

  • Child and Youth Act (Jeugdwet, 2015): states that within their youth policy local municipalities are responsible for decreasing the number of children in specialized care, increasing preventive and early intervention support, and promoting the use of social networks.
  • Social Support Act (Wmo, 2015): holds municipalities responsible for setting up social support with the aim of all citizens participating in all facets of society.
  • Participation Act (Participatiewet, 2015): aims to enable and support the participation of young people with developmental or behavioural problems in society.
  • Act on Appropriate Education (Wet Passend Onderwijs, 2014): assigns a duty of care to schools to include children as much as possible in mainstream education.

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