Couple awarded $50k to sue NSW DOCS
- Category: Child Protection Lawsuits
- Created: Monday, 20 April 2009 21:29
- Written by Caroline Overington - The Australian
SELF-DESCRIBED hippies from northern NSW are suing the state's Department of Community Services for removing their two healthy children from their care without a good reason.
The couple - who cannot be named despite wanting to tell their story and not being guilty of any offence - were last week awarded legal costs, believed to exceed $50,000, for the fight to have their children returned.
They could not afford a lawyer so represented themselves in court. The mother told The Australian that the money would be used to pursue DOCS further. A judge has found their children were taken for no good reason, in an apparent abuse of power by welfare workers.
The case comes as two Queensland families prepare legal action against the Department of Child Safety for removing their children and placing them in foster homes, where they died. In one case, the family's two-year-old boy suffered a head injury at the home of his 74-year-old foster mother and died a week later in hospital. The coroner is examining.
The boy's father does not deny he has a long criminal history and a drug problem, but he says the department should not have placed his son in a foster home with older children and an elderly carer. He says the boy was not being supervised when he was hurt.
In another case, revealed on ABC radio's Law Report in a special series on the secrecy that surrounds decisions to remove children from their parents, a first-time mother was told her daughter had died in foster care, from unknown causes.
A mother - who likewise wants to tell her story but is forbidden from revealing her identity - told the ABC's Heather Stewart that her baby girl had shown some problems during a 20-week scan. The baby had an operation immediately after birth, and another several months later. During a later medical appointment, a doctor noticed some bruising and scratches, and notified the Queensland Department of Child Safety, as required by law. The department removed the child from her mother and placed her in foster care.
The family fought hard to have the child returned but, at eight months, the baby girl suddenly died. The coroner is investigating.
In the NSW case, two children were removed from their parents' care after they had an argument with DOCS workers over the mother's weight.
A DOCS worker told the court she was concerned about drug use in the house and told the mother she looked as if she had lost weight.
The mother replied: "You look like you've put on weight."
Hours later, the DOCS worker returned to the house with police and removed the children. They were placed in foster care for nine weeks, before Supreme Court judge George Palmer ordered the family reunited. He said he could not understand why DOCS had removed the baby, or why it was trying to keep the baby in care.
In the second Queensland case, the grandmother told the Law Report: "We tried desperately to get her back. We offered other family members that would care for her.
"But DOCS is like an iron gate - you just can't get through. They never return your calls. They don't answer letters. They have no need to talk to family. Once they take your baby, they've done their job and they just don't want you around."
The family has a letter from Queensland's then attorney-general Kerry Shine, which says: "I accept you feel terribly let down by the actions of the department, which limited the time you were able to spend with your granddaughter during her short life."
Source : https://amp.theaustralian.com.au/archive/news/couple-awarded-50k-to-sue-docs/news-story/44339fec9e639a6d0449d9715e0c573f