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Ombudsman Fails Child Protection System
April 13, 2013 permalink
The ombudsman has issued a report severely critical of the child protection system. He highlighted the case of a boy taken into care at age 6 and held for a year. It took twelve months of lobbying by an advocacy group for the family to even visit the child.
Human rights lawyer Greg Barns commented:
"The most tragic flaw in the current system is when you see a mother give birth and you've got Child Protection workers with a court document, a warrant which gives them the right to take a baby within hours of that baby being born.
This news does not come from Ontario, but from the other side of the earth. The report was by the Ombudsman of Tasmania.
Ombudsman finds failings in child protection
Child welfare advocates are warning of another Stolen Generation unless drastic changes are made to Tasmania's child protection structure.
In a damning draft report, obtained by 730 Tasmania, the State's Ombudsman has found widespread failings in the system.
The report investigated the case of a six-year-old boy taken into state care in 2009.
The boy was removed from his immediate family while police investigated his mother over a separate issue.
For the boys' extended family it was the start of a 17-month long battle, for custody.
The toddler's aunt says it took 12 months and lobbying by an advocacy group, before the authorities would even let her see her nephew.
"It was heartbreaking, not knowing whether he's okay or whether he'd forgotten about us," she said.
The Ombudsman's report into the case raises serious allegations against the Health and Human Services Department, and questions the accuracy of documents lodged in court.
Under State legislation, the Department is obliged to try and keep a child within the extended family, when appropriate.
The draft report found that seventeen days into his state care, the boy's foster carer was told it was likely the toddler would be placed with her until he was 18-years-old.
Human rights lawyer Greg Barns says the system isn't working in the best interests of children.
"The most tragic flaw in the current Tasmanian system is when you see a mother give birth and you've got Child Protection workers with a court document, a warrant which gives them the right to take a baby within hours of that baby being born," he said.
"You know, that is the creation of a new stolen generation and there will be a reckoning and accounting at some future point for that conduct."
Mr Barns wants an overhaul of the current structure.
"The Act itself forces people's hand. It means that you go down the litigation path when you should actually be doing what's done in New Zealand and various other places and that is sitting around in a collaborative fashion and working through issues."
The boy's aunt is unhappy with the formal apology from the Department.
"It's not even worth the paper it's written on, I'm afraid. That sort of apology just doesn't cut what they've done. It doesn't make up for all the hurt and heartache they've caused our family and that little boy."
730 Tasmania requested an interview with Child and Family Services but was told it 'would be inappropriate [for the department] to comment on an Ombudsman's draft report.'
The response from Tasmania Police and the Minister for Children, Michelle O'Byrne, was similar.
Source: ABC (Australia)