Forced Removal of Children must End
Imagine you are at home waiting for your children to get off the school bus and come home, only one day they don’t. You panic and go to the school only to be confronted by Department of Community Services (DOCS) officers who will not only deny you access to your children, but also won’t tell you why. The only thing they will say is that a report has been made.
This very thing has happened to two different local parents this week. They don’t know why their children were taken, where they have been taken or when they will learn of what exactly is going on. In the cases of both families, only the younger children were taken, not the eldest. If claims were made that alleged that their home lives were too unstable to be in, why are the eldest children still with their families?
This is why there was a snap action protest and rally called for the 11th December. A silent, sit down protest, at the local DOCS office. For concerned community, to show their solidarity with the families affected. There was to be a second protest held, but one of the parents became so ill with anxiety and stress that she has been hospitalised.
The comparison must be made to the Lightning Ridge community, who have had similar numbers of children taken from their homes, all since returned. The problem has become so continuous that a group has been formed ‘Grandmothers Against Removals’ http://stopstolengenerations.com.au/?page_id=1217 A group that advocates on behalf of parents who have had children forcibly removed from their homes.
I have written about the ever present fear of having our children taken http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/21/aboriginal-mothers-like-me-still-fear-that-our-children-could-be-taken-away and it is the first time I have ever read any comments on any of my writing that have left me visibly shaking. The sheer amount of people who believe that if you have a child removed then it is because you have done something wrong is awe inspiring.
In that piece I didn’t even mention vexatious complaints. Vexatious complaints are simply that, vexatious. Having a blue with a neighbour? A relative? An ex? Well sometimes all they have to do is pick up the phone and manufacture a complaint and bam, you won’t see your child for god knows how long.
I spoke to a friend, who had her children removed. The people they were living with needed to be investigated she said. Another woman told me this as well, a lot of the carers aren’t up to scratch, her children have even told her that they have been hit, but DOCS will always take the side of the carers. Too many people become carers for the extra money she said, and the conditions the children are in are terrible to say the least. She wasn’t told for almost a month why her children were taken. She smoked pot now and then. That was it. She also believes she was the victim of a vexatious complaint. It was enough she said for her children to be removed and her fight to get them back took almost two years.
Another woman I spoke to said the workers don’t think of the kids, and they can make visitation hard. She was told she was going to get report cards of how her children were going in school and sport, but she doesn’t get anything. There’s a problem with staff turnover, her case manager changes constantly, and she feels as if she is catching the case manager up to date, when it should be the other way around.
I spoke to a local man who has been through something similar. It does something to your heart he said, and your mind. He told me these issues weren’t just womens business, they were everyones business. His chest feels tight from the stress of it all. He wants to start a mens group, for forcibly removed children, where men can discuss how they feel in a culturally appropriate environment.
One thing is for sure, if you are an Aboriginal parent, the chances of your children being forcibly removed from you are 70-80% more likely than a non-Aboriginal parent. The perennial whipping boys/girls of Australian culture, do DOCS staff hold ingrained prejudices when it come to Aboriginal children. Do they believe the racism they were no doubt bought up with, that we are all dirty, unkempt alcoholic drug addicts and thus easier targets?
I call for an investigation into DOCS, it’s mechanisms for vexatious reporting and thorough background checks on all its workers for any traces of racism. I also call for an expose on A Current Affair into how the offices of North Western NSW are run. When so many children seem to be taken from this area, then something within the service is rotten.