An Australian dad is pleading for help after his son was taken by child protection services because his autism was mistaken as a sign of psychological abuse.
Conrad and Katya den Hertog lost their son Martin, now seven, to Dutch authorities during a night-time raid of their home in Amsterdam in February 2018.
A neighbour dobbed the parents in to police for keeping Martin, who was speech delayed but had not yet been diagnosed as autistic, in a room with closed curtains - a cultural faux pas in the Netherlands interpreted as a sign of abuse.
The IT Manager said they have only seen Martin 12 times since he was placed in an institution, with the child services department threatening to sever all contact if they do not sign him into foster care.
'We’re in a Mexican standoff with Dutch child protection services (CPS),' Mr den Hertog told The Australian.
Martin den Hertog and Katya den Hertog are pleading for Australian politicians to help them get their son back after he was erroneously removed by Dutch authorities
'According to expert assessments from a psychologist and our family doctor, we are the best people to care for Martin’s short- and long-term needs, but Dutch CPS refuse to give Martin back until we sign a contract to place him in foster care.But if we sign that contract, Martin won’t come back to us anyway; he’d go to foster care, so we’re caught in a catch-22 situation.
'They’re waiting for us to crack and sign those papers — but we’ve told them that will never happen as long as we breathe.'
Mr den Hertog, originally from Port Stephens on the NSW mid-north coast, said the couple receive two to three emails a week from the Dutch CPS demanding they agree to the conditions or their parental rights will be stripped.
Martin has been in De Hondsberg - a specialist institution more than an hour away- for two years since five police officers, a judge, and social workers stormed into the family's Amsterdam home and wrenched him away.
The room with closed curtains was not Martin's bedroom as the neighbour had reported, but rather an empty spare room.
Authorities noticed that he had a development delay and presumed it had been caused by neglect or abuse.
Despite several experts identifying autism as the cause, Mr den Hertog said the CPS refuse to confirm their opinion in a bid to avoid embarrassment.
Instead, he said the agency is trying to justify their original decision by applying continuous pressure for Martin to be placed into state care.
The now seven-year-old (pictured with his mother Katya) has spent the past two years in an institution after authorities mistook symptoms of his autism as signs of abuse
Mr den Hertog said he has only seen Martin (pictured together) 12 times since he was placed in an institution
The father-of-one, who moved to the European country in 2002 for work, said statistics show foreigners are four times more likely to have children removed in the Netherlands.
The devastated parents are now calling on Foreign Minister Marise Payne to intervene so Martin, an Australian- Netherlands dual citizen, can be returned.
'Our whole family feels unfortunately very discriminated by the Dutch CPS system,' Mr den Hertog told Daily Mail Australia.
'I feel not listened to as a foreigner father, it seems the system classifies having foreign parents as a 'risk factor' for children.
'[And] despite CPS being aware of a preliminary autism diagnosis, Martin has been labelled by the system as a 'wolf child'.
'But to us, Martin is a precious, charismatic and wonderful boy.'
The den Hertogs hold concerns over the level of care Martin is currently receiving and pledge to continue fighting until he is brought home.
They hope the Senator Payne can take direct diplomatic action to reunite them with their son.
When questioned about the den Hertog's case, Senator Payne’s office referred The Australian to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
It said the DFA could not comment on the matter for privacy reasons.
The Dutch Ministry of Justice did not respond to questions about the deadlock.
The devastated parents claim they are being pressured into signing for Martin to be placed into state care