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CYF not warned about abuse

5 August 2005

CYF not warned about abuse

Child, Youth and Family Minister Ruth Dyson today released a report into the department’s handling of a case where children were placed in the care of an approved caregiver alleged to have subsequently sexually abused them.

Ms Dyson called for an investigation into the case after National MP Paul Hutchison said that Child, Youth and Family had ignored concerns raised about the caregiver.

“The abuse of any child is a tragedy. For this reason, the department has strict procedures for assessing caregivers. The investigation showed that these procedures were followed, including a police and medical check and two positive references,” Ruth Dyson said.

Ms Dyson said no concerns were raised before the children were placed with the caregivers.

“Following the placement of the children, a number of general concerns were raised, none of which alleged sexual abuse of the children. The department investigated all of these concerns. Two of the children were subsequently removed for reasons unrelated to concerns raised about the man. When the police provided information showing the third child was at risk, that child was immediately removed as well.”

Ruth Dyson said Dr Hutchison had first raised the issue of abuse three months after the third child had been removed.

“An earlier letter from Paul Hutchison did not raise warnings about the man. Rather it talked about issues regarding the parents’ accommodation and their desire to get their children back. At the end, it said the parents were concerned about three of the children living with the caregivers. No details were provided about the nature of this concern.”

Ms Dyson said the department took any allegation of child abuse extremely seriously, particularly when it related to an approved caregiver. For this reason, the chief executive had asked for a departmental audit of caregiver assessment and review processes and their application. This case will form part of the audit which is expected to be completed in early November.


Report REP/05/8/230

4 August 2005

Report On The X Family – Executive Summary

Background to Executive Summary

1. This report is an executive summary of the report on the X Family dated 1 August 2005 (REP/05/7/209).

2. There are two factors which necessarily inhibit the release of all relevant information. Firstly Mr Y is facing charges in relation to certain matters related to incidents referred to herein and it would be improper to release that information. Secondly the privacy rights of the children and their mother must be respected.

3. Within those constraints this document is an accurate summary.

Summary of Report on the X Family

4. On 24 June 2005, you received a letter from Dr Paul Hutchison MP expressing concerns about the alleged sexual abuse of the X children while they were placed in a Child, Youth and Family placement, despite concerns having been expressed to the department about the suitability of the placement.

5. Over recent weeks, the allegation that Child, Youth and Family ignored concerns that were raised has been widely reported in the media.

6. You have asked for a report on what concerns were raised, how the Department responded to the concerns, and what gave the department confidence about the safety of the children. Please note this response has been prepared from an examination of departmental records and in consultation with the social work staff at the office.

Background

7. The X family first came to the attention of Child, Youth and Family in 1994. Concerns were raised about the care and safety of the X children from that year through to 2004. A wide variety of concerns were raised about the wellbeing of the children.

8. During the time that the department investigated the concerns raised in the notifications, the safety of all the children was continuously monitored through extended family, the schools, and home based support who were contracted to provide monitoring of the family and to assess Mr. and Mrs. X’s ability to care for the children, having regard to the issues the family was facing.

9. As a result of continuing notifications, in March 2004 the concerns for the children were referred to a family group conference.

10. Family transience prevented this conference from being held until September 2004.

11. As a result of the conference, applications were made to the Family Court in respect of one child and he was placed in the custody of the Chief Executive with the consent of his parents.

12. On 7 October 2004, the department made application to the Family Court in relation to the three other children. On 8 October, the Court granted interim custody of those three children to the Chief Executive. They were uplifted from their parent’s care on 11 October 2004, and were placed in a department Family Home pending the arrangement of a family placement.

Placement with Mr and Mrs Y

13. In order to become a caregiver for the department, an ‘Application to Become a Caregiver’ form must be completed. The applicant must undergo a Police check and a medical report must be completed by the applicant’s general practitioner. Further to this, the applicant must name two referees who can attest to their suitability to care for someone else’s child. A social work interview is also conducted with the applicant to determine their suitability.

14. Mr and Mrs Y did make formal application to become approved departmental caregivers. A satisfactory police check was carried out. The medical report raised no concerns in respect of them. Referees raised no concerns about their suitability to become caregivers.

15. Mr and Mrs X are related to Mr and Mrs Y. There is no indication from Departmental records that the former expressed any concern about the intended placement.

16. Three of the X children (AX, BX and CX) had an introductory visit with Mr and Mrs Y on Labour weekend. This proved highly successful. The children remained in their care from that date.

17. AX remained there until 3 January 2005 and BX until 15 March 2005. Their departure from the home was unrelated to concerns about Mr Y. CX was removed on 18 March 2005 as a consequence of information received from the Police.

18. It was immediately determined that no further placements would be made with Mr Y and their caregiver approval status was consequently revoked.

Initial Concerns Expressed to Child, Youth and Family about the Placement with Mr and Mrs Y.

19. On 29 October 2004, the department received a telephone call from a person who stated that the children would be well looked after by the Ys but stated that Mr Y accesses unsuitable internet sites, “not child pornography sites, but chat rooms” which he believes are not suitable; that the Ys may be offering to care for the children for the money, and concern about boarders smoking in the house.

