Last week ICDI, along with Stichting JES Rijnland and Centre for Children and Families Leiden hosted the third PINN International Learning Exchange in Leiden. The participants were practitioners, program coordinators, lecturers, researchers and policymakers from Portugal, Ireland, Norway as well as the Netherlands.
The goal was to get a better understanding of how prevention and early intervention 'works' for children with additional needs in the Netherlands. During the busy three-day program the international visitors had the opportunity to speak with parents, teachers, social workers, policymakers, child projection lawyers, lecturers, and family support workers. They heard that a shift in outlook regarding family support in the Netherlands is slowly underway – a move away from reacting to and trying to 'fix' so-called problem families to attempting to really listening to the questions that parents have and standing next to them and working with them.
The participants in the Learning Exchange were impressed by the commitment and dedication of all practitioners to their work with children and saw much to be positive about how health, care and education professionals work together. Het Gebouw, the welcoming community-based integrated center with a library, playgroup, toy library, child and family health center, cafe and primary schools - all under one roof in the multi-cultural Leiden Noord was a highlight. The international visitors also appreciated the family system approach to working in the Netherlands – i.e. not just to responding to the child, or a mother or father when a problem is identified– but aiming to support the whole family dynamic.
They were, however, perturbed about the seemingly increasing segregation that is taking place in the Dutch education system, where more and more children are being referred to special needs schools - this at a time when inclusive education is being prioritized in many countries in Europe (and officially this is also the case in The Netherlands). As remarked by one of the participants in the Learning Exchange, 'I was surprised about this old-fashioned approach in a country like Netherlands'.
PINN, (Proactive International Network for Newborn and Young Children), is supported by the European Erasmus+ Program.
ICDI offers an in-depth report of the Learning Exchange Visit here.