Friday, September 15, 2006

Foster care in the 'Land Down Under'

Foster care challenges exist on every continent
In Australia, it appears that the greatest challenge is the bureaucracy.

A national survey of Australian foster parents has found that 73% regard the attitude of bureaucrats and social workers as the "worst thing'' about fostering.

According to Freda Briggs, a child protection expert at the University of South Australia, "They are reminded frequently that these are the department's children and they are expected to provide physical care without becoming emotionally involved."

If Australian foster parents' views differ from the social workers, they are often accused of being too emotionally involved.

Glenda Lloyd, who has been the foster mother to over 100 children since 1979, quit the foster care system three weeks ago. She had punished a 13-year-old foster child by withholding pocket money and cell phone from the child -- and had been reprimanded for doing so by the department.

Another foster mother, Dilana, had a three-year-old in her care with a raging fever. When she changed the child's diaper, she saw evidence of sexual abuse.

Dilana's first instinct was to take the child to the doctor. According to foster care regulations, she had to ask permission from the NSW Department of Community Services. She made several calls and left messages. No one responded.

By morning, the little girl's temperature had soared to dangerous levels. Her body was limp in Dilana's arms.

So Dilana took the three-year-old to her family doctor.

When DOCS found out, Dilana reports, "They told me I was in big trouble. They said I could be charged with something. They told me -- and I'll never forget this -- I had abused her human rights.''

Deeming Dilana's actions inappropriate, DOCS workers came to her house thirty minutes after that phone call. They removed the child's toys, books and photographs, and carried the distraught three-year-old from the house.

Dilana and her husband tried to find out if the little girl who had been abruptly removed from their home had received medical help, but their questions were never answered.

Last year, the couple applied to adopt another Aboriginal girl, who had been born to a member of their extended family.

DOCS blocked the adoption, and charged that Dilana and her husband were not suitable parents. The child was given to a Chinese couple, and Dilana was forbidded to visit.

Dilana and her husband hired a lawyer. They assembled more than 20 references. They spent $20,000 on legal fees. In the end, they won.

Their lawyer, Michael Vassili, commented, "I was just stunned by the ferociousness, the bullying, of DOCS."

Caring, loving foster parents exist on every continent
Their efforts to advocate for their children in their care should be supported and valued. They should not have to fear retaliation for doing what is right.

Overington, Caroline. Foster parents don't care much for social workers. The Australian,
Overington, Caroline. In strife for taking ill child to a doctor. The Australian, Sept. 11, 2006.

Overington, Caroline. Visit to doctor `abuses ill child's rights.' The Australian, Sept. 11, 2006.

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Reading this, I feel more at peace about our decision not to be foster parents.
God, that poor lady!!!!!
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