Children taken from parents with no evidence of risk, judge says
By Kim Arlington
December 26, 2008 06:39am
- Kids taken from parents by child welfare
- Judge says no evidence they were at risk
- Says it was a gross abuse of power
A JUDGE says it was a "gross abuse of power" for child welfare staff to forcibly remove two babies from their parents' care when there was no evidence they were at risk of harm.
Ordering that the children be returned to their parents immediately, Supreme Court Justice George Palmer said the New South Wales Department of Community Services officers' actions had "gravely imperilled" the children's best interests.
"My principal concern is that young children who have been well cared for by their parents have been removed from their care for some three months and, if the DOCS officers have their way, will be kept out of their parents' care for another three months, for no good reason," Justice Palmer said.
Although the parents were recreational cannabis users, the judge said there was no evidence that it posed a direct risk of harm to their children - a 15-month-old girl and a month-old boy.
He said there was no evidence the children, who were given the pseudonyms Georgia and Luke, were neglected or physically or emotionally abused.
Given that the parents were not mentally ill and had no relevant criminal history, he questioned why their children were forcibly removed and why DOCS was pursuing a care plan that would keep them in custody until May.
He said there had been "a serious abuse by certain DOCS officers of the department's power to take children into custody".
The court heard that DOCS sought to meet the parents on September 12 but did not respond to their attempts to reschedule. When the couple failed to show up, three officers came to their house.
The mother denied her children were at risk but the officers returned with two police officers and removed the children.
The parents, who cannot be identified, applied to the Supreme Court to have their children returned, a move opposed by DOCS.
Officers' attitude showed "an intransigent refusal to acknowledge a mistake, regardless of the consequences to the children", Justice Palmer said.
A psychologist who assessed the children and their parents noted: "Both parents are well able to provide for the safety, welfare and wellbeing of their infant children."
Justice Palmer last week ordered that Georgia and Luke be immediately returned to their parents.
DOCS declined to comment on the case, saying it would carefully examine the judgment and consider whether to appeal.