CONCERNED: Nell Berry and Sam Bernard protesting outside the Nimbin Family Centre over the treatment of baby Ferns family. CAT
CONCERNED: Nell Berry and Sam Bernard protesting outside the Nimbin Family Centre over the treatment of baby Ferns family. CAT

DoCS baby threat prompts protest

By ANDY PARKS andy.parks@northernstar.com.au A THREAT by the NSW Department%of Community Services (DoCS) to take a child away from a local couple has sparked a large protest by Nimbin%residents.

As reported in The Northern Star on Saturday, Kristine Kramer and Simon Cohen, of Jiggi, were forced to take their child, Fern, to Lismore Base Hospital for what DoCs described as emergency medical care.

Their baby was judged to be in danger after a local community nurse had reported to DoCS it was underweight.

The parents say they told the nurse their nine-and-a-half-month-old child had been refusing food and relying on breast milk only for several months after a 'stressful time' for the family.

At the hospital, a doctor reported the baby was well. The couple later appeared in court and were required to agree to a plan of care for the baby, involving regular trips to a GP and a paediatrician.

DoCs says it acted after a report from a nurse at the Nimbin Family Centre. Outside the centre yesterday local residents showed their support for the couple and their anger at the process which could have seen them lose their baby.

The protesters called for a review of the procedure governing reporting of child welfare cases to DoCs. They also demanded it be changed so parents in a similar situation are informed of the risk before it reaches the ears of DoCS.

"It shouldn't be possible for one person to have the power to have someone's child taken away. We want to make sure that this doesn't happen again," said community spokesperson Nell Berry.

"Several people should be consulted.

"If you work within a community, you need to communicate with that community," said another spokesperson, Sam Bernard.

The parents at the centre of the controversy, Kristine and Simon, were also at the protest with baby Fern, who was breastfeeding throughout.

"We just want to thank the community for their support and feedback. We appreciate it and something needs to be changed along the way," Simon said.

A spokesman for the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) said, "The nurse at Nimbin acted in accordance with NSW Health's Inter-Agency Guidelines on Child Protection.

"In accordance with the law, any NSW Health staff with concerns about the welfare of a child are required to refer such cases to DoCS. "In the circumstances, the nurse acted appropriately and in the best interests of the child."

Another protester, Les Hogan, conceded that services provided by the Nimbin Family Centre, including a new bubs group, a playgroup, a toy library and drop-in centre, were 'fantastic'.

"I hope this doesn't reflect on the good work they do," he said.



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