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 Tale of broken, battered kids shows system on brink

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chocochip
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PostSubject: Tale of broken, battered kids shows system on brink   June 11th 2009, 10:19 am

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25618518-5013404,00.html


THEY were eight children living in a three-bedroom house with mice and rubbish in every room.

Four had disabilities: some couldn't hear properly; some couldn't walk properly; all were malnourished and had head lice. Several had broken bones, and none could use a knife and fork.

Their mother, a young Sunni Muslim woman, veiled from head to toe, found caring for the children impossible, especially as the older ones grew wilder, and then violent. Her husband, an Iraqi, is believed to have at least two other women he refers to as his "wives" and they, too, have children.

He moves between their different houses. None had paid work.

The NSW Department of Community Services has known of the situation for years; and has surely also known that it was a disaster waiting to happen.

Last October - that is, more than eight months ago - the crisis came.

One of the youngest children, a boy, was taken to Westmead Hospital with broken bones. He came out with a cast from chest to knee, so heavy that it took two people to carry him.

What has happened next provides perhaps the most graphic example of the child welfare system in NSW which, despite the billions spent and the reports written, the speeches given and the promises made, teeters on the edge of collapse.

None of the eight children - the bruised, broken and, in one case, burnt children - were sent to a safe haven. Instead, they all had their heads shaved to remove the lice, and they were then farmed out.

Seven of the eight at first went to next-door neighbours, a Muslim couple who have five children of their own - meaning that there were, at one point, 12 kids in the house, five of them disabled.

The little boy with the broken bones and the body cast went to that carer's mother, a 55-year-old woman who couldn't at first lift the boy, so heavy was the plaster.

Three of the children - including a baby that had at some point been burnt with petrol, possibly at the hands of his developmentally delayed brother, and two other toddlers - later went to a friend of the first neighbour.

None of these people had been trained as foster carers; none had a police check done; none were registered as carers, as is required by law. All have put their hearts and souls into the mess, but at least one is now at breaking point.

The story came to The Australian's attention via the Foster Care Association - a body defunded by DOCS last year, after raising a great ruckus about the state of foster care in NSW - which took an anguished call from that carer. We can't name her, or any of the children, so let's call her Nareeda.

Like the children, she is a Muslim (not Sunni, but Shi'ite. She does not wear the veil and has removed the veil from the girls now in her care). Nareeda said she had been living next door to the children's mother for about a decade, before "it became too much and I had to act".

"If you could see the state of the house where they lived, you wouldn't believe it, there were holes in every wall," she said. "The screaming never stopped. So many of the kids had problems. I couldn't work out what was going on there."

Finally, one day last October, one of the boys from next door told her that he had deliberately broken his brother's leg. "It didn't surprise me," she said. "Look at them - they've all had a broken nose, a broken arm. The children beat each other."

Nareeda called the police, and the DOCS 24-hour hotline. The boy with the broken bones was taken to the Children's Hospital at Westmead. Nareeda then took six of the other seven children into her own home.

"I said, 'I can't leave them there any more'," she said.

"And their father thanked me. Their mother kissed my feet."

Nareeda says DOCS workers dropped by her home soon afterwards and gave her $150 for food, and told her that the eight children would never return to their mother.

"But they said: 'We don't know where we are going to put them'."

It is departmental policy to place Muslim children with Muslim carers where possible, and there are very few Muslim foster carers.

It is also departmental policy to keep siblings together where possible, so the search was on for Muslim foster parents who could take eight children, four of whom had disabilities, including Fragile X syndrome, who needed to go to special schools.

"You would not believe how those children were when they came to me," Nareeda says. "They could not dress themselves. They could not feed themselves, shower themselves. I had to wash them. They go to the toilet on themselves. They were wild.

"I said: 'Who will take them?'. And they said: 'Do you know anyone?'."

Nareeda says she agreed to call a friend and her husband, who agreed to take the three youngest children - the baby, and two toddlers - into their home. The Australian understands that they are now thriving, and this couple would be pleased to keep those children with them. Nareeda's mother, who is 55, agreed to take the boy with the broken leg. They have bonded, and she wants to keep him.

