Dutch child care agencies row over teen sailor’s round the world bid

TWO Dutch child care agencies battled yesterday over whether a 14-year-old sailor is ready to embark on a risky solo voyage around the world.

Youth workers who have been monitoring Laura Dekker for months told a closed-door court hearing they believe she is now ready to set sail and asked judges to end a guardianship order imposed last year amid fears for her safety.

“Based on the sail plan Laura has shown us and on signals from school, we say there is no need to prolong” the guardianship, said Joost Lanshage, a spokesman for the Bureau for Youth Care, the agency that has monitored Dekker.

But the Council for Child Care, a more senior government agency, said it is still concerned about her emotional development and asked the court to prolong the guardianship for another year.

The conflicting applications were made before judges in the southern Dutch city of Middelburg. A ruling is scheduled for July 27.

Lanshage said it was not unusual for the two groups to disagree about when guardianship orders should be lifted. Under Dutch law, only the Child Care Council can request a guardianship order, while his agency is often appointed to act as the guardian.

Dekker’s lawyer Peter de Lange was unavailable for comment.

Dekker was made a ward of the state last year after her plan to try to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world raised concerns over her physical ability and her social development. Both her parents, who are divorced, back the plan.

Richard Bakker, a spokesman for the Council for Child Care, said authorities hoped to end uncertainty for Dekker by applying for a year extension rather than repeatedly asking for one-month extensions.

At a hearing last month, when the guardianship was prolonged by a month, De Lange said Dekker was working to meet 14 conditions imposed by the court nine months ago before it would let her set sail.

She has obtained a first aid diploma, practised functioning while sleep-deprived and arranged to follow schoolwork via internet, he said.

Last month, she sailed solo to England and back — 22 hours each way — to show her command of her small yacht and its seaworthiness.


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