• In welcoming participants of the World Congress of Families in Amsterdam this week, Andre Rouvoet, deputy prime minister of The Netherlands, challenged participants to "build bridges.""I am aware of the outspoken views on the family that many of your organizations have," said Rouvoet. "That's why I want to challenge you to build bridges on the topic of how to live together in a plural society, with different views of the family."At the conference, pro-family leaders, scholars, clergy, and politicians — of many beliefs and nationalities — presented family data and information to participants from 65 countries."This World Congress of Families proves that we are not afraid to have debate or discussion," said Simon Polinder, chairman of the local organizing committee, in his opening address to the conference."For that reason, we have invited many speakers who would not fully agree with the World Congress of Families message, but could still contribute because of their expertise. It is a lost opportunity that many did reject that invitation."According to Rouvoet, family policy in The Netherlands includes three areas of focus.Giving families more time together, including parental leave and flexibility in the workplace.
  • Investing in families by providing child benefits to underprivileged children.
  • Supporting parents through the youth and family centers, where "parents can seek out answers to their parenting and relationship questions."

With a focus on children, Rouvoet said the Dutch government protects and supports children living in "any form of family structure." (The Netherlands legalized same-sex marriage in 2001.)Allen Carlson, the chairman of the conference, said that the local organizing committee chose to focus on the child, because the child is the one that benefits most from a stable, loving family.Rouvoet concluded his remarks by reminding the conference participants that that "Children and loving families are our future, and therefore, our hope as well."