WA Police have launched an internal review into how “communication issues” led to an Aboriginal mother — previously unknown to child protection authorities — having her newborn being taken away while she was shopping and placed in the State’s care for nearly 24 hours.
The West Australian can today reveal how the mother was not at home at 3.40pm on September 9 when nine police officers arrived at her High Wycombe home and took her three-month-old baby boy because it was crying.
The 27-year-old mum — who has asked not to be named — was shopping and the newborn was in the care of her brother.
She claims when she got home to find her child missing an hour later the police had not told her brother where the child had been taken.
The mother had to ring around police stations asking for information. She also called the Department of Communities, which said it had no idea what was going on.
“I was so distraught,” she said. “Never in my life have I ever or would want to ever go through that again. You wouldn’t want that on anyone.
“To bring something so precious into the world, you wouldn’t want anyone to take him, just like that without notice.”
At 6.40pm, the Department of Communities confirmed the baby was in its care. The baby would stay in the State’s care until the following afternoon.
The mother said when the police arrived her brother had been arguing with someone on the phone. This woke the baby up, but the little boy was never in danger.
“There were nine police officers and not one of them gave me a call,” she said.
A Department of Communities spokesperson confirmed they had not requested police remove the baby and only became involved after being contacted by police.
WA Police admitted there had been “communication issues” and a “review” had “already started into those circumstances”. However, the officers had“acted in good faith and in the best interests of the child” under “difficult circumstances”.
“WA Police received information that there was a child believed to be in distress . Upon arrival the officers located one adult and one child,” a spokesman said. “The child was clearly in distress and based on an assessment of all the circumstances before them, including the acknowledged inability of the adult present to be able to care for the child in an appropriate manner, the officers determined there was an immediate and substantial risk to the child’s wellbeing.
“The adult who was present was not able to confirm when the child’s mother would be returning ... and was not able to make contact with her.
“It is believed the child’s mother had contacted the Department of Communities while police were in attendance at the Department of Communities office, however once the child was placed in the care of Department of Communities staff it is no longer a police matter and it is for the department ... to establish whether appropriate care arrangements are in place for the child to be returned to their primary carer.
“The removal of a child from a residence is a decision that is not taken lightly, and is only considered where not doing so may expose a child to an ongoing risk or danger.
“We understand that there were communication issues affecting the mother of the child and her ability to confirm details with police. We acknowledge those issues and a review has already started into those circumstances.”
Wungening Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Daniel Morrison said WA Police owed the family an apology.
“The fact that an officer of the WA Police thinks they are powerful enough to walk into someone’s home and take a three-month-old baby with no court order ... is absurd,” Mr Morrison said.
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