His biggest mission: to ensure that closed youth care stops. No more coercive regime, no more restraining, no more closed doors at night. “You can compare closed youth care with a prison culture: closed doors, isolation cells and a rusted old policy,” says Jason. “I want this to disappear and to be replaced by care with love and attention.”
To the isolation cell
He was an expert by experience for many years. In thirteen months, Jason was in five closed institutions. He has, or has had, severe depression, suicidal thoughts and self-mutilated. All caused by years of domestic violence and abuse by multiple neighbours.
But his worst traumas happened to Jason in child care. Every once in a while he was taken to the solitary cell. “I wasn’t functioning either, I admit that right away. But if you’re already going crazy in your head, you get even crazier on your own in an isolation cell. It would have worked better if a supervisor had talked to me quietly.”
Youth Care Revolution
We spoke to Jason two years ago, in 2018, when he was just starting his revolution for better youth care. He was full of plans, knew what had to be done differently. “But looking back, 2018 was not my best year, Jason says. “There was a lawsuit against one of my abusers. That upset me greatly.”
He had relapses, but also got back up. He spoke at youth care institutions and had a meeting with Minister Hugo de Jonge, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport. “I don’t have the illusion that one conversation with a minister will bring something about. The entire system has to be redesigned. Overworked youth care workers work in a system full of bureaucracy, little trust and with a minimal budget.”
“If you want to change the system, there has to be societal pressure,” Jason says. He is now trying to do that by joining the foundation The Forgotten Child. Together they devise actions to change closed youth care.
There also is a documentary made about him in which he shows how his traumas affect him.
Back to school
Jason is doing a lot better now. He’s been sort of stable for almost two years, has his own house for two months and he’s studying again. “I didn’t go to school for a long time. From 5 vwo I ended up in youth care and I did not manage to do a training.”
It’s hard to get back into the school system after you’ve fallen out, Jason says. “I also had no idea where to start. Until during a guest lecture at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences someone asked: ‘Don’t you want to study yourself?’. “Of course I wanted to, but I didn’t even manage to get my high school diploma.”
Two students and a teacher invited Jason to lunch. “They had figured out what it took to take the 21+ exam, an entrance test to study without a diploma.”
Now he is a second year psychology student. “The first time I went to school with my lunchbox, I was proud. For years I had no education. Now I study at university.”
Something that works very well for him due to the lockdown. “Homeschooling works best for me. Crowded classrooms drive me nuts, doors that can be locked or only open with a card.”
‘No longer accountable’
He does not want to become a psychologist, but with a university degree he keeps his options open for the future. And learning is something he is good at. “Now that I’m studying psychology, I wonder what my psychologists have read. If you know the theory, you can’t justify what we do with children in youth care in the Netherlands, can you?”
He mainly refers to the JeugdzorgPlus, the closed institution as a last resort for young people with complex problems. “These children have often had an unstable youth care trajectory for years and are then placed in a closed institution. No care provider was able to offer another form of help.”
According to Jason, several things are going wrong. Healthcare is decentralized to the municipalities, there is no national policy. According to him, children are removed from home too quickly and do not build a bond with a care provider, because they are changed time and again. Jason himself saw about 135 first responders.
“There is also not one central file. Each institution has its own file. At my peak I had ten diagnoses, each psychologist put a different label on me. After that tenth I could no longer take the psychologists seriously.”
‘Never treated well’
He laughs about it now, and there is now also an advantage: all those diagnoses make his studies easy. “I was able to cross out everything from the DSM (the manual for the classification of mental disorders, ed.), they were my own disorders. I know my diagnoses and which characteristics belong to them. I had an 8.5 for my exam. Haha.”
The only diagnosis he supports himself is PTSD. “That was established when I was 19, when I was out of youth care for a year. For the first time I thought: this is correct.”
He then received trauma therapy for the first time in his life, including EMDR therapy. “It was finally the right form of treatment. I am rid of my worst nightmares and traumas. For years I thought I was untreatable. But now I know that I was never treated properly. I was just locked up.”
It’s not like all his problems are solved at once. It is a process that he is still fully engaged in. “I compare it to a burning house. The fire has been extinguished. But only now can I see what condition my house is in. What condition am I in? What has broken down, what is the damage? Now I’m getting there behind my limitations and what I need to work on.”
His head works differently, he says. He knows his limitations better and better and now tries to come up with sustainable solutions to function better. “I hope society can help me with that. For example, the school system; school is very important to me. But I quickly get overstimulated in crowded lecture halls. I hope that I can continue to homeschool after the lockdown.”
Scratch every time
Jason tries, crashes, scrambles up and tries again. This time he will succeed, he is convinced of that. “A lot of people care about me. Aid workers, a few friends and a bonus family at a distance. “I don’t call my parents, too many traumas, but I talk to my bonus parents and sister every day.”
He has completely rebuilt his network. “Youth care stops from the age of eighteen. Then you are on the street with your traumas and you have to solve it yourself. I had just been locked up for a year, without a telephone. My entire network was gone.”
big safety net
Jason gets tears in his eyes when he talks about his safety net. He is happy with his own home and that he can finally go back to school. “The contrast between a few years ago and now is so great. There are many people who want to help me. Who look at me and ask what I need to function well. I now have so many sweet, nice and funny people around me to.”
There is silence for a moment. Dan: “I am convinced that if I had had trauma therapy at the age of 16, I would not have had to go into all that closed youth care. How is it possible that closed youth care is the first option? Why did no one see that my traumas were the cause of my destructive behavior? Why was I thrown into that isolation cell again and again?”
Small-scale residential groups
Not only Jason is fighting for a different approach to youth care, countless reports and fire letters have been sent to the government. A few closed institutions have now stopped using the isolation cells.
Three days ago, De Koppeling in Amsterdam announced their closed institution next year to close completely. Small-scale groups will be in residential areas, with six young people and two supervisors. “Institutions that want to change, do it and show that it can be done,” says Jason. “There is no longer any reason for other institutions not to follow.”
Source: RTL Nieuws by www.rtlnieuws.nl.
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