ASINGLE father from Spearwood who fought an extraordinary four-year legal battle to gain custody of his four-year-old son says bungling by WA’s child protection department has left him with incomplete medical records which threaten the boy’s education.
The department put Wayne’s son into foster care at birth and the pair was reunited just last year after Wayne single-handedly and doggedly took on the power of the state in court, and won.
He says immunisation records are missing and now the boy’s school says he may not be able to attend classes without proof he’s had his shots.
“I’ve been chasing his immunisation record, and his foster carers say he’s had them all and that they gave all the documents to the department,” Wayne told the Herald.
“I’ve got a good friendship with the foster parents, and they’ve got all the records for the other two kids in their care, so I’ve got no reason not to believe they’re telling the truth.”
Wayne says when he queried the discrepancy with the DCP, he was told the department left immunisation up to foster families. That has him fuming.
“To say it’s up to the foster families is ridiculous; some kids go to 10 families, so who’s making sure the records are all in order?
“I mean, how many kids are there in state care?”
mma White told the Herald all health-related information is supposed to be kept on file and foster carers are given a “health passport”.
“The department is assisting in efforts to establish why there is a discrepancy with the Medicare Immunisation Record and the recollection of the carers,” she said.
“A change of surname of the child in question could be responsible for causing issues in these records being incomplete.”
Another hurdle Wayne faces is the medical centre where the foster carers say they took the child for his shots has closed, and no-one knows where the original records went.
That’s a scenario opponents of GP corporatisation have long-warned about.
Wayne’s been told by his doctor it’s not possible to simply top-up his son’s vaccinations as there’s a risk of overdosing.
Without proof of immunisation the government was going to cut off Wayne’s family benefits.
The only way he can keep them is to sign a form claiming he’s a conscientious objector to vaccinations—even though he’s not.
Wayne says the debacle is indicative of the drama he’s faced for four years with the WA child protection department.
The story began when the boy’s mother put another man’s name on the boy’s birth certificate. She’d been told the DCP was going to take the child from her at birth and she switched the names in a vain attempt to have him placed with relatives.
Wayne says the DCP kept dismissing his claim to be the father and only after nine months of persistence was a DNA test finally agreed to, which proved him right.
He expected custody would be automatic but was astounded when he appeared in court to find DCP lawyers saying his son should remain in foster care till adulthood.
“She said ‘you can’t give him to him, he’s an alcoholic and a druggie’,” says Wayne, who was representing himself.
“I said to the judge ‘they’ve never tested me’ and I told him I was ready to roll up my sleeves any time they wanted.”
At the time Wayne had been doing shift work manufacturing pipes for the Kwinana desalination plant and said he’d have a beer or two after work, but never got drunk.
He’d also smoke a bit of pot; “but only when the kids are in bed, and then I do it in the kitchen right under the vent so it gets sucked straight out”.
The department’s lawyers then argued Wayne was aggressive, saying he’d yelled at staff during the lengthy custodial dispute.
He says the judge was sympathetic to his response that his frustration was borne from having to fight tooth-and-nail to gain custody of his son.
The department was ordered to hand the boy over on September 9 last year.
The DCP later turned up to Wayne’s home to ask for that date to be delayed until March. Wayne furiously ordered the case worker out of his house, saying he expected the DCP to abide by the judge’s decision or face him in court. He doesn’t understand why the DCP is so firm in its belief he is an unfit father.
Jump on him
Before the pair was united full-time, they had to go through a reunification program with not-for-profit group Wanslea.
Wayne says it went so well he’s been asked to give talks to other families, which he’s happy to do.
It’s been a different story with DCP: he reckons they still jump on him at every opportunity.
He was visited by case workers after his son told his kindy teacher he’d hit him in the head, but says that referred to nothing more than a father’s loving ruffling of his boy’s hair. He wonders why no-one bothered to get to the bottom of that before confronting him.
Wayne says it was his own childhood with foster parents, who’d raised him until he was 16, that kept him going despite the wall of bureaucracy he encountered.
“I had a wonderful life, they were loving people and I had lots of opportunities and that’s why I decided to keep fighting for my son,” he says.
“I kept thinking ‘what would they do?’.
“If they knew that I had a son in state care and they knew that I hadn’t done everything in my power to get him back, they’d have come across from Queensland and kicked my arse.”
by STEVE GRANT