The Bernard van Leer Foundation has its headquarters in the Hague and a long history of working in the Netherlands. In alignment with the Foundation’s current strategy of transition to scale, our work in the Netherlands aims to address the challenge of effectively supporting the approximately 15 percent of young children and their parents who lack protective factors for child development or are confronted with multiple risk factors. Our focus has shifted from reactive to more preventive care for vulnerable young children and their parents, from before conception through pregnancy and till the age of 3. We see that coherent, integrated approaches and programmes in this crucial period can have a great impact on the health and well-being of children – and, with that, on future adults.

The ambition of the Bernard van Leer Foundation in the Netherlands is to contribute to awareness among municipalities and partners – such as healthcare and welfare providers and health insurance companies – that investing in early childhood development increases the chance of children attaining better health, education, social and economic outcomes in the long term. Key in this is to form local cross-sector coalitions that invest in an integrated approach for a healthy, safe and promising start for all children. The Foundation contributes on different levels and in different domains, particularly by connecting these domains.

For example, locally and regionally we support the formation and strengthening of cross-sector coalitions for a promising start by contributing to a learning and change trajectory aimed at reducing health disparities, as part of the Dutch National Programme Social Domain. We support municipalities and their partners to develop an integrated approach for a safe, healthy and promising start with the social, public health and medical domains.

With this trajectory we aim to stimulate municipalities and key partners to demonstrate leadership to invest in early childhood development, cooperate in new ways, allocate budgets and learn from each other. We look at elements that have proven to be effective in reaching and supporting vulnerable families and are ready to be scaled under our Parents+ programme, focusing not on particular interventions but on how to transform support structures for vulnerable families (starting before pregnancy) so they address the families’ needs directly and have long-term impact.

We investigate with the local coalitions how the urban environment can better support families with young children and what this might ask of urban planning, as part of our Urban95 agenda.

Nationally we address why investing in the first 1000 days of a child’s life is so important through our Building Blocks programme. We contribute to national ambitions and policies around early childhood development on sharing and implementing at scale what works, as well as improving data collection and use, contributing to the national Promising Start Action Program of the Ministry of Health . We also address specific themes, such as extended paid paternity leave and supporting refugee families. We have been working closely with partners such as Women Inc and Rutgers to increase the involvement of fathers in raising their children and partners such as VluchtelingenWerk to ensure refugee families are able to access services and build social networks once they settle into a community.

We invest in sharing the lessons collected in the Netherlands with other countries, and looking at how the Netherlands can learn from abroad. For example, we support the Dutch Youth Institute in investigating how the experiences of the Amsterdam Healthy Weight Approach (AHWP) can be shared in a sustainable and effective manner with other cities worldwide.

To achieve our aims we work closely with societal organisations, national and local governments, knowledge institutions, businesses and communities. The projects we support are the result of long-term research and developed with partner organisations that are identified in our country strategy.