A 5 day old baby taken from its parents at North Shore Hospital in Auckland two weeks ago by Ōranga Tamariki should be returned to its parents, says Author and Human Rights advocate Sue O’Callaghan. The mother who cannot be named for legal reasons is from Richards Bay in South Africa and moved to New Zealand in 2006. Both her and her husband are seeking urgent help.
The baby is the second chid to be taken from his parents, after their daughter was removed at four weeks old, following the discovery of unexplained rib fractures. The fractures were already healing when they were discovered by chance on an x-ray.
Although the older child (now 14 months) has recently been diagnosed as having Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), more comply known as brittle bone disease, she remains in foster care. The new baby was taken from his parents because Ōranga Tamariki doesn’t consider that brittle bone disease explains the earlier fractures and therefore considers him to be at risk of similar harm.
Sue O’Callaghan who was present in hospital when social workers arrived to take the baby is concerned by the reasons the baby was being taken into care. She says that in addition to the knowledge that the collarbone was broken during the delivery, the OI Foundation in America very clearly highlight that in the absence of correct medical support, bone breaks often incorrectly present as child abuse.
Unfortunately little seems to be known about the disorder in NZ.
The genetic samples were sent to Australia and came back very clearly as Type 1 OI, where bone breaks are more often than not unexplained”. She added, "to assist new parents in the USA fact sheets (which were not offered in NZ) warn that patting a baby on its back to wind after feeding can cause rib breaks, as can lifting a baby under its arms.
Sue who has worked with similar cases in the UK describes how the parents were ‘dismissed’ when suggesting there was something wrong with their first baby. They then faced the terror of not only losing that child, but of having to prove their innocence. She states the following:
Unlike criminal law where one is innocent until proved guilty, in alleged child abuse cases the opposite is true, and these parents are now faced with a situation where they are crippled by legal fees in the efforts to seek further help.
The family were introduced to Sue by a friend who had read her recently published book and were supportive of her being interviewed on Radio NZ a week ago, where she described the terrible suffering of the family.
She believes that ignorance surrounding this disease, categorised as a ‘Rare Disorder’ has been instrumental in preventing these two children being reunited with their parents. "Oranga Tamariki have a duty of care towards these children and must weigh up the evidence of significant harm of risk against the impact long term psychological damage that separation will cause at such a young age. They MUST look at the OI diagnosis as being relevant to the case and so far they have not. The fact that they haven’t, raises serious concerns as to how many other children in New Zealand are removed because of broken bones and allegations of child abuse, as a result of inadequate medical testing around Vitamin D deficiency, rickets and Osteogenesis Imperfecta.
Sue has written to the Human Rights Commission in New Zealand, as well as to the Chief Executive of Ōranga Tamariki, Gráinne Moss, seeking an urgent review of the case.
The family has started a Give-a-Little page to fund legal costs to have the matter reconsidered by the Family Court.
By: Sue O’Callaghan