Baby ‘injured by DoCS blunder’

AN apparent blunder by the Department Of Community Services has seen a baby girl suffer brain injury and two broken legs after she was placed with relatives in Lismore earlier this year.

The terribly injured nine-month-old baby, known as Chloe, was removed by DoCS from her mother only days after the birth and placed in short-term care with a foster parent before being sent to relatives in Lismore.

While in foster care, in Western Sydney, Chloe was taken on regular visits to see her mother who was interned in Silverwater Jail.

But a policy that encourages children to return to their family resulted in the baby girl being placed with Lismore relatives who caused her near-death last June. Police are still investigating the cause of Chloe's injuries.

Now a foster parent spokeswoman has lambasted the department and the courts for failing children at risk.

Denise Crisp, of the Foster Care Association of NSW, said DoCS and the courts were 'very reluctant' to remove children at risk from their families.

“If you can keep children with their families then do it, but there are families with a history of abuse and that cycle's got to be broken.” she said. “It's got worse and society's allowed it to happen.

“The system is failing these kids. They're taken out of foster care and end up in the juvenile justice system and they have kids which end up in care.”

Because of budget restrictions there are limited carers for an ever increasing number of foster children.

“Foster carers are sometimes treated worse than the birth family,” Mrs Crisp said.

However, a Lismore foster care parent, who asked not to be named, has defended DoCS and the care system, saying case workers 'go to great lengths' to make the right decision based on the right information.

“Society's expectations of finding 100 per cent perfect care every time are not realistic,” the carer said. “DoCS bashing is an easy thing to do, but it doesn't help anybody.”

Clarence MP Steve Cansdell - himself a foster child - said he was frustrated by the number of DoCS cases that continued with a policy of reuniting a child with the family.

“I hear too many stories, stories that break your heart, of these kids being innocent victims of drugs and alcohol and violence.

“DoCS should provide more scrutiny when taking children out of a safe foster care environment and placing them in an unsafe family environment.”

Chief executive of Community Care, Annette Gallard, said numerous background checks, including police checks, were done on the relatives.

The department has been very consistent over the year with about 60 per cent of children placed in the care of relatives.

“In all cases we thoroughly assess the carers and do a number of checks,” she said. “Nobody could have foreseen this tragedy. “If there is new information comes to light that we should have acted differently then we will review our policy. But at this stage it appears all appropriate assessments including police checks came back clear.”

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