That left four of the eight children, including the two with the most serious disabilities, with nowhere to go, so Nareeda took them in, to live alongside her own five kids. Given that neither she, nor the people she found to take the other children were actually registered as foster carers, the department had to move quickly, to get them on the books.

"They said, 'Here, we'll make you a foster carer'," Nareeda says. "They got me to sign this form, and then started paying me some money."

Since the start of December, she's been receiving $1770 a fortnight or about $220 a week per child, the base rate in NSW. "They didn't want to pay more because they said it's not permanent," she said.

But weeks went by, and then months, and the children are still with her. In that time, she has grown to love them, but says four are too many. She says she has made at least 30 calls to the DOCS hotline, begging them to remove the boy, saying he was violent and abusive.

"He hits my kids and he took my gold rings and buried them somewhere," she said. "He says to my daughter: 'You have big boobs'. I told them he can't stay here.

"I want the other three but he can't stay here. He needs special help. I have five other children. He needs to be with somebody who can take the time."

She said the department's response was to threaten to remove all the children from her care, and remove the boy with the broken bones from the care of her mother.

"That is actually cruel because he wants to stay with her. He clings to her," Nareeda says. "But they have come to me now saying, 'There are problems here. You're not coping. You are not a proper foster parent. Your mother is too old.'

"I told them, 'I can keep the three. I cannot keep the boy but I can keep the three. Don't take them.'

"I told them, 'I saved these children'. But now they are saying, after 10 months, 'No, we are coming for them'."

When The Australian contacted DOCS head office yesterday, it seemed not to know where the children were living. In a statement, it said it believed the children were with "extended family members".

Told that The Australian had visited Nareeda's home, where eight children were sitting around a rug eating rice and green beans with their fingers, they said they'd have to check it out. Nareeda said neither she, nor any of the other carers, are in any way related to any of the children.

DOCS would not comment on the long-term plan for the children, because "the matter is currently before the Children's Court".

The president of the Foster Care Association, Denise Crisp, says the case highlights "just how appalling the situation is for children in NSW."

Opposition spokeswoman Pru Goward said she fielded calls daily about the department and the plight of children in its care.

"You have a situation where children are being farmed out to whoever in the street might take them.

"The department says: 'We've got no carers'. Do they ever ask why? Is it because the system has collapsed?"

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chocochip
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PostSubject: Re: Tale of broken, battered kids shows system on brink   June 11th 2009, 10:20 am

That is so sad Sad I agree that the Docs system needs a big overhaul!

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PostSubject: Re: Tale of broken, battered kids shows system on brink   June 11th 2009, 10:27 am

omg that brang tears to my eyes Sad those poor angels Sad
docs needs to do more
the government needs to help more with funding too

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PostSubject: Re: Tale of broken, battered kids shows system on brink   June 11th 2009, 10:36 am

OMG thats so sad
Shocking that the birth parents did nothing to raise them right and just kept having kids (will that keep happening??) I think it sux that she wants to help by keeping 3 out of the 4 when she already has 5 of her own but they want to punish her cos she cant handle 1 of them and wants them to find somewhere else for him
Something needs to be done to the DOCS system!!! Its no wonder people dont want to get involved if they treat people and kids like that
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PostSubject: Re: Tale of broken, battered kids shows system on brink   June 12th 2009, 1:13 am

omg that is disgusting!
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PostSubject: Re: Tale of broken, battered kids shows system on brink   June 12th 2009, 3:25 am

completely agree with kat

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PostSubject: Re: Tale of broken, battered kids shows system on brink   June 16th 2009, 12:48 pm

Docs are hopeless
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PostSubject: Re: Tale of broken, battered kids shows system on brink   June 16th 2009, 2:18 pm

holly crap! thats awful!!!
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PostSubject: Re: Tale of broken, battered kids shows system on brink   June 16th 2009, 2:30 pm

~*Kat*~ wrote:
OMG thats so sad
Shocking that the birth parents did nothing to raise them right and just kept having kids (will that keep happening??) I think it sux that she wants to help by keeping 3 out of the 4 when she already has 5 of her own but they want to punish her cos she cant handle 1 of them and wants them to find somewhere else for him
Something needs to be done to the DOCS system!!! Its no wonder people dont want to get involved if they treat people and kids like that


Ditto to that! Right on Kat Wink

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