THE NSW government's welfare agency seized a baby girl from her Chinese immigrant parents and, against their wishes, adopted her out to an Australian-born couple, prompting a judge to observe that the infant may have been "wrongly taken away".
The girl, who was born in NSW in March 2005, spent less than a day with her mother before being taken into custody by the NSW Department of Community Services on medical grounds.
Last month, the NSW Supreme Court awarded custody of the child to her adoptive parents, saying "even if the baby was wrongly taken away, that is not enough on its own" to warrant her return to her birth mother.
Court documents say the girl was born to a Chinese immigrant mother who speaks no English, and was described as "fearful of government and court processes".
Her baby was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a potentially life-threatening condition colloquially known as water on the brain.
The mother initially consented to an operation to insert a shunt to drain fluid, but then withdrew her permission. The court heard the medical team had "great difficulty" communicating with the baby's mother, "not only because of the language problem but from an attitude of severe mistrust".
"(She) took the view that immediate surgery was unnecessary and that the doctor should wait and see how the baby's condition developed," the court heard.
DOCS then intervened, taking the baby into its care so the operation could go ahead.
Four months later, when the baby was discharged from hospital, she was sent to live not with her mother but with foster parents. . They have cared for her since.
The court heard the girl has "various medical problems", including a developmental delay, but she "has thrived and is making very good progress" and has formed a close bond with her foster parents and their son, who was also adopted.
The couple applied to the NSW Supreme Court last month to adopt the girl, who has not seen her mother since the day after she was born.
Her father, who is also Chinese but speaks better English, has not seen her either.
The court heard the couple had been given "frequent opportunities" to see their baby, provided they agreed to be supervised by welfare workers.
They refused to attend those contact sessions on the grounds that a government department "had no right" to interfere in their lives.
Court documents suggest NSW Supreme Court judge George Palmer tried hard over many months to get the baby's mother to mount a legal challenge to a plan by DOCS to have the child adopted out.
Last October, when the girl was already four, he arranged for letters to be sent to the mother in Cantonese, saying she needed to "understand what was happening in court and how they should present (their) case".
The letter said the court "knows that you have difficulty in understanding English and court procedures (but) the decision about your daughter is very important so you should do your best to help the court to make the correct decision". The parents are asked about their relationship and income.
But Justice Palmer concluded that "every opportunity has been given to (the parents) to present a case for the return of the child" but they had declined to participate. He therefore gave the foster parents permission to adopt the girl, but warned that an appeal is still possible.