National Council for Children Post-Separation
13 September 2010
National Council for Children Post-Separation Calls for Government to Act for Child’s Welfare In ‘abduction’ case
National Council for Children Post-Separation (NCCPS) Statement
Australia is divided in its sympathies and support for the parents of six-year-old Andrew, son of Melinda Stratton and Ken Thompson, and it is easy to be drawn into taking sides in such disputes between fathers and mothers over the custody of children in Family Law proceedings, especially when they criticise and make allegations against each other.
Parents can largely look after their own interests however the NCCPS’s focus and the nation’s attention must be on the welfare of the child, and, in this case, ensure that he suffers minimal harm to his emotional and physical wellbeing.
Andrew was in the care of his mother who was presumably judged by the Family Court to be the most appropriate care-giver at that time. His father was granted regular contact with him. That Court’s decision still applies until such time as it decides otherwise. His mother took Andrew abroad without the knowledge and consent of the Court, thereby depriving Andrew and his father of the opportunity for contact with each other.
The brutality of the law, which has now separated Andrew from his mother, his sole carer for almost three years, placing him in foster care with strangers in a foreign country, will have caused him immense trauma and distress and it is to be hoped that he can be returned to his mother’s care at the earliest opportunity before he suffers more serious damage. The effects of trauma such as this have been likened to the trauma experienced by front-line soldiers in the Vietnam war, often resulting in long-term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In effect it is six-year-old Andrew who is being punished by unsympathetic laws and legal procedures that are framed largely to uphold parental rights and adherence to legislation, rather than to ensure that the needs, wishes, and rights of children are the primary consideration.
The primary care and fulfilment of the emotional needs of Andrew must be given absolute priority while his parents pursue their own self interests. His parents can then continue with their dispute in the respective Dutch and Australian Courts. Central to that dispute and crucial to the future care of Andrew, is that the mother’s allegations of child abuse by the father and the father’s counter allegations of mental illness of the mother, must now be thoroughly and competently investigated and assessed by independent child protection agencies and psychiatrists.
Arguing and pursuing the rights of either parent and creating an emotional international drama of the situation is not helping Andrew and we would urge that his welfare and well-being are the primary consideration by all concerned in these matters and that he is protected from any further emotional harm.
He should be reunited with his mother immediately, albeit supervised by the Dutch authorities.