The sound of the movie is softer than intended, so it is subtitled in both English and Dutch. Click on settings to select your language.
During the last eight months hundreds of Dutch parents have been contacting the BVIKZ to report what happened to them. They have also received many reports from parents of children with Lyme disease. National media made this into a primetime topic, which was viewed by 1,5 million people. Shortly afterwards the BVIKZ had their third meeting with the Board of the Dutch Child Protection Services called ‘Safe Home’ (SH).
BVIZK chairman Vera Hooglugt agreed to do an exclusive interview for the On Lyme Foundation. We asked her to tell about their general findings of the BVIKZ investigation and specifically about the Lyme cases. The interview took us over three hours.
The BVIKZ has been working intensively to build all cases, scan all files, support the traumatised parents and children, assist in conversations, provide legal help and build up a case to create political impact to fundamentally change the way the whole system is operating. The meetings with SH are absolutely very important for the process.
Hooglugt thinks that they are only just seeing the tip of a much larger iceberg and wants to encourage other parents to be brave and come with their complaints in case of false allegations.
The tipping process
Tips or reporting seem to come from all angles. Tips come from all angles and we have the impression that the ones doing the reporting don't realise how much impact it can have on the lives of the children and the families.
Almost all of the reports we saw are subjective and most are very suggestive. As an independent organisation we can really be neutral and unbiased enough to look at the claims without prejudice. So we strip all assumptions, subjective ‘gut feelings’ and also check on the motives of the ones doing the reporting.
Too often we see that the child's best interests in not at stake. We often see divorced husbands reporting on their ex-wives. The system just regards this as an objective fact, worthy of a formal investigation.
Another example is a government official charged with school absence, who had already given the child leave to skip school. When the family moved house, he found what province they had moved to and asked his colleague to assist in filing in a report on ‘child abuse’.
In another case a commercial company was annoyed that they did not get a contract, because the parents did not find the care provided as fitting for their child. The company reported on the parents and SH did a year long investigation, wrecking the social life of this family.
We urged the parents to ask for the original report, which is within their rights. Their request was denied without reason, so we filed a request as their formal representative.
We then received a paper copy, in which a large part of the text was white-washed. Again we requested the original digital version from SH, but were told that it was deleted due to computer problems. Finally we managed to get the original complaint. By comparing the different versions we could see that all subjective remarks were white-washed.
Employees of the Consultation Office, where new parents go to check on their baby's health and progress, have been reporting them to SH. Simply for not vaccinating their child or wanting to use other services offered by this institution.
Another poignant case is the one of an adult lady, who suffers from Lyme Disease and who is been taken care of by her old mother. She cannot stand light or sound, so she lives in a darkened room. The mother of a distant acquaintance of their neighbour reported on them, after hearing a gossip story about closed curtains. People like her seem to be influenced by prompting calls in the media.
In this case SH tried to get a psychiatrist to both judge the mother with ‘Munchausen by Proxy’ and proclaim the daughter legally ‘incompetent’ (not having her own will). This would allow them to lock her up in a psychiatric ward and blame the mother. Why would Youth Care deal with someone who is of age? After a change in Dutch policy they now have the function to provide safety in everyone's life; from zero to hundred.
Although these examples are shocking enough in themselves, we also saw statements of how family doctors state that they were intimidated by SH to testify against their patients. Fortunately they refused to act against their Hippocratic Oath to ‘first not do harm’.”
The foundation of the accusations
"In all cases we see how easy it has been made for anyone to report on everyone else. This allows everyone to report, without a proper filter in the system. Even though a 'code of conduct' has to be used, we see that happening far too little. Although Dutch Law obliges SH to do ‘truth finding’ or objective research, we don't see this is organised well enough by the different organsiations involved in this field. Our conclusion is that a legal perspective needs to be added: are there enough facts present to merit an investigation.
SH does work with the ‘Triage Model’, but if you look into it, you see meaningless categories and no expertise to actually judge them. The overall tendency is that the people working at SH are committed to ‘win the game’, no matter what. In our investigation we do a scan on who is doing the reporting.
We have compiled a spreadsheet of what is being used as the basis for the allegations. Concerns for ‘social isolation’, ‘cognitive well-being’, ‘somatic well-being’, ‘emotional well-being’. Not going to school for a few weeks is considered as damaging the ‘cognitive well-being’ of the child and thus framed as ‘child abuse’.
