CYFS probe traumatises family
By admin | July 27, 2009
CYFS probe traumatises family
4:00AM Tuesday Jul 28, 2009
By Simon Collins
A father says his family were left traumatised and his elder daughter tearful after Child, Youth and Family Services investigated a smack.
Parents Erik and Lisa toured the world for years with the Christian theatre group Covenant Players, presenting plays to schools and church groups on themes such as self-esteem, peer pressure, resolving conflict, bullying and addiction.
“Before we had children, I read a number of books on strong-willed children by [Christian author Dr James] Dobson and others,” says Erik.
“In the back of my mind there was the suspicion that those children were not being raised right, that if they had loving parents who were consistent with their discipline, they would turn out to be good kids.
Erik said he and Lisa had never had any problems with their elder daughter, who will soon be 13. “And then we had Abigail.”
Abigail, now 10, “from day one has known exactly what she wanted and been very insistent on getting it”.
“She will no doubt make a fantastic leader one day,” her father said.
But right now she’s a challenge. “There are times when my wife and I are at our absolute wit’s end.”
Last November, they took her to a child mental health service to get help. Health workers noted a bruise on her back that had been caused by tripping over a vacuum cleaner.
Two days later, Abigail had what her father calls “a massive meltdown, banging her bunk against the wall and calling my wife evil”.
“I said, ‘Either your behaviour stops or you’re going to get a smack’,” he said. “She started kicking at me. I grabbed hold of her ankle and smacked her bottom.” Two of his fingers went above the line of her belt, leaving red marks on her back.
The smack worked. She stopped kicking and was soon apologetic.
But the mental health service was about to give her a full medical examination. Lisa told a nurse about the red marks and the smack.
A few days later, at 3pm on a Friday, CYFS staff rang. They had received a claim of abuse and they wanted the children out of the house while they investigated.
The parents protested, but were told they had no option. They found friends to take the two girls for the weekend.
On the Monday, CYFS spoke to the older daughter at school and left her in tears. Late that afternoon, social workers visited the family, realised there had been a mix-up between the red marks and the bruise from the vacuum cleaner, and closed the case.
Far from protecting the children, CYFS made things worse, Erik says.
“Abigail went round locking the doors one night because she was afraid someone was going to come and take us. Our eldest would wake up at all different hours and had trouble going to sleep.”
Erik himself had to take leave from work, complaining to CYFS: “I am angry, have difficulty completing simple tasks, have several times come close to bursting into tears and at least once have actually done so.”
* CYFS will respond on Friday.