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Jason Bhugwandass: “Treat children in youth care as if they were your own.”

A big week for Jason Bhugwandass. Not only does the 'Stop closed youth care' campaign week of the Forgotten Child start today, Jason has also been nominated for the Issue Award 2022. We spoke to him about the importance of the abolition of closed youth care.  

Jason grew up in an environment with domestic violence. He remained under the radar for a long time, until at a certain point he came into the picture with depression. Almost immediately he was placed in closed youth care. The terrible experiences during this admission motivated him to commit himself to the abolition of these institutions. “If you are in closed youth care, you are in a fairly powerless position. You are limited in everything. There is no internet and your phone will be confiscated, making contact with the outside world impossible. Since I was 18e If I am out of closed youth care - then you no longer fall under youth care - I am committed to abolishing the detention of innocent children with complex problems.” 

In addition to his efforts for the Forgotten Child, Jason can be seen in the documentary 'Jason'. In this portrait directed by Maasja Ooms, the then 22-year-old Jason is followed during his trauma therapy. During this therapy, not only traumas from his former home situation are treated, but also the major psychological effects of his traumatic experiences in closed youth care. When asked whether he had long hesitated about having himself portrayed in this vulnerable way, Jason answered very firmly 'no'. “Of course you don't do something like that for fun, but I knew that it could contribute a lot to clarifying the damage that closed youth care does.”  

The documentary is part of his mission: “The mission I support is that we stop closed youth care institutions. This seems very radical, it sounds as if we would completely stop locking up children in the Netherlands. That is not the case. We would then still have closed departments within child and adolescent psychiatry. In addition, we of course have the youth prison for children who have committed a serious crime. But the large-scale and structural detention of hundreds of children every year must really stop.”  

Children who end up in closed youth care institutions often have a history of neglect, abuse or maltreatment. It is an extremely traumatized group that requires intensive admission or protection. Yet the institutions where these children end up are often barely distinguishable from a prison. “There are often very high fences around the buildings and there is a prison culture within the walls,” says Jason. “It is of course very wrong that we lock children up in a prison setting, when they actually need care. We know that this causes a lot of damage to this target group.” 

While some institutions are currently making great strides, others are lagging behind. Jason sees this as proof of the important role of politicians and policymakers: “When you want to guarantee national change, national management is also necessary.” He had conversations with various politicians, including Gert-Jan Segers of the Christian Union. According to Jason, these conversations have had too little effect, especially in national politics. “This is also because there was decentralization in 2015. The municipalities are responsible for the care that is provided. As a result, national politicians in particular are withdrawing when it comes to youth care. What particularly frustrates me about this is that these children have been removed from their homes under the responsibility of the government. The care they subsequently end up in is not something this government can take its hands off.” 

Jason has been committed to the abolition of closed youth care for several years and expects that this will certainly not end after the Forgotten Child campaign. “With the campaign we are betting on commitment, dedication and perhaps even financial support from those involved. The question then is: how are we going to put the changes into practice? How do we ensure that children are not left completely without care after the abolition of closed youth care? The next step will be to focus on the care we do want to provide, on the alternative. I think that will keep me busy for a few more years!” 

What three things would Jason change about youth care if he were in charge? He finds this difficult to identify with such a major problem, but one goal comes through loud and clear: “If a child is placed in youth care, treat him or her as if it were your own child. Then we will have a different setting tomorrow.”  


Would you also like to support Jason and Het Vergeten Kind's campaign to stop closed youth care? Then sign the petition here:

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