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Developments in adoption and foster care practice in the Netherlands



Services for children in need of a family in the Netherlands are currently under debate. Whereas hundreds of children are waiting to be fostered, thousands of would-be parents are waiting to adopt a child from a far-away country. Whereas foster carers can rely on support and counselling when needed, when the adoption is a fact adoptive parents are 'on their own'. This becomes more and more problematic since children entering the Netherlands are getting older and/or are having an increasingly more difficult background. Efforts are being made to link adoptive and foster care services. The poster discusses the efforts and need for linking as well as the subjects on which adoptive and fostering services might strengthen each other. There is sufficient evidence base that suggests the need for a continuum in services.



In the Netherlands adoption and foster care are two completely separate routes. Domestic adoption is rare whereas foreign adoptions were quite common up until last year. As for numbers, on a yearly basis nearly 13,000 children find a new home through foster care, whereas nearly 800 are internationally adopted[1]. In the mean while there was December 2007 a waiting list of nearly 1,000 Dutch children waiting for a (temporary family) simultaneously over 4,000 couples are waiting to adopt a foreign child.


Foster care has been thoroughly linked to child protection in the Netherlands, whereas foreign adoptions emerged from private initiative. Also a foster child will rarely be adopted by its foster-carers. Involuntary freeing for adoption is not an option under current Dutch law. However, both adoption and fostering laws are under revision as well as child protection laws so this might provide a legal basis for change in the future. Also some huge adoption scandals have been the focus of attention, leaving prospective adopters doubting their decision to adopt.


Key findings and implications

Adoption is a good option for children in need for a family (Van Ijzendoorn and Juffer 2006). Research shows the merits of permanency both on group as well as individual levels, it is therefore important to design services that will provide children with this permanency so needed to support healthy developments.


The number of adoptable children is decreasing dramatically whilst the number of children waiting for a foster family is rising. The media are focusing on the more negative aspects of adoption; money and market issues are being discussed. Both the public debate, politics and media are redefining adoption (Juffer 2006, Vinke 2007). By the end of May 2008, a specific committee will have advised the Dutch government on the issues above.


Examples of good practice in collaboration between adoptive and foster care services can be found, e.g. campaigning, providing video interaction guidance, and support teams for both adoptive and foster care parents.


Finally adult adoptees are taking the stand and will most likely influence both the debate as well as the development of services. There is no sign yet of adult foster children, but it is not unlikely that the example given by adult adoptees will help them to develop services targeted at adults who were in care too.



Linking the legal frameworks as well as an extensive collaboration between fostering and adoptive services in the Netherlands is needed in order to address the needs of children properly. There is need for a full debate and design of services in which both professionals, members of the adoption and foster care triangle as well as scientists participate. The debate is beginning, and the poster will suggest pathways to be explored and developed in the future for children in foster and adoptive families in the Netherlands.


Key references

Juffer, F. (2006). 'De pleegzorg is het kind van de rekening. Meer juridische zekerheid gewenst' ('foster care takes the bill, more legal security needed'). 0/25 Vaktijdschrift over jeugdwelzijn, jeugdzorg, jeugdbeleid, 10, 28-30.


Van IJzendoorn, M.H. and Juffer, F. (2006) 'The Emanuel Miller Memorial Lecture 2006: Adoption as intervention. Meta-analytic evidence for massive catch up and plasticity in physical, socio-emotional and cognitive development.' Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 47, 1228-1245.


Vinke, A.J.G. (2007) 'Adoptie in beweging' ('adoption moving, 50 years adoption Law in the Netherlands'). Tijdschrift voor Familie en Jeugdrecht 38, 4, 94-99.


Oosterman, M., Schuengel, C., Slot, N.W., Bullens, R.A.R. and Doreleijers, T.A.H. (2007) 'Disruptions in foster care: a review and meta-analysis.' Children and Youth Services Review 29, 53-76.


Contact details

Adoptiepraktijk Vinke, Bilthoven (www.adoptiepraktijk.nl) and Leiden University, Dept. of Child and Family studies (www.fsw.leidenuniv.nl). Email: av@adoptiepraktijk.nl or: AVinke@fsw.leidenuniv.nl


[1]2007 statistics, provided by Foster Care Netherlands and the Foundation Adoption Services.


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