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Reaction on report: Investigation of the extent of volunteertravel from NL to residential care inst.

This post is based on the reaction of Better Care Network Netherlands. We cooperate with Better Care Network Netherlands and our thoughts are in line with BCNN.

On January 14, 2020, the research report on volunteer travel from the Netherlands to residential care institutions for children, commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was published. The Cabinet's response was also released that day. In view of the research results and recommendations, Westerlaken foundation emphasises the urgency for both the sector and the government to take action to prevent (unintentional) harm to children.

The study clearly describes the adverse consequences of the - usually well-intended - travels of volunteers. The researchers observe the following harmful effects:

- the unnecessary maintenance of residential care facilities for children

- fueling an offer of "orphans"

- the risk of vulnerable children becoming victims of child trafficking

- the danger that vulnerable children will develop attachment problems

- exposing vulnerable children to unprofessional care

- the risk of vulnerable children becoming victims of abuse

- maintaining neocolonial relations and ideas

- disrupting the local labor market.


The researchers propose a number of targeted policy measures, including with regard to (the retention of) ANBI status, conditions for registration with the Chamber of Commerce and a mandatory Certificate of Good Conduct (VOG) for volunteers. Furthermore, the government could invest in tackling root causes and entrust the file explicitly to a ministry, so that there is a portfolio holder who works closely with other ministries to sufficiently guarantee knowledge in related areas, including children's rights. The government can also invest in information campaigns, dialogue with the sector and international dissemination of the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care for Children. As far as the sector is concerned, the research proposes, among other things, a quality mark for providers.

The letter to parliament shows that the government believes that working with (vulnerable) children abroad should be based on similar principles and minimum requirements as in the Netherlands. Dutch childcare regulations serve as a reference in this respect. The government is committed to a broad due diligence obligation for companies, which can be included in the further elaboration of the Child Labor Duty of Care Act adopted in 2019.

Urgency in action from government and sector

Due to the corona pandemic, poverty has increased sharply and more families have come into vulnerable situations. Westerlaken foundation / Yayasan Bali Bersih engages in an ongoing research to the effects of COVID-19 towards orphanages.

There is a great urgency to implement important recommendations of the research, so that initiatives are developed that are truly in the interest of children. In line with BCNN Westerlaken foundation unfortunately misses this sense of urgency in Minister Kaag's letter to the House of Representatives. There is no concrete and ambitious timeline for further research and the elaboration of the various action perspectives. Westerlaken foundation / Yayasan Bali Bersih continues to advocate the current Indonesian Decree of the Minister of Social Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia No.30/HUK/2011: National Standards of Care for Child Welfare Institutions and will launch a campaign to stop orphanage tourism in Bali soon.


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