Last resort: DOCS removes 90 children from home a week


Mother of none ... Michelle, 36, has vowed to fight a decision which led to DOCS removing her two babies Photo: Janie Barrett

THE Department of Community Services removes an average of 90 "at-risk" children from their homes each week, NSW Government figures show.

Community Services Minister Linda Burney said 4730 people under 18 were placed in out-of-home care in 2007-08.

More than 14,000 are in out-of-home care - a 16.2 per cent increase in 12 months.

Reasons for removal range from severe abuse to illness of the children's biological parents.

"Some children cannot live with their families because of abuse or neglect, or because their families might be unable to care for them because of illness, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence or poverty," Ms Burney said.

"Taking a child into care is the last resort for the department, with case workers working to keep families together and to support them."

The figures come as a 36-year-old mother of two young children fights a court decision to place the children in care until they turn 18.

At a Children's Court hearing last month a magistrate determined that both children - a boy aged 17 months and a girl aged six weeks - be placed in the care of their paternal grandparents until they turned 18. None of the parties can be identified for legal reasons. The mother, Michelle (not her real name), told The Sun-Herald she believed her case was mishandled by DOCS.

Michelle's son, baby B, was born in 2007 and began to suffer seizures when he was one month old. She and her then partner took the child to hospital in a country town but were assured he was fine and they were just "paranoid parents".

More seizures followed over the next 10 days but Michelle's partner was reluctant to take the baby to hospital. Just over a week later, the baby suffered a major seizure.

"I jumped up, put [the baby] in the capsule and threw the car keys at [the partner] and said, 'We have to go to the hospital,"' Michelle recalled. "[The partner] still did not want to go. When we got there the doctor said had we arrived any later, he may not have survived. They had to resuscitate him three times."

The baby was flown to a metropolitan children's hospital, where he was diagnosed with shaken-baby syndrome. Baby B's injuries included two large hemorrhages on either side of his brain and two fractured bones.

Michelle and her partner were interviewed by police and community service workers, and the baby was removed from their care and placed with her partner's parents. Both Michelle and her partner denied shaking baby B.

While attempting to regain custody last year, Michelle and her partner conceived a second baby, baby G, but separated before the birth.

The DOCS caseworker assigned to Michelle deemed she was at no risk of harming baby G but the child was removed seven days after birth and placed with her former partner's parents. The caseworker resigned in disgust.

Michelle intends to lodge an appeal against the court order.

Ms Burney stood by the decision to remove the children.