"*** GEORGIA AND LUKE CASE FINALLY SETTLED. "Big payout to Foster care kids""

THE NSW Department of Family and Community Services will pay a substantial settlement to two children it forced into foster care after caseworkers noted the infants' parents used marijuana.  Mediation with each of the parents is also likely to result in significant payments to them.

Judge George Palmer, who heard the case to have the children, named Georgia and Luke for the purpose of the proceedings, returned in late 2008, noted at the time that there was "no evidence whatsoever that the parents have ever abused Georgia and Luke physically or emotionally".  He said that the requirement for parents to remain "drug-free" was "questionable".

Yesterday, in the NSW Supreme Court, judge Geoff Bellew said the settlement negotiated by the children's grandfather, a barrister and the department was reasonable and appropriate.

"The infants were subjected to a psychological assessment by Istvan Schreiner . . . who formed the view there was some anxiety condition of the child known as Georgia," Justice Bellew said. "He also noted the children 'presented with trauma-related symptoms'."

The parents' relationship broke down in 2009, not long after the intervention.

The father yesterday told The Weekend Australian the decision was the "end of a long journey".

"I wouldn't wish what we have gone through on anybody -- it has been a traumatic six years," he said. "I was a first-time parent and I was denied this opportunity to bond with my kids the way a normal father might have been allowed.

"After all this time they (the department) have admitted they did something wrong, and that helps."

He said the money would go into trust for the two children. "They'll get the kind of start in adult life I never had," he said.

"But it's compensation for a very rough beginning. They're both such intelligent kids."

In 2008, Justice Palmer said there were many questions as to the conduct of the department, particularly since there was no evidence against the parents except for "recreational" marijuana use.

"Why, then, were the children of these parents removed forcibly by police officers from their home on 12 September, 2008? Why have they been kept in DOCS' custody for the last 13 weeks? Why will they be kept in DOCS' custody for another six weeks before their care application is heard in the Children's Court? Why do the DOCS officers seek a care plan which will keep these children in custody until May next year?

"It is difficult to resist the conclusion that (DOCS) officers grossly overreacted to the parents' hostility to DOCS' unjustified insistence that the children were at risk of harm."

The rebadged Department of Family and Community Services said yesterday that drug taking was just one factor when assessing risks to children.

A spokeswoman said FACS "will only act where we see evidence there are impacts on a child's care that need to be addressed. FACS acknowledges there will be occasions where the Children's Court, or a higher court like the Supreme Court on review, does not agree with our view."  (Source : http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/big-payout-to-foster-care-kids/story-e6frgczx-1226777470536#)

 

 

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