So these definitions used in this Triage model are so broad that any report, no matter how suggestive, automatically leads to a formal investigation. The fact that a child has not been to school for several weeks, is framed as ‘damage to mental menatl health’ and later as child abuse.
If you look at how these organisations build their cases, these ‘investigations’ serve one purpose only: to get their way. The result is forced measures that are imposed on the family. In Dutch these are either called OTS (state surveillance) or UHP (placement in a foster home).
From all the files we have studied, the fosters from almost all these organisations are disastrous for the children. In a case of a girl with Lyme the foster told her that she was faking the disease and that since his contract said he should force her to go the school, that was what he would do. The girl fell asleep within one hour in class out of pure misery.
"Oftentimes we help parents in these cases. From this experience and the 168 cases we have already investigated, we see that SH operates from a predisposed distrust. They are backed up in this attitude by the organisaties that are supposed to provide an objective and unbiased check.
Parents are charged under Criminal Law (articles 300 - 304 in Dutch criminal law). What shocked us is that they are forced to cooperate towards their own conviction. In essence this means that in this way parents are convicted upfront, unless they can proof they are innocent.
Which is hard to do, given the amount of stereotyping. [attorney Richard Korver, who was recently interviewed in Dutch to provide practical information to parents with children with Lyme, suggested that the legal prinpicple of Confidence that be used more often. This means to start with the assumption of attitude that most people simply care for their children; unless proven otherwise]
Often on the same day a child is released, we see SH apply for a fast track procedure in court. Without the needed for any further research, custody is taken away, based solely on the claim that there is 'eminent danger in the home situation'.
Different organisations are supposed to act as an impartial factor, but we basically see copying and pasting. SH copies the subjective tips and frames them into legal language. The Council for Child Protection (RvdK) copies these reports in their independent evaluation. Judges copy these conclusions in their verdicts. The other side is not even heard.
The Lyme cases
"We have now researched over fifty cases; the ones which we have fully assembled. These people came after the On Lyme Foundation and the Dutch Federation for Lyme Patients (NVLP) notified them to our research. We had no idea Lyme was such a problem because of the medical and political controversies around it.
We have the strong impression that there are many more Lyme parents, who have become victim of SH but who do not yet dare to contact us. Some parents are so traumatised, it takes us ten phone calls to reassure them that their information is really save with us.
We do see some specific differences with other diseases, which have a less disputed status. Apparently national Lyme policies dictate that after a few weeks of treatment, the cause of the disease is suddenly a 'mental issue' (called MUS: Medically Unexplained Symptoms). Regardless of the fact that these children are still as ill as before.
Again and again we hear stories of parents who tried everything to get medical help in the Netherlands, but who had to go abroad to find better help. The SH doctors overrule the decisions of these specialised physicians instead of cooperating with them."
Suggestions to remedy the system
"Some political parties start to get interested now. However, what they propose is by far not enough to put a stop to this.
If our investigation of these 168 cases is any indication of the general tendency of how the whole chain of Youth Care acts, we are facing a very grave problem. Every day new cases come in and we cannot even keep up with it, since we want to research it meticulously.
In short our recommendations would be:
- Awareness of the ones doing the reporting of how much impact it can have
- A better check on the validity of the reports, before the start of a formal investigation
- Create an independent supervisory system with a Disciplinary Board
- Stop SH doctors from questioning or interfering with medical care without consulting with the parents and other specialists
- Judges should have their own check instead of relying on the reports of this system
- Stop the liberty of SH to order a fast track judgement, with no need for any investigation
- Provide money for aftercare of the victims, but certainly not by SH itself
- Have the Inspection perform an investigation into how SH operates
Looking at the stacks of paperwork on their table, BVIKZ concludes: “This is the actual child abuse”.
A call to parents
Note from the interviewer
This topic ties into what is recently discovered regarding the role of the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the international diagnostic codes for Lyme disease. The WHO has not properly updated their ICD-codes to reflect the many conditions caused by Lyme borreliosis.
These outdated codes contribute to children being classified as having ‘non-specific’ illnesses and having treatments that are ‘experimental’. This allows for the allegations towards both parents and their ill children as well as their expert physicians.
Similar abuses can befall anyone, but is it particularly problematic for those who are already vulnerable. The outdated codes contribute to discrimination and marginalization by many institutions against this patient group.