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November 23, 2012 permalink
What does a social service agency do with a problematic boy showing a history of sexual misconduct? Answer: Give him to an unsuspecting foster mother without warning her of the history. That way if a rape occurs, the foster mother can get the blame. That's the way it happened in Queensland Australia.
Family failed by a flawed system, but department blames mum for son's rape trauma
IT'S a gut-wrenching case with a heartless twist that will leave you stunned.
A Queensland mother is suing the Child Safety Department for failing to reveal the sexual history of a foster child, 15, who allegedly raped her eight-year-old son.
But in a move that could leave the family financially ruined, the State Government is taking action against the mother, alleging she is partly responsible for the alleged rape because she should have been supervising the children and protecting her son.
And all this while the State Government conducts an inquiry into child protection that is aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable children - but which cannot look at this case because it is outside its terms of reference.
Child Safety Minister Tracy Davis failed to answer a series of questions about the tactics being used by Crown Law.
"As the matter is before the courts, we can't comment on any aspect of the case," she said.
The Courier-Mail can today publish a special investigation into the plight of a southeast Queensland family torn apart by its decision to take in a teenager who had been abandoned by his family and placed in state care.
The foster mother, who cannot be identified, had been looking for the teenager for about eight years because she knew of his plight.
She found him after contacting Child Safety, which then asked if she would become his foster mother.
An internal Child Safety review into the incident and a transcript of a meeting with Child Safety officers reveals the parents asked twice if the foster child had any history of sexualised behaviour. The mother told The Courier-Mail she asked the department because there had been rumours that the boy had been molested.
The review said a Child Safety officer told the parents, "it was not believed (the boy) had any current sexualised behaviour" and failed to tell them of reports of past sexual incidents.
The review found the parents were not given the full and frank information they were supposed to receive under the Child Protection Act and ordered staff undergo more training.
But Child Safety officers in southeast Queensland told the parents that their office could not be held accountable for a regional office failing to reveal the boy's history. The office put the onus on the parents by saying it was up to the family to write letters to the other office seeking answers.
The mother has told of her anger, embarrassment and sadness for her traumatised eight-year-old son. The mother said an older son had turned to drugs after believing he failed his younger brother. The mother is now unable to work and is receiving counselling.
She said Child Safety, which was spending taxpayer money pursuing her with lawyers, should be held responsible.
"I asked them (about his history) and I was lied to twice," she said. "I feel like an idiot for letting him into my house."
The Government informed the family it disputed claims that the department was negligent, and it would seek a contribution claim against the family.
"Should the State of Queensland be found liable to the claimant (the young boy) it seeks a contribution/indemnity from (the mother)," Crown Law wrote to the mother.
Crown Law claims the mother was aware of the foster child's sexualised behaviours and that she notified the department of concerns years before taking the teenager. The mother denies the claims.
Crown Law also states: "(The mother) failed to properly supervise (the foster child) by failing to establish and maintain a safe environment and appropriate supervision conditions for (her son) while she was the approved carer of (the boy).
The mother's lawyer said the Government was acting like a bully.
"In our view the state's claim against the parents is frivolous and vexatious and amounts to an abuse of process," the lawyer said.
"Given the extreme psychological trauma this family have already been put through because of the conduct of the state, it seems to us to be most abhorrent to aggravate that further by bringing claims without any real merit against the parents.
"This will require them to seek further legal representation, incur further legal costs and be unreasonably called upon to defend their actions as parents.
"We urged the state in the strongest possible terms to withdraw the contribution notices."
The Courier-Mail sought comment from the Justice Department but was referred to Child Safety.
A Child Safety spokeswoman said: "(We are) unable to comment. The Child Protection Act also prevents the department from commenting on matters involving a child in care."
This morning, it emerged that the case cannot be referred to an inquiry into the child protection system because it is outside its terms of reference.
A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said any case before the court cannot be referred to the inquiry, headed by Tim Carmody.