20. On 2 November 2004, the department received a telephone call from health professional A. They indicated that they were ringing as a result of concerns expressed to them by Mrs X and K. The concerns passed on were: Mr Y is a compulsive gambler; he drinks; that the Ys are only caring for the children for the money; and that Mrs Y is not capable of looking after the children.

21. On 4 November 2004, the department received a telephone call from health professional B. They relayed to the social worker that they had received a telephone call from K who asked them to pass on the following concerns to the department: that Mr Y has gambling and alcohol problems; that he has been violent to Mrs Y, that his relationship with his foreign students in the home is questionable; and that his motivation for caring for the children is also questionable as he receives a good income from ACC. The caller said they had no concerns of their own, but was passing on the information because the person who had called them was a well respected member of the community. That person was one of the persons who had asked health professional A to call Child Youth and Family.

Action Taken In Response to the Concerns Raised in Paragraphs 26 & 27

22. On 4 November 2004, Mr Y was interviewed regarding the concerns expressed to the department of internet access; alcohol; gambling; violence and his relationship with home stay students. During the course of the interview two neighbours arrived unannounced and the case-note observes that Mr Y was comfortable to discuss the concerns with the neighbours present.

23. Also on 4 November 2004, both BX and CX were interviewed in a child focussed interview, with a view to providing the children with an opportunity to disclose any abuse. Questions were asked around their living circumstances with their parents, the Ys and other matters. No disclosures were made.

24. The concerns received on 29 October, 2 November, and 4 November 2004, were collectively addressed through the interview with Mr Y and the interviews with BX and CX. At the conclusion of those interviews, the social worker formed the view that the concerns were unsubstantiated and that it was appropriate for the children to remain in the placement.
25. On 5 November 2004, a meeting was held between K and department staff. K raised a range of issues regarding the department’s involvement with the family, including the children’s placement with the Ys when concerns had been expressed. In light of the interviews that had been conducted the previous day, K was informed that the concerns about the placement had been addressed.

Letter from Dr Paul Hutchison MP

26. On 29 November 2004, Dr Paul Hutchison MP wrote on behalf of his constituents Mr and Mrs X, to the Manager of the department’s office. The letter relayed his constituents’ fear that they would lose their rental accommodation, whilst they were attending a residential rehabilitation course and their wish to be re-united with their children. Dr Hutchison’s letter stated that Mr and Mrs X were concerned about 3 of their children living with Mr Y. The letter did not detail what the concerns were.

27. On 16 December 2004, the Manager of the department’s office responded in writing to Dr Hutchinson’s 29 November 2004 letter. The letter briefly outlined the historical involvement of the department with the X family and the action taken to address placement concerns with Mr and Mrs Y.
Subsequent Concerns Expressed to Child, Youth and Family about the Placement with Mr and Mrs Y

28. On 17 January 2005, the department received a notification from an anonymous caller. The notifier stated that Mr Y was well known in the area as having the largest collection of porn in the district. He wanted to know how it was that Child, Youth and Family would place children in such a household. The notifier said that the children were being used as slaves. Asked how he knew about the porn collection, the notifier said that everyone knew about it and that he had heard people talk about it in the pub. He said that Y was also a gambler. The notifier said that he had observed the children in the backyard having to do housework. He said that the Y’s child shouts at the children. The records state that the notifier was primarily concerned with criticising the department for placing children with the Ys.

29. On 17 January 2005, a family meeting was held to discuss plans for the children. Mrs. X attended. Concern was expressed in that meeting about Mrs Y’s ability to cope with the children. The meeting agreed that AX would remain in a different place and that BX and CX would remain with Mr and Mrs Y.
30. Immediately after that meeting, the new allegations made in respect of Mr Y were discussed with him, and then separately with his child. Again Mr Y denied all of the allegations and his child (who is a youth) independently verified his assertions.

31. On 20 January, Mrs Y was independently interviewed regarding the concerns raised by the anonymous notifier. Mrs Y assured the social worker that now that AX was placed elsewhere she was capably managing the two others. She strongly refuted the allegations made by the notifier in respect of Mr Y.

32. On 23 January 2005, the concerns received on 17 January 2005 were referred to the Police under the CAT/SAT protocol. The CAT/SAT protocol is an inter-agency protocol covering the reporting and investigation of suspected child sexual and physical abuse. Under the protocol, the primary function of the Police is to carry out the investigation of offences, and where appropriate the prosecution of offenders. The primary function of the department, under the protocol, is to jointly investigate the safety of children.

33. On 23 January, the concerns of 17 January were also referred to the Care and Protection Resource Panel. The Panel’s role is to provide advice which assists with the investigation, assessment, resolution and review and social workers are required to consult with the Panel as soon as practicable after the commencement of the investigation.

The Panel responded to the referral on 21 March 2005 (after Police had notified the department of the complaint against Y) with the advice that a family group conference should be held and asked for a further report by 31 May 2005. The Panel has subsequently ceased its involvement after being informed of the children’s return to Mrs X’s care whilst still in the custody of the Chief Executive.

34. AX and BX had already been moved from the placement prior to the receipt of information from the Police regarding Mr Y, CX was also moved from the placement on 18 March 2005.

35. The department understands that Mr Y has been charged with a number of offences and the criminal matters have been set down for deposition hearing.

ENDS

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