The four part series about problem families that started Monday Lost children (EO), but as far as I’m concerned had just as good, if not better Lost parents can be called. It is clear that there are problems in the three families that Sahar Meradji followed for months.

    We see Marjolijn and Ronald with their three gifted children, at least one of whom also has autism, ADHD and an emotion regulation problem. Merel and Gerson have a 6-year-old daughter with autism and uncontrolled outbursts of anger, plus a rather busy toddler. The four children of Astrid and Peter appear to be completely fine, but they do live with their parents in a tiny, packed house and live below social security levels.

    A classic sucky childhood is usually characterized by a lack of attention, neglect and mental or physical aggression. Hasn’t a great deal already been gained by the fact that these ‘lost’ children have parents who may not be able to handle it all, but who do care about them?

    Even a little more than strictly necessary. See how mother Merel turns over the cool box on the beach in search of a sandwich that her daughter does like. Everything – in vain – to prevent a tantrum. Mother Marjolijn divides her family and herself over three houses in the Netherlands and Belgium in order to find suitable education for each of her three children – which is also not possible.

    Read also: Documentary filmmaker Sahar Meradji: what does a difficult childhood look like?

    These are parents who have lost grip somewhere. That’s not my opinion, they all say it themselves. Two fathers have ADD or ADHD, three out of three mothers are at least overwrought. You rarely see parents this open and honest about their own shortcomings, let alone show it to the rest of the Netherlands.

    And yes, undoubtedly these families could use some help. Only, what kind of help and who should bring it? Maker Sahar Meradji only lets the parents tell their story, not social workers. The children who are old enough also have their say. Sometimes you hear the echo of their parents when they say: “The schools and healthcare are failing.” Or, “The authorities are out to make Mom’s life miserable.” And indeed, the mother of these children feels “threatened, unsafe and used” by aid workers. This is how care becomes care.

    The mill of care and punishment

    The children in the documentary Mothers (VPRO), from Nirit Peled, received help before they were lost. In the documentary, four mothers talk about their teenage sons, who were on the Amsterdam Top 400 list. In an attempt to nip crime in the bud, then mayor Eberhard van der Laan introduced a list of juvenile habitual offenders in 2016. Anyone who was caught three times, even if it was for something small, immediately entered the mill of care and punishment. Children with an increased risk of future criminal behavior could also be included on the list. Risk factors are: smoking before the tenth year, smoking weed before the twelfth. Hanging out, skipping school, fighting, starting fires. Oh, and non-Dutch or colored parents, according to the only (white) mother, that is also a common denominator.

    The sons of Tanja, Adana, Saskia and Naima did not go well for various reasons. One’s father died, one witnessed a fatal stabbing, one couldn’t sit still in class and the other was a boy, and 12. Theft here, robbery there, they played truant anyway.

    One mother thought it would be a godsend, extra care and guidance for her child. “Only they did not stand next to us, but sat on top of us.” She was treated, she says, as an accomplice to a crime her child did not commit. Tackling a child as a criminal turned out not to be a good idea. What help does help parents who lost grip?

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