The Northern Advocate
Slain child’s mum learns ‘lesson in worst way’
Parents warned ‘not to trust anyone with your kids who aren’t family’
The mother of slain child Malachi Subecz has broken her silence the day after a damning report into the care the young boy was given by government agencies.
In a statement yesterday, the woman said there were “no words” that could describe the “emotions I have felt over this past year”.
“Something like this I would not wish upon anyone. I’ve made my mistakes, all of which I live with every single day,” she said.
“All I hope to come from this is this does not happen to other parents doing a lag who have kids.
“Do not trust anyone with your kids who aren’t family.
“A harsh lesson I’ve learnt in the worst possible way.”
Malachi, 5, was murdered by his carer after he was left with her when his mother was sent to prison.
The damning review of six government agencies found “critical gaps” in New Zealand’s child protection system, which allowed vulnerable children to “become invisible” to them.
Its author, Dame Karen Poutasi, recommended sweeping changes to the child protection, education, welfare and health sectors to create a “hard-wired safety net” and prevent further tragedies.
Malachi was murdered by his carer Michaela Barriball, who was jailed for a minimum of 17 years in June. He was placed in Barriball’s care by his mother when she was jailed last year.
After his death, the review was commissioned by the Corrections Department, New Zealand Police and the education, children’s, health and social development ministries to identify any gaps in the system and investigate whether more could have been done to protect him.
Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis agreed to most of the report’s recommendations, including greater information-sharing between agencies and public awareness campaigns for the public about child abuse “red flags”.
But he did not commit to the review’s more substantial recommendations: mandatory reporting of child abuse and automatic vetting of caregivers for children whose sole parent has been jailed.
Although he was “truly sorry” f or Oranga Tamariki’s f ailings, he warned against “knee-jerk reactions”.
Mandatory reporting had been rejected by three successive governments because of concerns about how it could swamp the system.
“I’d like to look at their reasons for rejecting it and whether those reasons are still valid,” Davis said.
On Thursday, the same day as the report’s release, the review of Malachi Subecz’s care before his death showed a “long list of fatal errors” and confirmed that his death was preventable, his family said.
“There is no doubt that Malachi would still be alive if Oranga Tamariki had acted appropriately,” said the uncle and maternal cousin of the 5-year-old.
The review listed a series of encounters with agencies, medical staff, whānau and friends in which chances were missed to intervene and protect Malachi. At one point, his family and Barriball had 14 interactions with six agencies in the space of nine days.
When Malachi was placed in the care of his mother’s friend, the courts had no authority to intervene or even alert Oranga Tamariki.
Barriball then contacted the Ministry of Social Development to apply for a parent’s benefit — another instance in which her care for Malachi was brought to the attention of authorities. The day after she became Malachi’s carer, his cousin made a report of concern to Oranga Tamariki.
This report of concern was closed after Oranga Tamariki received assurances from his mother in prison that she had no concerns. A photo from Facebook that allegedly showed bruising on Malachi was not considered compelling evidence of risk.
Davis revealed three senior staff at Oranga Tamariki who were involved in the case no longer worked there.