‘Child Safety prepared to let this child die’: LNP MP says
A 12-year-old girl who joined a teenage gang and resorted to prostitution, drugs and alcohol after being taken from her foster care family is still homeless on Gold Coast streets, three months after the Bulletin first revealed her sad journey.
However, a Child Safety department chief says she is being "provided extensive daily support".
The Bulletin can reveal the exchange of heart-breaking letters in recent weeks between the department, LNP frontbencher Ros Bates and the girl's former foster parents as part of a desperate final bid by them to secure a safe home for the youngster.
In a letter to Child Safety Minister Di Farmer, Ms Bates said the girl's former-foster parents feared for her life after she engaged in risky sexual behaviours, self-harmed, and consumed drugs and alcohol.
"I am pleading for urgent ministerial intervention, which would see this child assessed by medical professionals, and placed in a safe home," Mr Bates wrote.
The Mudgeeraba MP asked the Office of Public Guardian to intervene and it has agreed to help to the "limited scope of their ability".
Labor this year announced it would be working with the LNP on a bipartisan overhaul of the child safety system.
Ms Farmer told the Bulletin on Friday: "A re-elected Palaszczuk Government will work collaboratively with community-based support organisations, the Opposition and cross bench MPs to ensure the child protection system is as strong as it can be for the safety of vulnerable young Queenslanders.
"(Mr Bennett) attended a second meeting in August but was (unable to attend) a discussion I had organised for him in September with community support organisations.
"We look forward to Deb Frecklington and the LNP providing a full Child Safety policy proposal and details of the associated costs."
The Bulletin has tracked the young girl's journey since July, as she left a resi-care home, joined a teenage gang, was sexually assaulted and self-harmed leading to several hospital visits.
The Bulletin has called numerous times for authorities to intervene.
An earlier special investigation found taxpayers were coughing up $500,000 to a year for a child in residential care as they went hungry, with profit-hungry private agencies rorting the failed supervision system.
Since 11 years of age, the girl has lived in a tent at a southern beach until moved on by council workers, sheltered in Surfers Paradise, slept in a public toilet - all the time in touch with Child Safety staffers after they gave her a mobile phone.
If you need someone to talk to phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Below is an edited version of the letter with names and identifying details removed:
A LETTER TO MUDGEERABA MP ROS BATES FROM THE FOSTER CARER FORWARDED TO CHILD SAFETY MINISTER DI FARMER
I am writing in the hope that you may be able to help me, or at least put me in contact with someone who can. As you know, I am the ex-foster carer of L (full name removed).
L was removed from our care by the Department of Child Safety following vexatious allegations by her sister - which were proved vexatious by police. L had come to us as a two-month-old baby and was, at the time of the removal, two weeks short of her 10th birthday.
L has not coped with her removal from us - the only family she has ever known - and over the last two-plus years has exhibited significant risk-taking behaviours, including chroming, consuming alcohol, smoking, using drugs, cutting and other self-harm and has attempted suicide a number of times.
Since March this year, L has removed herself from residential care and has basically been living on the streets.
She has slept in public toilets, on beaches and her exposure to this life has increased her risk-taking. She has been hospitalised on a number of occasions for both physical and mental health issues.
Just recently, following self-harm and an attempted suicide, L was dropped off at Gold Coast University Hospital for assessment. L told me that she was shown two videos on self-harming and suicide and was then released back on to the streets.
Since June, L has been without ongoing accommodation as a gang she was involved with forced their way into the residential care accommodation and assaulted the workers at the accommodation.
L since then has been on the streets, living in public toilets, in abandoned houses and occasionally in hotel accommodation provided by the department.
L has told us that she is engaging in sexual relationships with both males and females.
This sexual contact is without any form of protection - either from pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
L's sexual contact is with random people and is putting her in more risky situations.
L is also experimenting more often and with different types of illicit drugs and alcohol.
About three weeks ago, L stole a car from a youth worker - a video had been posted a few days before where a discussion was held amongst the young people L is associating with.
The discussion centred around the fact that L had never stolen a car and had never been incarcerated in the juvenile justice system.
