Preventing child abuse fatalities: a critical investigation of Dutch child abuse inquiries
Kortleven LL.M, W.J.
Department of Sociology of Law Erasmus University Rotterdam Rotterdam, Netherlands
From the beginning of this millennium onwards, several child abuse deaths in the Netherlands have not only led to public debate about the quality of youth care and its responsibility for preventing child deaths, they also serve as a justification of changes in youth care policy and practice. In particular the Savanna case has become symbolic of a failing youth care system and has gained a similar significance for the Netherlands as "Jessica" and "Kevin" have for Germany and "Victoria Climbié" for Britain.
Like elsewhere in Europe and abroad, in some Dutch fatal child abuse cases one or more inquiries into the involved organizations' practices have been conducted, the results of which have subsequently been published. Such inquiries deserve scholarly attention, since they have become an important part of the public response to child abuse tragedies and apparently contribute to important developments in the field of youth care and youth protection. However, whereas for instance in Britain investigation of child death inquiries is far from uncommon, Dutch inquiries into child abuse fatalities have not yet been investigated.
My presentation draws on an examination of all published Dutch inquiry reports into the role of youth care in fatal child abuse cases, concerning seven child deaths occurring from 2000 to 2008. In considering the contents and characteristics of the inquiry reports, I will deal with the question whether the reports' explicit aim of reducing the likelihood of similar events occurring in the future is feasible. Particular attention will be devoted both to the way the reports judge practitioners' dealing with risks and to the role of the reports in promoting the use of risk assessment tools. Furthermore, my presentation will highlight some similarities and differences of inquiries in the Netherlands and in Britain, in order to investigate what is unique to the Dutch context and what is not.