Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kim’s Story–Child Protection gone mad

Some time ago I posted on YouTube a video called “Kims Story” which you can find here. This is a client whose case represents all that is wrong with child protection. I have been working with Kim and her partner for two years. In this time her daughter has been placed under the Guardianship of the Minister until she is eighteen. The child is three and a half and is placed in relative care with her grandfather and his partner.

It perhaps is rather naive of me to believe that injustice can be righted and that reasonable people will be able recognise when a gross injustice has been done. I now believe that within the child protection lurks a group of people who are so tainted by “the system” that they wouldn’t comprehend justice and fairness if it smacked them in the face. They are so embedded in the belief that when a child has been placed under a GOM18 order that this is the way the situation has to remain no matter how the parents change. The parents could be exemplary parents, saints in fact, canonised even, and the gatekeepers of this system would not be able to recognised the changes the parents had made.

The holy grail is the undying belief in attachment theory and what that represents in turns of the child’s future development. It is unfortunate that the Youth Court buys into this belief system. I found myself asking what action would be left to child protection workers if there was no such thing as attachment theory. It looks like “The Kings New Clothes”. Perhaps my task in life is to yell from the side lines, “the king isn’t wearing any clothes!” At this point I am not going to explain attachment theory but am going to talk about the situation which brought us to a meeting yesterday and which produced one of the worst professional days of my life.

I firmly believe that the changes Kim and Shane have made are so significant that they no longer met the original concerns of the department. In the original court order the Youth Court had set aside some notes which was designed by the crown solicitor to placate Kim and Shane by enticing them with an additional note on the order and which paves the way for further access and over night visits providing the department makes the appropriate assessment. The parents have been having unsupervised access once a week for over a year. It is clear from the original order and the type of access they were granted that the department didn’t have any major care concerns. It is important to note that the parents, particularly Kim, didn’t have a very complimentary report by the social worker and psychologist at the time of the original GOM 18 order. However they were granted these special conditions. Things have changed dramatically since. (Even though the original assessment had major flaws).

I have had a number of meetings with the CEO of Families SA advocating for Kim and not receiving any support what-so-ever. Clearly he and his senior staff have no power or they are just plain ignorant. I can’t even tell you how angry I am at him. They did agree to have a Psychologist report compiled to assess overnight access. Talk about being blindsided. This has to be the biggest betrayal I have ever experienced in my life.

Knowing the changes that Kim and Shane have made in their lives I believed a favourable report would be delivered. At the meeting on Monday the psychologist presented a range of platitudes which lacked meaning and could have been recited by a vending machine with more feeling. However she did compliment Kim and Shane on the progress they had made and she wasn’t critical of their parenting; in fact she noticed that Kim was particularly attentive of her daughter. Shit, I could have told them that.

Then came the slam dunk. Kim and Shane were criticised for having a bed set up for their daughter with her toys on it and told that they should get some grief counselling for the fact that they will not be getting their daughter back. If I had lost a child through death and I wanted to keep her room as a reminder of what she means to me and that was my way of managing my emotional pain then don’t ever tell me that I need to find a way to get over it. How insulting is that. This psychologist had no idea what this room meant to Kim and if she had an ounce of empathy would have kept her thoughts to herself.

There was also the time that Kim was told that her daughter didn’t love her. That did it. Kim broke down in tears and had to leave the room. Was that really necessary and what was the context in which it was said? Was it a comment prompted by the psychologist's unconscious thoughts and biased agenda?

Then came the final slam dunk. The recommendations were that because the child was in relative care and had a strong attachment to the step grandmother then it would be disruptive and interfere with her attachment and damage her forever, my take on it. I would love to have their crystal ball. The parents were only now allowed to have fortnightly supervised access for two hours.

We had asked for access over night and particularly this Christmas and because of this request have now gone so far backwards and against the original intent of the court order. However they are a law unto their own.

