BY Dan Oakes and Sam Clark
Braxton Slager-Lewin was 22 months old when he drowned in a backyard pool in Sydney’s western suburbs in September.
An autopsy report said the house he was placed in was described as “not safe or secure for young children placed under foster care”. The report also said police who attended the scene noted the pool fence did not have a self-latching gate.
Braxton’s parents, Vanessa Lewin and Johnny Slager, have spoken out for the first time about their son’s death, telling 7.30 it shows the foster care system is broken.
“It was a dirty, rotten $500 swimming pool that was green and should never have been left in a house that little kids were in,” Mr Slager said.
“I don’t understand, I’m very concerned about that whole situation. It’s not right and something has to be done about it, because it’s just wrong.
“How can they do that? How can they have any respect? How can they sleep at night, man? Fuck, what have they done?”
Braxton was in Mr Slager’s care last year when his father approached the Department of Family and Community Services for help.
He told the Department he intended withdrawing from Methadone, and that he felt he needed some assistance with caring for his son while that occurred.
“They helped me get him into day care and and I had a home visit every few weeks — someone would come from the department and make sure we were doing alright — and then I started having some medical issues and that’s when I started needing help,” Mr Slager said.
Mr Slager said he was then put under pressure by staff from the department to temporarily place Braxton in foster care, and that the department told him if he did not, it would seek permanent custody of Braxton.
He said the department also refused to consider placing the boy with Mr Slager’s relatives. Ms Lewin felt incapable of looking after Braxton because of her own drug use.
Braxton was placed in the foster home, in the western Sydney suburb of Stanhope Gardens, by a non-government organisation called Life Without Barriers, which the department contracts to house children in foster care.
Mr Slager said he began the process required to get Braxton back, which included drug tests and other conditions.
Braxton was only days away from being returned to Mr Slager’s care when he slipped into the water of the backyard swimming pool.
Carer left Braxton alone while she used Facebook: report
A mandatory inquest is yet to be held, but an autopsy report says that at 7:45am on September 13 last year, the Life Without Barriers foster carer changed Braxton’s nappy, then left him with an eight-year-old boy while she had a shower and dealt with some washing. She then took Braxton’s pyjamas off to put them in the wash.
The report says the carer then sat in her lounge room and used Facebook. Eventually, she noticed it was quiet, went into the kitchen and realised the sliding door was open. She went outside and found Braxton face down in the pool, later saying she could not recall whether the pool fence was locked or open.