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Report’s damning findings about NT foster care failures

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

The Children’s Commissioner’s Own Investigation Report tabled in parliament last night has highlighted serious deficiencies in the operation of several agencies responsible for overseeing vulnerable children in out-of-home care.

The Children's Commissioner's Own Investigation Report tabled in parliament last night has highlighted serious deficiencies in the operation of several agencies responsible for overseeing vulnerable children in out-of-home care.

The report found 12 children were subject to sexual and physical harm at the hands of two foster carers over a 16-year period in Central Australia, dating back to 2004.

It also alleged vulnerable children in out-of-home care were hit with hot metal bars, locked in their bedrooms, and racially discriminated against because they were Aboriginal.

Children's Commissioner Colleen Gwynne said the findings showed an inadequacy of investigations into the care of the 12 children.

"This shows a lack of proper assessment, it shows a lack of monitoring and a lack of consideration of all the factors when making decisions about the care of young people," she said.

A similar report by the commissioner in 2018 outlined similar deficiencies around the assessment and monitoring of carers in the out-of-home care system.

She said the government had not adequately implemented recommendations from that report.

"We have had opportunities to intervene, to change the circumstances of some of those children," she said.

The 2020 investigation found a number of shortcomings and policy breaches, including a failure to maintain adequate historical records of vulnerable children in care.

It also found the previous department failed to report to police and investigate three allegations of sexual harm and failures by the departments and Territory Families to provide ongoing assessments of the two foster carers.

Despite numerous complaints made over the years, both carers still have two children under their supervision.

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Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield wouldn't comment on whether the two foster carers should have their accreditation stripped from them.

"We have followed the recommendations of the report, that is not a recommendation within the report," she said.

Ms Wakefield said the cases were historical and the government has accepted all of the recommendations from the report.

"The time that those allegations were made was historical, the department at that time acted in a way that we would not expect them to act today," she said.

"We have made significant reforms in this area."

But the commissioner said not all of the allegations were historical.

"There are matters that were reported to the department and police as recently as 2018, 2019," she said.

"There were two further approvals in 2017 and 2019, so those matters are very recent."

"We are talking about 16 years, but if you look at any report that I've done, I always look at the history around a particular child and I think if I weren't to do that I wouldn't be doing my job," she said.

CEO of Territory Families, Ken Davies said in a statement that the two carers in the report were re- accredited at the request of two children in their care.

"A significant factor in re-authorising the carers, was the request from the two young people wanting to remain with the carers until they became adults," he said.

"Re-authorising the carers also meant the Agency could continue to monitor care arrangements. The young people have not reported any incidents of suffering or harm while in the placement."

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It's not clear if charges have been laid against either foster carer but police are now investigating the alleged sexual abuse of one of the children.

Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/out-of-home-care-northern-territory-children-harmed-physically-sexually-report-finds/918bd78b-4568-47ec-900d-1108a7f21a92

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