The next bit you are going to love. A week ago I met Kim’s brother who has been severely damaged by the brutality of his father, the man who now cares for Kim’s daughter. Her brother tells the story that when he was five he could hear a fight taking place in his parent's bedroom and his mother screaming for help. He burst into the room to find his father with his hands around his mother's throat. His mother's eyes were rolling back into her head and she was changing colour. This five year old boy threw himself onto his father at which point his father flung him against the wall. However, this was enough though for the father to stop strangling his wife. According to the department they know about this man's violence and it is just something from the past and therefore is not a concern to them. I know from other stories that this man's potential for violence is still real.

I would like anyone reading this to contact the Minister at the following address and register your shock at this level of injustice. If we can muster enough support I am sure the Minister will step in and review this case in an independent manner and hopefully find a way to change a system which fails to conform to social work standards. If she doesn’t act then perhaps we can all shout “look there is the minister without any clothes.” minister.rankine@saugov.sa.gov.au .


  1. Hello Tony

    I'm not 100% sure what is happening in S.A child Protection Services at present ..but what i do know is that Community Services NSW are removing and alienating children from parents/families and siblings at a rate never before seen in this country's history.

    There is No doubt a STIGMA will once again lurk in this country's history for another 100 years.

    So happy to know a true Social Welfare worker exists today as they are a dying breed in this country today.

    Please visit www.alecomm.com and www.altnews.com.au re: Bringingthemhome.

    Thinking of Kim

  2. Dear Minister Rankine,

    I am absolutely appalled at what has transpired this week in regard to Kim and Shane. Kim initially rang Families SA for help. Now her daughter is a Ward of the State and she can only see her once a fortnight for 2 hours of supervised access. What happened? What went wrong? What are you going to do about this?

    Families SA can bang on as much as they like about Attachment Theory, but believe me it is no fun being a Ward of the State. Read anything I have written and you’ll find that out. Read anything written by others who’ve been in State ‘care’ and you’ll find that out.

    Shame on all the middle class professionals working for you who couldn’t give a damn about a poor woman who wasn’t protected from male violence by the State when she was a child, and whose life is now being systemically ruined by that very same State.

    May all former Wards of the State rise up and sue the lot of you.

    Former foster kid,
    Dee Michell

  3. This is a situation which i was sugguesting our group Talking Through should be getting involved in.We as Forgotten Australians need to be involved in the decision making of who these Children live with & what is & what is not acceptable Surely the fact Ted Mullighan told myself & others we are the experts in this area, qualifies us.So let us stand up with Tony, even if we need to protest.I'm sure if Tony had been working in this area ,years ago some of us may not have had our lives so ruined., by a system which is so archaic, as it still allows a child to be placed under guardianship from any age till 18, the same as i myself was back in 1954., what does that say? So let us speak out loudly. I know tony personally , & i know he knows what he is talking about, Your's truly, from a Forgotten Australian, Priscilla Taylor.

  4. Dear Minister.....

    Having just read the plight of "Kim" on Mr Tony Tonkin's (Social Worker) Blog page http://socialworkchallenges.blogspot.com/ I felt compelled to email you and request that maybe a review of this family's circumstances is required. Surely a mother's love, documented commitment to change under the care of Health professionals and the importance of family unity is an utmost priority in any child's welfare.

    NO ONE loves a child like its parents do. I was horrified to hear that the man who inflicted the mother's family with abusive behaviours - now has the charge and care of the said child!!! This is lunacy!! Without knowing all the facts, I sure hope this man has had documented professional help and had to prove his abusive ways have changed. I know that if my abusive dad had care of my children the psychological stress I would be under would be enough to drive me insane.

    I certainly hope justice prevails and that somehow the mother is able to rebuild relationships with her daughter "AS IT SHOULD BE".... away from the professional opinions of those who do not have vested emotions and love but rather a Uni degree and some form of logic.

    Having only tasted a small degree of bureaucracy when fighting for custody of my children, I know the emotional roller coaster of having no voice while others make decisions on what is best for your child. My heart goes out to anyone who fights desperately for the right to care and have a relationship with their own child.......

    Email sent to Minister Rankine yesterday by a concerned citizen of South Australia

  5. The Minister wears very nice clothes and always has her hair tidy.

  6. I've heard lots of things about the Minister over the years - that she supports her staff in public, but bullies them behind closed doors; that poor social workers in the field get promoted to her office; that she and Rann have been...well lets not go there. I hope that she's at least a decent human being who will take umbrage at this situation and review it in its entirety, and without assuming her staff are automatically right in their assessments.