It appears Child Safety asked Crown Law to pursue a contribution claim against the mother of the alleged victim.
The Courier-Mail is waiting for comment from Child Safety Minister Tracy Davis, Mr Carmody and Children and Young People and Child Guardian Commissioner Elizabeth Fraser.
Addendum: In the litigation, the Child Safety Department is avoiding responsibility by saying the victims and their mother were at fault. They failed to lock the daughters' doors. And the earlier abuse by the boy when he raped a three-year-old girl? That was the other foster mother's fault. They have a cop-out for everything.
Child Safety Department tells three sisters they shared blame for sexual assault by foster child
THREE sisters who were repeatedly sexually abused by a foster child have been told by the Child Safety Department they share the blame for failing to lock their bedroom doors.
The sisters are suing Child Safety for putting them at risk of the sexual offender, who two years earlier was convicted of raping a three-year-old girl.
But once again Child Safety has used taxpayer's money to take legal action against a mother, arguing she was at fault and should have better protected her children and should contribute to any court-ordered compensation.
Last week, The Courier-Mail revealed that Child Safety failed to tell a foster mother about the troubled sexual history of a 15-year-old foster child, who went on to allegedly rape her son.
She is now taking legal action, however, Child Safety said it was her fault for not supervising the foster boy and hit her with a contribution claim.
The State Government is refusing to comment on the cases even though Minister Jann Stuckey, when opposition spokeswoman, said placing the youth in foster care with young girls "was the last thing that should have occurred'.
"The Government has again failed children in care," Ms Stuckey said.
It comes as the sisters, frustrated by the time taking to get a legal resolution, are desperate for justice.
The foster boy was 15 years old when he "persistently" and "repeatedly" sexually assaulted them, then aged 17, 16, and 13.
He was sent to live with the girls in 2006 when their mother agreed to foster him.
Police records show the family said Child Safety told them that the boy posed no risk to them, and although he had "done something" to another child, it was the fault of the previous carer.
That "something" was the rape of a three-year-old girl.
Now aged in their 20s, the sisters say they are suffering a range of problems, including depression, nightmares, anxiety, decreased mobility, flashbacks and loss of employment.
The matter has been filed in the District Court and is progressing.
Child Safety's latest amended defence dated December 23, 2011 alleges the mother and victims contributed to their own ordeal.
"The alleged consequences were caused or contributed to by the negligence of (two of the sisters) in: failing to lock (their) bedroom door; failing to inform (their) mother of the acts ... (and) failing to tell (their mother) the foster boy was entering (their bedroom at night)."
However, a court heard the offender somehow was able to get into the girls' locked bedrooms.
In 2008, the offender was convicted of 14 sexual offences against the girls, but the sentencing judge let him out after just 204 days already served.
Judge Sarah Bradley said at his sentencing: "Clearly your behaviour had very serious consequences for all three of the girls.
"They obviously found each of the incidents terrifying and it has had serious and ongoing consequences and effects for them, both emotional and physical and in terms of their relationships with members of their family.
"Right from the outset, each of the girls made it clear that your advances were not welcome, but nevertheless you persisted in going into their rooms at night when they were asleep and sexually abusing them, even to the extent of - it's unknown how - but getting through doors that had been locked."
In their statement of claim, prepared by Shine Lawyers, the sisters argue that Child Safety knew the foster boy had a history of sexualised behaviours against other children, had sexually assaulted other girls, and that he was "likely to sexually assault or attempt to sexually assault and behave in an indecent manner" toward each of them.
And "placing the foster child with the plaintiffs ... exposed (them) to an unnecessary and unreasonable risk of psychiatric/psychology injury".
In an affidavit to police, the oldest girl said: "I can remember just before (he) came to stay with us, we had a visit from someone at the Department of Child Safety. He sat my sisters, mother and I down and he told us something about (him).
"He said that he had done something to a two-year-old child at his last placement at (location). He said that it was an exaggerated matter and that it wasn't as bad as it really was."