Aboriginal baby removed from non-indigenous foster carer
An Aboriginal baby is understood to have been removed from his foster carer who he had spent the first seven months of his life with because she was non-indigenous.
Not only was the child removed from her care but according to the woman, he was placed in a home judged by the Department of Child Protection to be "inappropriate."
The case of a woman who wanted to be known only as "Audrey" and baby "Robert" was highlighted on Radio 6PR this morning.
Robert came to Audrey as a nine-week-old baby who had been born three months premature.
"There were drugs and alcohol involved with the parents, and also domestic abuse," Audrey said.
After caring for Robert for more about seven months, Audrey - who has been a foster carer for more than three years, taking children in on a short-term basis - was asked if she would be willing to take Robert on as part of a fulltime arrangement.
She said as a foster carer, she knew that a permanent arrangement still meant that the child could one day be reunited with his birth parents but was willing to take him on, which could have been an 18-year commitment.
At the same time, she knew that the DCP was assessing members of Robert's family as possible placements as well.
"Those were deemed inappropriate," she said.
"There was a placement that they were also looking at where an elder sibling of his resides, that was also deemed inappropriate because there were too many children in that foster home already."
She said five days after agreeing to take Robert on permanently, everything changed.
"I was notified that an indigenous elder had stepped in and that Robert was to be removed from my care, and two weeks later he was gone."
Audrey said she was told that she was no longer considered an acceptable full time carer for Robert as she was not indigenous.
"For me, the concern was Robert was very attached to me, he had bonded, he was healthy, he was thriving, and there was actually no need to remove him from my care."
She said Robert was then placed with his sibling in the home that was originally deemed inappropriate.
"Robert is now in a family where there are seven other foster children under the age of eight."
Audrey said the family has their own children as well as foster children.
"The last time I saw Robert, his health had deteriorated, there were several things brought up with his case worker that were noted, several conditions that he did not experience in my care, but he's still in that placement despite the health concerns," she said.
"After only a week in his new placement, he had severe nappy rash to the point where his bottom was bleeding.
"He had pale coloured stools, he had an ear infection, he was very untidily dressed."
She said never had these issues when in her care.
Audrey was concerned that the DCP had judged that an inappropriate indigenous placement was better than an appropriate non-indigenous placement.
"I was told by case workers that this was just what it was like for indigenous children in care and that I just needed to accept that," she said.
Audrey said she could not accept this situation.
"I don't think that's right for any children, they all deserve the same nurturing, love respect, they are children first and foremost and it's not acceptable that they are put in placements that their care is compromised," she said.
Audrey said that speaking out may result in her not being able to care for children in the future but was hoping that DCP would keep her on.
Aboriginal children make up about 45 per cent of all children in foster care in WA.
While Aboriginal people only make up 3.8 per cent of WA's population 1867 of the 3927 children in care in WA at the end of 2012 were Aboriginal.
According to the DCP's website, the department tries wherever possible to place Aboriginal children within their families and local communities to "safeguard their identities."
"In some cases it may be necessary to place children with families that are not of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, therefore we are always looking for more Aboriginal people from metropolitan, regional, rural or remote locations who may be interested in becoming foster carers."
Craig Somerville, the head previous of Aboriginal Legal Services and Aboriginal community member said each case should be looked at individually.
"What is an Aboriginal family? My father was Scottish my children are half-Italian, it's all about backgrounds that nurture us together, my kids, I'm not going to shove anything on them, they don't have to wear a kilt or play a didgeridoo," he said.
The Department of Child Protection has been contacted for a response to this matter.