  7. Who is this attrocious psychiatrist? Please put her on the registers at alecomm.com and I will do an article also :-) many of these monsters should be incarcerated as they do to our innocent children and families.

    Marney McDonald, www. alecomm.com, originally posted on facebook

  8. This Minister should be long gone for her misleading accusations under the privilege of Parliament in another high-profile case. Don't assume to seek her understanding or compassion, or even honesty. She will not support the family (or foster carers). She is just another legacy of this government. And Families SA is a law unto themselves.

  9. I agree with the last comment that this Minister, and this Government has to go. But no other Government has done any better with Child Protection and I have no confidence that future governments will either.

  10. This is waht I wrote:

    I read this story through this link


    I am appalled also in what you are doing, I have fist hand experience with people like you in my own country.

    It is not right to take kids from parents that fight to get them back you need to give Kim back her daughter if not then reinstate her visitation's to 3-4 times a week and with nightly visits If you are cheating this woman to line your pockets then God will get you 2 fold remember that do unto others as you would have them done to you, doesn't mean he is going to wait till you die either to punish you. PS You all need to rid yourselves of the psychologist you have in your pocket's and hire one's that aren't.


    Former foster kid
    Former incest survivor
    Former child abuse survivor
    Former bad parenting skills

  11. Kimberly Childs MotherMay 19, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    I want to thank all of the wonderful people who have responded to my plight to have my precious daughter returned to my partener and I. I am truly humbled to know that there are still some compassion in this world we live in. I am still trying to fight a battle that is vertually impossible to win. thanks for all your kind words and emails in support that were sent to the minister. I truly hope one day i will have my daughter returned but for now i just have to keep fighting as i can't give up and turn my back on my child as what kind of parent would i be if i just gave up. Parents are ment to be there for there children to raise, love, nurture and teach them about life. I want to thank Tony who is a wonderful social worker who goes out of his way to help! thanks again ur friend Kim x

  12. I am posting here because I as a grandmother have and still am suffering at the whims of Families SA, I have emailed Tony my story, I also emailed every government ministe in South Australia and even the Prime Minister, all they keep doing is pass the buck and hand any complaints made aginst families SA back to Families SA so they can twist and distort any information so it is an outcome to benefit them...For Gods and the childrens sake make them accountable

  13. Hypocrisy .its a shame to see that families s.a  don't give urinalysis tests to their workers in their centers who take the responsibility of parenting and raising children of  the parents .who have been told  that what they do impacts on the children even if they do it when the child isn't in their environment. I  have known first hand of  residential care workers  who sell pot regularly and smoke pot every night after work,I just believe you should be over this behavior when placed in a position of trust.and families s.a have a duty of care to us the parents and the children who have been placed in these  drug dealing pot heads care.ive even heard of man handling ,and winning favor with the children through telling the children when they are getting tested ,and when there is room searches. and I as a parent must pay for my own urinalysis once a month to see my child.......we are loving parents who grow and make the change for the better for our children....but some of these workers just put the hat on for work and believe they can indulge in activities involving drugs.i say families s.a is doing a grave injustice and need to weed out these workers  who behave in this way through  surprise regular mandatory urinalysis testing. N.D.R.C.U

  14. Since I first posted this we have had some wonderful support. What is particularly rewarding is that FamiliesSA keep an eye on these posts so I am sure they have read most of what has been posted over the past couple of years. We are still fighting for Kim to have her daughter returned to her. Even though we have been unsuccessful it doesn't mean that we have to stop. We are now looking for more creative ways to represent her. I still can't believe that with the level of representation we have given Kim we are still unable to convince Waterford or anyone else that this child would be best served being with her capable parents.

    I often wonder what those with the power are fearful of if they allow one child to return to her parents? What is in it for them not to have the child returned? And above all I can not see how what they are doing even represents anything that can remotely be called good social work. It is illogical, unethical and malpractice for social workers to behave as they have in this case. But then when you stack my 15 years as a social worker against the three months of the social worker involved in this case, what would I know.