#childsafety | Grandparents distraught after baby taken | The Examiner

news, local-news, kinship care, kin carers, Tasmania, child protection

When grandparents Tony and Anne Walters were asked by their great-granddaughter to take primary care of her new born baby girl they immediately said yes. The Walters’ have a long-history of helping raise other people’s children, as foster carers and also as kin carers. Their 12-year-old grandson has lived with them permanently for years. So when they took the small baby in, they cared for her, loved her and kept her safe in a stable home. Then, when she was eight-months-old, Child Safety Services (CSS) took the baby away into “temporary care”. One day she was in their arms and the next she wasn’t, leaving the Walters’ to feel as though they had lost a child. What confuses the couple is that five months later they received a call from Child Safety Services asking to put a different child into their care, a three year old grandson with high needs. The Walters’ were told if they did not take their grandson he would be placed into the foster system. This little boy is still in their care, being showered with the love that all their grandchildren receive. But the couple still feel a great sense of loss and injustice, that a baby was removed from the stable home that she had always known, and that their emotions were disregarded and played with. Both Tony and Anne believe there is something wrong with the child protection system, and are both sad and frustrated at how they were treated when all they were doing is trying to give a child a home. “They ripped her away from us and it ripped my heart out,” Tony said. “When we first got her, welfare said our place was spot on, we had a big cot for her, everything was set up. she knew us and loved us. Then they turned around and just took her, just like that.” The Walters’ say that the baby was taken into the care of another family member. They said they were told that Tony, who was suffering from health issues at the time, was unable to look after the baby. They also understood, on advice from CSS, that if they removed a male lodger from the family home, who was living with them, then the baby would be returned. “They asked us to move him out, which we did. And then they did a backflip and said she is in a safe home and we are leaving her there,” Mr Walters said. “Ann and I both sat down and cried, we couldn’t handle it.” When Anne talks about it now, six months on, the pain remains fresh. She said the decision to place the baby with another family member means the mother, Mrs Walters’ great-grandaughter, also sees the child less. The couple were promised that they could see the baby on weekends, but once the baby was gone CSS “left us completely alone”. “I was getting up and changing her through the night, bathing her, dressing her, feeding her, doing everything as a mother would do,” Mrs Walters said. “I was devastated, you put all your love into a person…all I could do was cry.” On reflection Mrs Walters worries about how other people and other families are being treated by CSS. “After losing the little girl they ring us up and ask if we can take our other grandson. I’m thinking ‘why would they hurt us by taking our granddaughter, and then ask us to take another one in’? “If they are doing that to us who else are they doing it to?” Mr Walters is angry and said a complaint was lodged with the Childrens Commissioner about how they were treated. They have not had a response. “It was a kick in the guts. The welfare system needs a really good shake up,” he said. The couple are naturally worried about whether their grandson will also be whisked away out of their care. Kin Raising Kids secretary Frank Tyers said CCS had failed to show compassion towards the Walters, who are informal carers who live on a pension and do not receive financial support from the government. He said the situation with the baby was very disappointing, but so too was leaving a toddler with high needs in their informal care with no assistance. “It is an inhumane approach that they [CSS] have, both towards those in care and those who are caring.” he said. “They rely on the grandparents – as long as it doesn’t cost them anything.” A Communities Tasmania department spokesman said it was not appropriate to comment publicly on individual cases. “Commenting with general information fails to capture the complexity of individual cases. Each case is unique and requires an individualised response to meet a particular child’s needs,” he said. “Decisions regarding the long-term care of children can be subject to court, and advice and input from a range of professionals and support persons.” Commissioner for Children and Young People Leanne McLean said she had encouraged Government to undertake further work to understand how many children are living in informal kinship care arrangements, and their issues. She said her office does not have an individual advocacy or complaint handling role in relation to kinship care matters. “It’s good to see the Department of Communities has engaged a consultant to look into the situation.”

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