HESTIA: Policies and Responses with Regard to Child Abuse and Neglect in England, Germany and the Netherlands: A Comparative Multi-Site Study

In the Hestia project, the child protection systems of England, Germany and the Netherlands were compared at three different levels: policy, practice and impact on parents who were involved in a child maltreatment investigation. 


The policy analyses revealed that the three countries have quite different child protection systems, in terms of aims, traditions, laws and organization. However, scientific research on child maltreatment and European and international regulations like the Children’s Rights Convention make that systems are converging. The cross-country comparison of the case file analyses showed some interesting differences between the countries. Most striking was that England had more reports on physical and sexual abuse than the Netherlands and Germany and that child protection professionals in the Netherlands were having fewer contacts with children, compared to the other countries. The interviews revealed that parents’ experiences with the child protection system were quite similar across the three countries. Parents were stressing the importance of certain elements in the investigation (in particular the relational dimension and the power issue) and the importance of the focus (child vs. parent-oriented) professionals were taking during the investigation.

The Hestia project showed how deeply child protection systems differ across countries and how this impacts practice of child maltreatment investigations and partly also the experiences and views of clients. The results of this unique project are relevant both for policy makers and professionals and the overall design of the project may become a template for researchers in Europe and abroad conducting comparative studies in the field of child protection.


Project links

Research Team

Prof. H.W.E. Grietens
University of Groningen

Prof. N. Biehal
University of York

Prof. S. Walper
Deutsches Jugendinstitut