12 Apr 2017

Couple battles Oranga Tamariki over toddler's injuries

12:56 pm on 12 April 2017

A Wairarapa couple are locked in a battle with social workers over their two children, triggered by fractures one of them suffered.

Oranga Tamariki (formerly Child, Youth and Family) has forbidden the parents to be alone with either child for 20 months. The couple, who cannot be identified, say they're being unfairly kept away from their children.

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The father took the eight-month-old boy to Masterton Hospital in August 2015 because of a bump on his head. The parents said the boy's sister had tripped and fallen on him.

He was sent home without being X-rayed. Five days later, X-rays taken when the baby was taken back to hospital showed fractures to the child's skull and leg.

Doctors at Wellington Hospital, where the boy was taken for surgery, accepted the skull injury was accidental, but not the baby's broken thigh. They thought the leg injury had happened after the first hospital visit.

The parents claimed Masterton hospital missed both the broken leg and skull.

In a report, a Crown expert doctor said that if the baby's leg had been broken at the time he was taken hospital with the bump on his head, it would have been clear from his behaviour.

An Australian forensic paediatrician, brought in by the parents' lawyer, said the parents' account was plausible.

In a report to the Family Court the forensic paediatrician that not all babies exhibited discomfort when bones were first broken. In addition, the baby was being given paracetomol.

"Experience has shown that fractures in non-weight-bearing children can be missed and not identified not only by the parents but also by the examining doctor," the forensic paediatrician's report said.

The children, now aged almost 2 and 4, have been living with grandparents. Their parents see them for about three hours a day and at weekends.

The case is going to the court next month.

"It's hard to get quality time with them when they're not with you all the time," said the mother.

Oranga Tamariki said it was focused on the boy's safety and wellbeing, and it was up to the Family Court to decide on the conflicting information.

The agency's Wairarapa office has suffered staff shortages for many months but said those shortages had not delayed this case.

The parents' home-care nurse has said she had no concerns with the parents, while a community worker said in a statement she had found the mother to be a calm, determined and dedicated parent and teacher to her children.