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A creative systematic implementation of “the practice based” theory within the youth care services of the Flemish community


Background. In Belgium the Flemish government is responsible for the youth protection in Flanders and in the metropolitan district of Brussels. In Flanders the term ´youth´ applies to children and young people from 0 up to the age of 25. Within the Flemish government, the "Agency for youth care" is responsible for the youth welfare. The agency coordinates this project. The main aim is to ameliorate the effectiveness and the efficiency of the youth protection care. To realise this project, the Agency works closely together with the youth protection services and scientific researchers.

Although we don't underestimate the importance of evidence based youth care techniques, we prefer a practice based process, where researchers, the government, the fieldworkers and if possible, the clients work together to find the best practices. We want solutions that work in the real world, not only in a secured research environment.

Purpose. As a government agency, we seek together with the youth protection services and the scientific researchers for an answer to the question: "Which treatment is useful and effective, for which type of problems and for which type of young people or families?" To answer this question we are convinced of the importance of a "practice based"-approach.

In this approach the opinions of the fieldworkers and the clients are predominant. This idea is fundamental to our project. It explains also the difference with the evidence based approach.

Plan of action. First step: The Agency for youth protection and the youth protection services are going to organise together an annual registration, to find which kind of care works for what type of public. Each year the youth protection services will collect uniform data. Data about the profile of the clients and data about the evolution of their problems, linked on the aid they get. The registration encompasses all our clients.

Second step: These collected data will be processed by the Agency for youth protection into annual reports providing the first very global answers to our initial question. The Agency will give feedback to the youth protection services.

Third step: These feedback sessions will result in a continuous process where the Agency, the youth protection services and in the future even the clients are going to reflect about the annual results.

Fourth step: This reflection phase will hopefully lead to a substantial improvement of the assistance to the clients or in complementary research, especially when the interpretations of the results are confusing. It's obvious that the researchers continue to take an important place in the whole process. We need them to solve the more difficult questions.

Every year we will take these four steps and every year we will get a little bit closer to our objective.

Key findings and implications. The Agency for youth protection isn't going to use the annual registration as a judgement of the quality of services delivered.

In stead, the Agency and the youth protection services, will work closely together to improve the services to the clients in an incremental way. Figures alone, don't say anything.

The expertise of the youth protection services and the field workers is extremely important. The Agency believes that this project combined with incentives, will allow the youth protection services to better manage the care they provide in an effective way.

In the past, the government policy, the scientific research and the needs of the "field care workers" and the clients "lived too much apart".

Now "they are going to live together", they are going to work closely together and they are going to know each other to reach one objective: an ongoing search for a more effective youth care service. In this context every ones experience is important, also that of the client.

When time passes by, there will be result. Although not measurable in an absolute way, we will better know who our clients are. We will be able to bench mark. All together we will start an ongoing process where the youth protection care services become more effective.

These are the benefits of the project, not only for the government, but especially for the youth protection services and their clients.

The statistics (Flemish Agency for youth care, 2006):

Private youth welfare services:


Clients of private youth welfare services in 2006


(55,98 % male - 44,02% female)

Percentage of clients with an age above 14


Percentage of clients that commit an offence

14,47 %

Employees working within the private youth welfare services


Key references

Peeters, J. (2000). A global welfare registration: a base for the registration within the Flemish welfare services. Flemish Ministry of Welfare, Brussels (in Dutch).

Peeters J. & Viaene S. (2007). Working on an effective youth protection service: annual registration of data about the profile of the clients and data about the evolution of their problems. Agency for youth care, Brussels (in Dutch).

Contacts: Johan Peeters, Flemish government of Belgium (Agency for youth care), Beleidsdomein WVG - Agentschap Jongerenwelzijn, Koning Albert II - laan, 35 bus 32, 1030 Brussel, E-mail: johan.peeters@wvg.vlaanderen.be, Phone +32 (0)2 553.34.58.


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