DoCS threaten Jiggi couple
By Mel McMillan
A VISIT to the community health nurse has turned into a nightmare for first-time parents Kristine Kramer and Simon Cohen. The Department of Community Services threatened to take their baby from them because it claimed they weren't feeding him properly.
Kristine took their son, Fern, to Nimbin Family Centre for advice and a check-up. She was told by the community nurse the baby needed to see a paediatrician because he was two kilos under-weight.
Kristine told the nurse Fern had been refusing food since he was five-months-old and surviving mostly on breast milk.
"Afterwards, I went straight to the shop and bought all this food," Kristine said.
"We really started trying to get him to eat."
Unbeknown to Kristine and Simon, however, the Department of Community Services (DoCS) was notified that Fern needed emergency medical care.
Two days later DoCS turned up at the couple's property at Jiggi with an 'emergency care and protection order'.
The couple were told if they did not take their son to Lismore Base Hospital immediately the police would be called.
"I was feeding him when we were told we had to go," she said. "We couldn't believe it. The nurse had not said a word to us."
At the hospital Fern was assessed. A doctor found the child to be "well, cheerful and active."
The report went on to say Fern's weight, height and head circumference were below normal, but his neurological examination was normal.
Kristine believes Fern had not gained weight because the family had recently been through a 'very stressful time'. Under court orders, the parents were forced to stay in Lismore Base Hospital for four days until a scheduled court appearance.
"It was the worst four days of my life," Kristine said. "Everyone knew we shouldn't have been there."
The couple appeared in court last week, where they agreed to a plan that involves regular visits to a GP and paediatrician. A doctor consulting on their case said Fern could be a normal weight within three months.
"We are happy to co-operate with health professionals, we want what is best for Fern," Kristine said.
"I just can't believe that things could not have been managed in a much better way. We are now a family who are known to DoCS. I don't think we deserve that."
DoCS issued a statement saying: "DoCS will continue to work with the family and health professionals to ensure the child receives the necessary medical attention."