Five or more youth support living groups have had to close in the last six months due to a shortage of staff. This is evident from a survey of the report magazine “Pano” and confirmed by Agentschap OpGroei. They are currently launching a job database specifically for youth support to help graduates find their way into this area more easily.
Youth Help (formerly Special Youth Care) is a highly diverse sector aimed at protecting children and adolescents. For example, Duffle’s Teruelst Center allows children and adolescents in need to be diagnosed and started treatment.
At least that is the intention. But on average, children and adolescents are on the waiting list for a year. Not only is there too few places, but the waiting list is long due to a significant shortage of staff. Earlier this year, Tel Elst had to fight 10 to 15 percent of unfilled vacancies.
The center was forced to take drastic measures. “Last October, we had to integrate the two living groups due to a shortage of staff,” said Care Director Chris Diepvens. “It’s difficult because it creates larger living groups elsewhere and children and adolescents receive more incentives. It makes it harder to live together in turn and puts more pressure on staff.”
In February, the two living groups were also completely closed. The center could not find enough talent to supervise the children who lived there 24 hours a day. Tel Elst is not the only one having this problem. Over the past six months, five or more life groups in youth care have been closed due to staff shortages.
It’s difficult because it creates larger living groups elsewhere and children and adolescents get more incentives
The care organization i-mens, which operates various centers for childcare and family support, also had to close their living groups. “Nothing else was really possible,” sighed the director of Child Care Ingrid Demeria. “In close consultation with our network and the Opgrown Agency, we decided not to accept new children and sought a solution for all children in the living group. It is inevitable. It’s not obvious because it puts pressure on other parts of the body. “
Meanwhile, the care organization was able to hire staff again, allowing the closed life group to resume. “The closure was only a temporary urgent solution, and we hope to get it back in the fall,” says De Meerleer.
They noticed that organizations such as i-mens (temporarily and inevitably) chose to stop recording, for example in Pasrel, Schaerbeek. Young people between the ages of 0 and 18 are taken care of there while considering which guidance is appropriate for them. “Children often stay here much longer than intended because they can’t go anywhere else in the sector,” says director Catrien de Coster.
Children often stay here much longer than intended because they cannot go elsewhere in the sector.
“It puts pressure on our business, but children can’t be handed over to dangerous family situations because we can’t find staff,” she continues. In March, five employees left Schaerbeek itself. Two locations may be refilled and the other three will remain empty for the time being. “This is a huge amount of the total of nine supervisors,” explains de Koster.
“Most people who work in youth care want to help young people, so they do so with passion,” says de Koster. “But that’s often not enough. Employees here often have to push limits because they don’t have enough resources to get the job done.” Result: Vacancy remains open for extended periods of time even if someone responds.
It hasn’t been overlooked by the Growing Up Agency, says spokesman Niels Heselmans. That’s why they have set up their own vacancy database, especially to support youth. “In fact, we’ve received messages from various organizations that vacancies have remained open for long periods of time. We want to use the vacancies database to help make vacancies more noticeable.”
The campaign is also linked to the launch of the job platform. “You can really make a difference for those kids and young people,” Heselmans claims. “That makes the job very valuable.”
It’s not yet known if the database and the campaign will make a big difference. The sector reacts fairly critically. “All the initiatives are useful, but we need a structural solution.” “Job databases and campaigns don’t solve the problem. Above all, we need to be able to keep our staff longer,” said Goedele Keymolen, a youth care social worker. “We have to look structurally. What can we change?”
We need to look structurally: what can we change?
Under the leadership of former Flemish Welfare Minister Wooter Beak, major reforms have begun (Early and closeBut in this sector, we want to be able to keep our heads on the water first and foremost, rather than contributing to major plans.