It was suggested that L needed to rectify these omissions. Only a few days later, L stole and drove the youth worker's car.
The following day while the car was being driven by another of her "mates", they were involved in an accident. This was posted on social media and covered by news outlets.
Yesterday, L was interviewed by police and this was the advice to me from the child safety officer: "The (police) officer seemed satisfied that L understood what she did was wrong, so gave L a caution.
"No court date required, and these offences will not be on her record. Her charges were unlawful use, fraud and driving without a licence."
L was released back on to the streets by Child Safety.
Throughout the last week, L has mentioned suicide on a number of occasions and this morning, she has again posted that she is ending it all.
She has also posted pictures of the results of self-harm. I am concerned that L's situation is deteriorating.
Child Safety appear to be unable and unwilling to do anything to protect her and provide her with a safe environment.
I am hoping that L may be able to be assessed under the Mental Health Act and provided with the assistance she requires so that she is safe again.
I would remind you that when in our care, L was a very stable child, attending a private school regularly, participating in community events and exhibiting no signs of mental health issues.
Since leaving our care, L has not been attending school or involved in appropriate community events and her mental health has deteriorated significantly.
Child Safety are prepared to let this child die. I am including photos posted on social media this week.
Some of the messages are quite disturbing as are the photos of her activities.
Please note that these are only from this week, the disturbing trend of self-harm, suicidal expressions, drug abuse, etc have a two-year history with this young girl and all evidence has been sent to Child Safety for their intervention.
To date, no appropriate intervention has occurred. I am hoping you can direct me to where help can be obtained.
(Full name removed).
THE LETTER FROM ROS BATES TO THE MINISTER
I enclose a letter I have received from a former foster carer, who is fearing for the life of a 12-year-old girl who was removed from her care.
Today, the child is homeless on the Gold Coast, engaging in risky sexual behaviours, and consuming drugs and alcohol.
The Department of Child Safety is well-aware of the situation, but to date, has failed to intervene.
As a local MP, a mother, and a registered nurse, I am extremely concerned about the physical and mental wellbeing of this child.
Together with the child's former foster parent and the wider community, I am pleading for urgent ministerial intervention, which would see this child assessed by medical professionals, and placed into a safe home.
The contents of the former foster parent's letter highlight the dire situation the child is in, having been surrounded by people who have introduced her to a life of homelessness, drugs, alcohol, and risky behaviours.
Time is of the essence as she is posting about ending her life on social media.
I also attach a letter from the Office of the Public Guardian, who has agreed to help within the limited scope of their ability.
That's why I am asking for urgent Ministerial intervention in the matter.
I look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency, before this child's mental and physical health spirals further.
This child has been posting about being worthless - let's prove her wrong.
Your sincerely, Ros Bates.
THE LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR GENERAL IN THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SAFETY TO ROS BATES
Dear Ms Bates,
Thank you for your email to the Honourable Di Farmer MP, Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, regarding correspondence received from a former foster carer for a 12-year-old girl and your concerns with respect to the young person's physical and mental wellbeing.
As you are aware, a State election will be held in Queensland on 31 October, 2020 and special administrative arrangements are now in place, referred to as the "caretaker period".
During the caretaker period, operational issues continue to be addressed by the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women.
Therefore, your correspondence has been forwarded to the department for consideration and response.
I acknowledge the information you have been provided is distressing, however the suggestion the department has failed to intervene and provide assistance to the young person is inaccurate.
The young person is provided with extensive daily support as well as accommodation options and is linked with a number of stakeholders with respect to her physical and emotional wellbeing.
Staff are working tirelessly every day, along with other key stakeholders, to provide the best possible support to this young person and all young people in care.
Please be assured the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women has taken your concerns very seriously.
The safety, wellbeing and best interests of children are paramount.
If you wish to report concerns regarding the safety and wellbeing of any child, please contact the South East Regional Intake Service on 1300 679 849.
Thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns.
Yours sincerely, Director General.
Originally published as 'Child Safety are prepared to let this child die'