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Coming to the Netherlands on your own: how do we care for unaccompanied refugee children?

30 November 2021
Jet Rip will defend her thesis on care for unaccompanied refugee children on 2 December.

Refugee children under the age of fifteen who arrive in the Netherlands alone do not end up in an asylum seekers' centre, but in a foster family. According to research, this also works out well. Nidos, the organization responsible for the care and placement of unaccompanied refugee children, places these children in families that 'culturally match'. For her doctoral research, Jet Rip looked into the success of these placements. Which revealed that this does work, but in the long run it can actually hinder.

Cultural matching

To evaluate whether cultural matching is useful, Jet Rip examined what the children, shelter parents, and guardians of Nidos thought about the placements. The study found that children do initially benefit from being placed in foster families with the same language, eating habits, manners, and religion. 'Children indicate that they feel supported because they recognize certain customs and can, for example, go to church together. That is extremely positive," says Jet Rip.

The long term

So it seems that cultural matching works well, but the research shows the cultural match can actually become a hurdle over time. The research shows that placements with many cultural similarities tend to be negative over time, while placements with fewer similarities tend to be more positive," says Jet Rip.

It seems that as the children become more accustomed to Dutch culture, the culture of the foster family can be experienced as a constraint. 'When children want to integrate more, the question is whether such a 'cultural family' can support them," explains Jet Rip. 'We also see that they often start to consider religion less important over time, and that can cause problems.'

The right support

The study points out that it is important to support children not only in terms of a cultural match. The study also emphasizes the importance of a good relationship between children and foster parents. 'Therefore, professional support should also focus on maintaining or improving that relationship'. Over time, care parents also report more social-emotional problems in the children. 'This suggests that it is important to invest in supporting caregivers in dealing with children's difficult behaviour in order for the placement to remain successful,' Jet Rip concludes.

Jet Rip will defend her thesis on December 2 at 14:30 in the Academy Building of the RUG. For more information, please visit the website. The ceremony can also be followed via the live stream.

Last modified:06 December 2021 3.51 p.m.
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