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December 24, 2009 permalink
First, the Bayne family, experiencing their third Christmas with parents and children separated by child protectors, are due for a trial in January. Best wishes for an early reunification.
Second and third, enclosed below are two stories showing how to really help a child in need, one from Australia and the other a personal story from an anonymous contributor.
Last Updated: December 24, 2009
Not just black and white in caring for kids at risk
A TEENAGE Aboriginal girl turned up at the door of a white woman's home in an Outback Australian town earlier this year, holding her just-born baby girl.
She was asking for help.
The mother and baby were living in a fringe camp and the baby's health was failing, she had dropped below her birth weight. The young mother asked the white woman: "Can you help make my baby strong?"
The white woman has now been caring for the baby for nine months. She is thriving, happy and quite beautiful. She is alert and interested in her surrounds - not a feature of hungry, sick babies. She will soon take her first steps. The baby will spend her first Christmas safe and comfortable. It could have been very different.
The baby was being raised in a filthy, overcrowded home, visited by loud, violent drunks and crawling with tick- ridden dogs. There was scabies about, and rheumatic fever.
The girl had no support - her mother was in prison and the baby's father was not around.
For good reason, none of the people in this unofficial caring arrangement wish to be identified in any way. The fear is that welfare agencies would swoop, claiming they knew what was in the child's best interests.
No one wants this child to be a government baby. They don't want policy to interfere in any way with the raising of the baby.
Family and Community Services would seek to place the baby with Aboriginal relatives, in order to allow her to become better acquainted with her own people and culture.
But there is growing mistrust of this policy and the baby's carers don't want a repeat of a case currently before the Northern Territory coroner.
Deborah Melville, 12, died in drawn-out agony in 2007, in an outer-Darwin suburb, from an untreated blood infection. The court has heard Deborah was placed in a dirty, overcrowded foster home where she had inadequate care.
The white woman believes the young mother did the right thing in seeking her help.
"I think she's actually been very honest and brave in saying that she couldn't cope," says the white woman. "It's better than pretending you can cope and letting the child starve to death."
The actress and director Deborra-Lee Furness, married to Hugh Jackman with whom she has two adopted children, during last month's National Adoption Awareness Week questioned why affluent Australia had one of the lowest inter-country adoption rates in the world.
Ms Furness said adoption had become stigmatised while hungry children starved and lost the chance to enter caring homes. She also said there were 30,000 Australian children in temporary foster homes who needed permanent placement with families.
The white woman agrees with Furness' sentiments but is not seeking to adopt the Aboriginal baby. Her hope is that the mother will eventually take over caring for her child, but is not ready for the responsibility yet.
The baby has not been "stolen". It is a private arrangement, and that's all. The white woman said she knows of other white families doing the same, helping raise Aboriginal babies away from government control.
The baby's mother has unrestricted access. She lives a short walk away. She can reclaim the baby at any time. But for now, the baby is in a better place, she says.
"Even though the houses are overcrowded, there was no real support for this girl," says the white woman. "She's young and she's pretty but her family unit has broken down.
"The baby wasn't as unwell as some I've seen, but she was very weak.
"If the mothers breastfeed, the kids have half a chance, because breast milk is clean. But often young mothers are embarrassed about breastfeeding.
"When these kids are bottle-fed, there's just no hygiene.
"The bottle gets carted around all day, the babies are drinking milk that's hot, or off and the drunks flog the formula to make their billy tea with or the other toddlers take it.
"They're all fighting for survival."
Source: The Daily Telegraph (Australia)
In this true story from an unnamed contributor, dollar amounts are adjusted to current purchasing power.
One day in the foster home the foster mom called both of us foster boys into the kitchen for an announcement. The parents had met and decided to send the entire school class to an amusement park for a day's fun. The parents had agreed to give their children $100 each for the day's rides and refreshments. The foster mom explained that that was too much for us. We were going to get only $25 each.
When we were at the park with our meager allowance the other foster boy explained our predicament to a strange man, possibly the father of one of the other kids in the group. Once he understood, he instantly reached into his pocket and gave us each $75 so that, for that day at least, we could enjoy the same rides as the other kids.
The kindness of this man remains a fresh memory decades later. It is too late to find and thank this benefactor, but the favor can be reciprocated. If you want to help a child in need, find a way of helping the child directly, bypassing the agencies that purport to act in the best interest of the children.