CHILDREN are being removed from refugee families and placed in foster care because their parents are not adopting Australian child-rearing practices fast enough, community workers have told the Herald.A 25-year-old mother from Sudan had seven of her children removed within two years of arriving in Sydney because she was deemed to be neglectful.”I kept them safe through bullets and mines but I lost them in Australia,” she told Rahat Chowdhury of Relationships Australia, who runs a program for refugees and humanitarian entrants.The NSW Chief Justice, Jim Spigelman, last week drew attention to the challenges courts face in dealing with the sexist cultural traditions of some immigrant groups, especially in relation to violence against women.Researchers said child-rearing practices were also a source of cultural misunderstandings that could lead to over-reporting to Community Services.Eileen Pittaway, director of the UNSW Centre for Refugee Research, said there was widespread fear in refugee communities across Australia.”Enough children have been taken away so they are all scared,” she said. In particular, families from Sudan, Somalia and Sierra Leone were under scrutiny.The acting chief executive (operations) of Community Services, Helen Freeland, said children from African background represented less than 1 per cent of those placed in out-of-home-care, and the department had 12 people of African background who could be called on to accompany case workers.”Certain differences in child-rearing practices can be respected but if they amount to putting children in danger, that cannot happen here,” she said.Ms Chowdhury said the failure to give children school lunches was a common cause of concern to teachers that could lead to reports to Community Services. But in Sudan families often did not eat in the middle of the day, having their substantial meal in the late afternoon.”They are perplexed about lunch, and the idea of children snacking on little slabs of cheese and biscuits is foreign to them,” she said.As well, issues of supervision were a source of concern to neighbours. The mother who lost her seven children took her two youngest with her to the supermarket but left a 10-year-old in charge of the others aged from three up.As well, the children, who had known only refugee camps and safe houses, ran wild in the parks, and ran across the road.”They’ve gone through so much trauma and within a year or so, they’ve lost their children,” Ms Chowdhury said.Another client lost her children because of her husband’s violence. She separated from him, and her children were returned. But the elders in her church pestered her to take her husband back, Ms Chowdhury said.When the father returned he beat one of the children so badly, the child needed hospital treatment, and the man was jailed. But the mother lost her children again because ”she had shown she could not keep them safe”.Dr Pittaway said the families did ”a brilliant” job of child-rearing, and many children were doing well in high school, and TAFE.”To its credit Australia is selecting refugees with protracted experience of refugee camps. They have survived horrendous conditions; they’ve had no education and never seen television. And suddenly they’re in a flat in western Sydney. There just aren’t enough support services.”