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Social work practice in Daniel Marshall case

Media Release 14/02/01

Social work practice in Daniel Marshall case found to be of good standard

A review into Child, Youth and Family’s handling of the case of a Taranaki toddler allegedly killed by his mother has found that social workers carried out their statutory responsibilities thoroughly and in accordance with the law and social work professional standards.

Daniel Marshall was found dead in the boot of a car on 7 January 2001 and his mother has been charged with his murder.

Child, Youth and Family’s chief social worker, Mike Doolan, commissioned a review of the Department’s involvement with Daniel. An independent barrister carried out the review, assisted by a senior social worker from Mr Doolan’s office. The overall conclusion that the social workers in this case acted appropriately and professionally is supported by the following findings:

1. The investigation and social work intervention was thorough and appropriate.
A notification relating to the care and well-being of Daniel was thoroughly investigated by social workers who consulted the family, police, the statutory care and protection resource panel and other professionals. As a result of that investigation, legal action was taken to protect Daniel and his custody was transferred to the chief executive of Child, Youth and Family.

A custody order gives the Department authority to place a child and monitor the placement, which was done in this case.

Family members were made fully aware of the plans for Daniel’s care and agreed to them, as did Daniel’s court appointed lawyer. Leading up to Christmas, Child, Youth and Family had no information that indicated Daniel was at risk of serious harm.

2. All available information was presented to the family and others at a Family Group Conference.

Claims have been made that police provided social workers with a letter outlining concerns for Daniel and that the family never saw the letter. The Police letter was in response to a social worker’s request for information to support her application to the Family Court for custody. The review has found the contents of the Police letter were incorporated into a full report provided by the social worker to the Family Group Conference, which the family attended. The letter was in no way critical of the placement supported by Child, Youth and Family as has been previously reported.

3. Interagency co-operation was of a good standard

The review found that Child, Youth and Family staff worked well with police, the Family Court, health workers and counsel for child, in the best interests of this child. It is heartening to see such a good level of understanding and co-operation.

“In addition to this review the police have advised me that in their view our work in this case was of a very high standard,” says Mr Doolan.

“This tragic case illustrates how, even with sound child protection practice, serious harm or death cannot always be avoided and this is deeply regrettable.

“I understand that the death of a child in these circumstances will inevitably stir strong emotions in people. In this case, unfair and inaccurate comments have been made about the social workers involved with Daniel and his family, and these have been reported in the media. To do things right and still see a child lost is bad enough. Social workers should not be expected to bear the additional burden of unjustified criticisms by people before they are in possession of all the facts,” says Mr Doolan.


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