In some Western societies, inquiries into fatal abuse of children known to agencies are nowadays a common phenomenon. They have been carried out in the UK for many years, but have recently also emerged in the Netherlands. The main aim of these inquiries is to improve child welfare and protection practice in order to reduce the chance of further child deaths. However, there is reason to critically consider the feasibility of this aim, as British research into child death investigations suggests that they have hardly worked and even may have had counter productive consequences. This paper examines for the first time all Dutch public inquiry reports into child abuse fatalities. It is shown that the problems highlighted in the reports are highly similar to those recurring in their British counterparts. Furthermore, there are considerable similarities between Dutch and British investigations regarding the solutions they propose. Like British inquiries and reviews, Dutch inquiries largely focus on changing procedures, introducing decision-making instruments and increasing monitoring. This one-sided emphasis on bureaucratic measures, the paper argues, does not rate the human side of child protection work at its true value, and makes it questionable whether the inquiries will contribute to improving practice.
- Public inquiries, child abuse deaths, child welfare, child protection, risk