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Australia to End Cover-Ups
April 12, 2011 permalink
Australia has been completely silent on the issue of deaths in foster care, eradicating names and facts from all news reports. Now Pru Goward, the Minister for Community Services and Women, wants to change policy. From now on all facts of deaths of children known to the system will be published.
End to silence on deaths in DOCS
THE death of every DOCS child will be made public with the state's new Community Services Minister signalling an end to secrecy.
Pru Goward has told the Department of Community Services she wants to know immediately of any death of a child known to DOCS and for the parliament to be told so the news reaches the public.
In recent meetings, Ms Goward said she nominated transparency as an area where DOCS can do better.
"No more secrets, I need to be told the truth and I need to be told it when they know," she said. "I don't want them agonising about whether they leave it three weeks before they tell me and they write it in a report. We need to know when they know and the public needs to know."
Ms Goward also demanded an end to the censoring of reports into child deaths before they were released.
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"As I found in opposition the reports that were provided by the department were pretty opaque, things were crossed out, blanked out unnecessarily," she said. "I do want to improve that system, that will hurt because obviously that exposes a government and a department but I think it is a very useful tool for driving reform within a department."
The majority of the more than 17,000 children in foster care will be transferred to the non-government sector, based on recommendations of Justice James Wood in a Special Commission of Inquiry.
Labor had stalled on the transfer amid union opposition, despite private agencies having more stable placements and recording better outcomes."We have to start that as quickly as we can but it has to be a very careful process," Ms Goward said.
A night with a child protection team is also on Ms Goward's agenda so she can see how quickly staff are able to respond to children at immediate risk of harm.
"The caseworkers are the foot soldiers, they do the work," she said.
Ms Goward said she wants to tackle domestic violence, which is a leading cause of the removal of children.
And by the next election, Ms Goward said she wants to be judged on her results.
Source: Daily Telegraph (Australia)
Here are two stories showing failure of foster care in Australia. A twelve-year-old girl became pregnant while in state care. In another, a state ward became a prostitute under guidance of an older state ward.
Girl, 12, pregnant while in DHS care
A 12-YEAR-OLD girl who was living at a residential centre run by a community services group fell pregnant and has had the baby.
The girl, now 13, is back living with her mother, but her plight has shocked welfare authorities, the Herald Sun says.
She was under the care of a Department of Human Services (DHS) custody order when she conceived last year.
The Victorian government and police have launched an investigation into the case.
Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge told the newspaper that her first concern was that the baby, the girl and her immediate family were receiving appropriate support.
"I am deeply disturbed by this situation and I have launched an investigation to ensure the appropriateness of all dealings with the young mother and her family," Ms Wooldridge said.
The young mum, from regional Victoria, gave birth at a Melbourne hospital.
Source: Northern Rivers Echo
Girl, 14, sold for sex while in state care
Wayne Flower, From: Herald Sun, April 14, 2011 12:00AM
THE State Government is investigating claims a 14-year-old girl was put out to prostitution by a 15-year-old while both were in state care.
The shocking revelations come a day after the Herald Sun revealed a 12-year-old had fallen pregnant under state control.
In the latest incident, sources have told the Herald Sun the prostitution claims were well known to some staff at the out-of-home residential centre, but they failed to act.
The suspicions were eventually reported to DHS, which launched an investigation late last year.
A spokesman for DHS was unable to provide the Herald Sun with answers to several questions yesterday.
It is understood Victoria Police has not been notified by authorities of the serious allegations, but would not comment. Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge also remained tight-lipped, instead issuing a statement through her spokesman, which said the Government could not comment on individual cases.
However, the statement assured Victorians it had acted appropriately.
"Whenever the Government or department receives allegations of harm in relation to a child in state care, they are investigated as a matter of priority," it stated.
The Herald Sun has learned Ms Wooldridge instigated an internal investigation after being alerted to both the prostitution claims and the 12-year-old's pregnancy in a letter sent by a member of the public early this month.
The letter provided detailed information on the 12-year-old girl's predicament, outlining the residential care facility she had been located at.
Premier Ted Baillieu yesterday said: "There has been a failure of the system . . . and the question now is was the response appropriate," he said.
Mr Baillieu said the focus must be on supporting the child and the young mum.
Source: Herald Sun