How we helped a family violence victim build a safe house to bring her baby home

How we helped a family violence victim build a safe house to bring her baby home

A mother’s attempt to leave her abusive partner resulted in their baby being taken into child protection.

Find out how we helped a family violence victim build a safe house to bring her baby home.

Stock photo of a mother with her baby

When Jenny (not her real name) threatened to leave her partner Oscar (not his real name) yet again, he tried to wrest their baby from her arms, causing the infant injury and distress.

Police notified the Department of Health and Human Services who took the baby into protective care and began an investigation. Oscar claimed Jenny was the violent one, but the extensive bruising she bore told a different story.

First steps

Once Jenny’s baby had been removed, she faced significant hurdles in getting her child back. She had left the family home, had no secure accommodation, little money and there were allegations that she had drug and alcohol problems.

Her lawyer connected her with a Salvation Army service and asked the court for some time so she could get support from other community services.

The plan was to get her safe accommodation, apply for a family violence intervention order against her former partner, and engage in counselling to help her break the abusive cycle her relationship with Oscar had become.

Jenny did all of these things and completed regular tests demonstrating that she was clean from drugs and excessive alcohol use.

During this time, her baby was put in multiple placements in different locations which made it difficult for Jenny to see her child regularly.

‘She did everything that was asked of her and more,’ Jenny’s lawyer said. ‘She had her baby in her mind’s eye and this goal of getting her child back. Being separated from her baby was tearing her apart.’

Jenny was also asked to undergo a full psychological assessment after her former partner Oscar made allegations about her mental health. Jenny did so and was given a positive report.

Securing overnight visits

Despite Jenny’s progress and her baby not having one stable out of home placement, the Children’s Court did not allow her to have overnight visits with her baby. So her lawyer asked the Supreme Court to review the decision, saying it assumed Jenny posed an unacceptable risk of harm when there was no current evidence of this.

The Supreme Court agreed and ordered that overnight stays be allowed.

The Department then asked that Jenny undergo a parenting course before it would support reunifying Jenny with her baby, although the overnight visits were going very well.

After several months, Jenny finally had her baby returned to her care.

The combination that helps make it happen

With support, Jenny was able to break from her abusive former partner which, in turn, allowed to her to provide a safe home for her baby. Her lawyer noticed significant differences in the Jenny she first met and the one who had come through the challenging child protection intervention.

Jenny had a case worker through crisis accommodation, access to Centrelink support, and family violence and health service counselling following legal advice.

‘It’s satisfying, not because of good legal work but because good legal work translated into putting a baby back into the arms of a mother whose life is so much better now because she used services to turn her life around 180 degrees,’ her lawyer said. ‘It’s a win for her and a win for her baby.

‘The earlier people have access to support services, especially mothers who are victims of family violence, the greater the likelihood that the situation won’t escalate to the point where children may be removed out of their family’s care.’

Note: Names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

How we can help

Find out more about child protection and how you can get help.

You can also call Legal Help on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday 8.45 am to 5.15 pm to find out how we can help.