Headquartered in the Netherlands, the Bernard van Leer Foundation has a long history of working in the country on early learning methodologies, access to childcare and preventing child abuse. Since the adoption of our new strategy in 2015, our focus has shifted from reactive to more preventive care and interventions for young children (pregnancy until the age of three). We believe it is in this crucial period that interventions and programmes can have the largest impact on the health and happiness of children. To achieve our goals, we work together with civil society organisations, governments on the local and national level, and the private sector.

Our Parents+ programme supports several initiatives that have proved their effectiveness in reaching and coaching parents, and are ready to be taken to scale. In Amsterdam, for example, we work closely with the municipality to scale and further develop the “first 1000 days” strategy of the Amsterdam Healthy Weight Initiative, an integrative approach focused on childhood obesity, and we are exploring scaling the approach outside of Amsterdam.

From 2018, our main focus is to transform existing services supporting parents from pregnancy through the first 1000 days. We support diverse municipalities to develop, implement and anchor an integrated first 1000 days policy that connects the medical, public health and social domain rather than just supporting municipalities scaling a specific intervention. Cross-learning between municipalities here is key. Furthermore, we are continuing our support for a new initiative focused on improving the quality of parenting support for refugees with young children.

Our Urban95 programme looks at support for young families from an urban planning point of view, focusing not only on safety but also – for example – on how city design can contribute to the development of informal social networks. Together with the Eindhoven University of Technology, we have designed a course for graduates on urban planning and early childhood development.

Finally, within our Building Blocks programme, we share the story of why investing in children’s first 1000 days is so important for the Netherlands. The ultimate objective is to secure more national investment and more leadership from municipalities in light of their increased responsibilities, including prevention. Starting in 2015, we worked with WomenINC, the Rutgers foundation and the Chair on Fatherhood at the University of Amsterdam on the topic of expanding paid leave for fathers and increasing their involvement in their children’s lives. As a result, the Dutch government announced an extension of paid paternity leave in 2017, extending 100% paid paternity leave from 2 to 5 days from 2019. As of July 2020, fathers/partners will receive another 5 weeks at 70% pay, to be taken in the first 6 months after birth.

Our focus this year will be the proper implementation of the extension into law and potential additions to include a focus on solo-care, full pay for low-income families, and leave for independent contractors. Secondly, a cultural change is needed for men/partners to take up the leave, especially in the workforce.