Files for at-risk kids assigned to staff who quit years ago, as Child Safety crisis deepens
MORE than 40 cases of children at risk were allocated to Child Safety staff who had already left the department – in some instances years ago – a Bulletin investigation has found.
The shocking extent of the state’s child safety crisis has sparked calls for a royal commission into the department.
The probe has also found:
THE case of the baby girl allegedly thrown into the Tweed River by her father last month would have ticked all the boxes on forms noting alleged harm or risk of harm.
AN incident report was not completed on a child who self-harmed. That child and siblings were not enrolled in school for six months.
CHILDREN are allocated to team leaders due to staff shortages, blurring caseload figures.
Former child safety officer Karla Macpherson said these children were our state’s most vulnerable and has lodged a complaint with the Queensland Ombudsman.
MORE than 40 children were left to fend for themselves in volatile families because Child Safety kept their files with staff who had left the department years ago.
And that was just one branch.
A special Bulletin investigation has uncovered the shocking extent of the state’s child safety crisis, three weeks after the body of a homeless baby washed ashore at Surfers Paradise beach.
The probe has found:
The case of the baby girl allegedly thrown into the Tweed River by her father last month would have ticked all boxes on forms noting alleged harm or risk of harm. Child Safety officers did not visit despite repeated calls by police and the public.
Former DOCS staff were allocated a full case load, two months after resigning.
Another staff member, who left in 2016, had two cases allocated to him in June this year.
More than 40 children in one office were allocated to officers no longer there.
An incident report was not completed on a child who self-harmed. That child and siblings were not enrolled in school for six months.
Children are allocated to team leaders due to staff shortages, blurring caseload numbers.
Former child safety officer Karla Macpherson wants a commission of inquiry into the department after lodging a complaint with the Queensland Ombudsman alleging a worker who left in 2015 was still being allocated children. Police insiders back her claims.
Ms Macpherson said a departmental investigation in the Gold Coast baby case would have started as soon as a person made a telephone call, sent an email or had a case consultation.
“But the child may not be sighted for another week,” she told the Bulletin.
The Bulletin last month revealed police, residents and workers at Broadbeach told authorities as early as May about the homeless ninemonth-old girl. Child Safety did not call in on the family.
Police visited the family three times in the final hours of the girl’s life and became so frustrated they drove the family to a relative’s house at Kingscliff, only for the baby to be allegedly tossed in the Tweed River by her father hours later.
The Bulletin has previously exposed how Child Safety reunited a pot-smoking, violent mother with her four-year-old daughter whom she had bashed, and detailed the shocking case of twins being hospitalised despite concerns about their allegedly cannabis-smoking parents.
Both Child Safety Minister Di Farmer and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk have declined to answer questions about the case and the department’s conduct, citing child protection laws.
Internal departmental forms show that, under the screening criteria, the baby would have been deemed at risk of “neglect” and “physical harm” if she was assessed, given her living condition.
Neglect includes inadequate supervision, inadequate basic care such as hygiene and shelter, abandonment, failure to protect and youth homelessness.
Physical harm covers domestic violence.
The couple had been known to police and the courts regarding domestic violence.
“A child under the age of three, that automatically makes them a 24-hour priority,” Ms Macpherson said.
“They cannot protect themselves or have the verbal capability to speak out.
“They are the most vulnerable.
“A child who is under one
IF THE FAMILY IS FREQUENTLY MOVING AROUND AND AROUND, THAT SHOULD HAVE SET OFF ALARM BELLS
year of age is regarded as high risk.
“If the family is frequently moving around and around, that should have set off alarm bells.”
A temporary assessment order would have enabled the baby and her brother to be placed with a relative at Kingscliff, enabling supervised visits by both parents, she said.
Ms Farmer yesterday rejected the call for a commission of inquiry, saying a full Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry was held in 2013 and set up a 10year reform road map.
“Our approach to improving the Child Safety system has been measured and focused, guided by the 10-year Child Safety reform program Supporting Families, Changing Futures,” she said.
A recent employee opinion survey resulted in a 79 per cent response rate that surpassed the 2017 survey rates for the department, Ms Farmer said.
“Eighty per cent of respondents said they love the work they do,” she said. “However, we need to keep on finding new ways to support our Child Safety staff, and making sure they have the tools they need to do their jobs and keep Queensland children safe.”