Dutch Family Justice – the tragic case of Jose Booij

“Hush little baby, don't you cry
You know your mama was born to die
All my trials, Lord, soon be over”

- All My Trials, sung by Joan Baez

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As I write this, Jose Booij is still alive. As you read it, she might not be. As it is, her face is disfigured and partially paralysed, the result of a suicide attempt that left her in a coma for eight days. And while she may not have been born to die, perhaps her fate was sealed when she was two years old. Simply put, this is her story:

  • In December 2004, Jose’s six week old baby daughter Julia Lynn was taken from her by the Dutch Bureau of Youth Care, and given to foster parents.
  • Almost forty years previously, Jose had herself being taken from her own caring mother at age two and raised by abusive foster parents.
  • Examined in the hospital immediately after being taken, Julia Lynn was found to be perfectly healthy, well fed and well cared for. But she was not returned to her mother.
  • Prior to the baby's removal, Jose Booij was a successful medical doctor practising in North Holland.
  • The trauma and financial consequences of these events and the ones they triggered, as well as numerous court cases, reduced Jose to bankruptcy.
  • Almost two years after Julia Lynn's removal, Jose conceived another child by artificial insemination. But because the government had seized Jose’s assets, and because trauma had left her unable to manage her own affairs, her water supply, electricity and heating were cut off, and as a result she miscarried. Within days she was evicted, and began living on the streets.
  • By way of Belgium, France and Spain, Jose moved to Portugal, where she re-established herself as a translator. She had a job, a house and a car. But again she was dispossessed by order of the Dutch Justice Department, and thrown out onto the streets.
  • On re-entering Holland in 2009 with the intention of renewing her fight to win back her daughter, she was arrested and locked up at the Delta Psychiatric Centre near Rotterdam. It was merely the latest of the 20 times she had been arrested and nine times that she had been thrown into a mental institution. The Dutch government do not recognise that she is traumatised by their own actions; for them she is simply schizophrenic and psychotic. In no other country is she considered to have these mental problems.
  • She continued to be locked up at Delta, denied contact with the outside world, and injected with antipsychotic drugs, because the psychiatric staff did not believe her story. Only after seven months did the Institute make the necessary phone calls that proved that Jose was telling the truth. With the help of friends, she left Delta after 10 months in July 2010, and rented an apartment in The Hague.
  • Jose attempted suicide in November 2010. She had fought to win back her daughter for six years. She has not seen her daughter since March 2005.     
Jose Booij and daughter Julia Lynn

Jose and her baby Julia Lynn, hours before Julia Lynn was removed
by police and child protection authorities

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Jose Booij was born in November 1963, two days after the assassination of President Kennedy. In Britain and America it was a time of fresh ideas and changing lifestyles. But centuries-old prejudices and social mores still prevailed in The Hague, Holland, where Jose lived with her mother and sister. When Jose was two years old she was taken away from her mother, the family falling victim to gossip and prejudice against single motherhood. Despite her mother being well able to take care of her, and despite her mother still keeping Jose's sister, Jose was placed with foster parents.

Her foster parents were a separated couple who hated each other but lived together making a business out of fostering about six children at a time. Jose tells of a decade of verbal, emotional and physical abuse:

“I was beaten severely in the home and so were the other children. Once, when I was four or five years old, I saw my foster parents smash my foster brother John's head against the wall. I saw his eyes turn away and saw him slide down the wall leaving a streak of blood behind him. He was a nice kind boy, and of all the other children in the home I liked him the best. They ordered him to beat me up, but he tried to hit me as gently as he could while still convincing them that he had hurt me. I think they knew that we liked each other, and that's why they ordered him to beat me up. They made me take my glasses off before being hit in case they got damaged.

“He was severely damaged by his experiences. He used to dissociate, like I did, escaping inside his mind, and then they would beat him up because he wasn't paying attention. As he got older, he started drinking, smoking, and using drugs. He was locked up in a mental institution for 20 years, and he tried to kill himself several times. He was stupid enough to jump from a fourth floor window, and ended up with his back broken. But later on he did it right, and threw himself in front of the train. I admired him for that. He had been tortured his whole life but now he was free”.

Throughout Jose’s decade in the home, her real mother had been trying to win her back and to visit her, but the foster parents had prevented this. Finally, she engaged a lawyer and managed to have the home checked out by a competent inspector from the Bureau of Youth Care. As a result, the home was shut down, but by now her mother was a broken woman. Fifteen years after Jose had been taken from her mother, she received an apology from the Dutch government.

Jose spent the remainder of her high school years living in a total of twenty other foster homes, a few weeks at a time in each. In school she worked hard and read assiduously. In each new home, she observed the interactions between adults and children. “I watched how the parents acted, how the children responded, and how it all made everyone feel. So I learned how people behave, but I kept my distance because I felt so different from them. I felt like somebody from a different planet”.

Jose overcame her disadvantaged upbringing to win a place to study medicine at the University of Groningen, starting in 1985. She was a successful student but by the time she was twenty five she was finding that her individuality was causing problems with her medical trainee colleagues. "They started to pressure me to conform in the way I dressed. My clothes were too chic for them. I had to stop varnishing my toenails, using make up, wearing rings and earrings. They said I should cut my hair. I felt that I needed help to deal with the prejudice I was being subjected to, and that is when I came to consult Dr. Bakker”. Also at some point in her medical studies Jose started having dissociative spells, drifting mentally into her own world and snapping back with no memory of the preceding moments. Dissociation is a common response to childhood trauma.

Dr. Beata Bakker was a well-known psychologist who had developed a technique called “Constructional Behavioural Therapy” focussing on future behaviour rather than past history. Dr. Bakker convinced Jose that, although she was suffering depression linked to her childhood traumas, she was not permanently damaged by them and they need not affect her future.

In the years that followed, it seemed as if Dr. Bakker’s assessment was correct. Jose qualified as a doctor, built a successful career and travelled the world. She spent a year practising medicine in the Agogo Hospital in Ghana, where her work included research into malnutrition in babies.

But sixteen years after Jose first consulted Dr. Bakker, her childhood traumas revisited her in a very literal sense. In September 2004 Jose gave birth to a daughter, Julia Lynn, resulting from a brief relationship with musical instrument maker Peter de Koningh. Just six weeks later, on December 2, 2004, agents of the Bureau of Youth Care removed the new baby from Jose’s home in Elim, North Holland, and took her to Bethesda Hospital in nearby Hoogeveen. Almost three decades after Jose had been taken from her mother, her newborn baby had now been taken from her.


Final Page       Newspaper articles on the case