The 14-year-old boy was removed from his custodial father's care in 2004, after UNNAMED DAD bashed the child and assaulted his school principal. The boy then ended up in foster care, but somehow Dad was able to reclaim him without Child Safety doing anything to stop it. After that, the boy started collecting guns and knives, regularly sniffed paint, and reported suicidal feelings to a Kid's Helpline operator. The boy made a suicide attempt, but still Child Safety took no action. As it turns out, his last attempt in July 2005 was successful. Sounds like Dad and the grandfather basically neglected the boy, leaving him at home abandoned and alone for long periods of time. Not a word on the mother. Is she deceased or what?
Boy’s death reveals child safety flaws
Lacey Burley 23rd October 2009
THE tragic suicide of a 14-year-old boy in the care of the Toowoomba Department of Child Safety has highlighted shocking flaws in the system.
Macdonald Law principal Shane Macdonald said he hoped findings from a coronial inquest into the boy’s shooting death would help prevent further deaths of children in need.
At the conclusion of the inquest last Friday, Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements commented on the department’s actions in not suspending the Toowoomba team leader responsible for the boy’s care until immediately before the inquest began — four years after the teenager’s death in July, 2005.
The department took custody of the boy after his father bashed him and assaulted his school principal when asked to attend the school in relation to the boy’s misbehaviour in March, 2004.
The teenager was placed in the care of a foster family and later in a communal youth home which was mainly populated by older children who would commit crimes.
The home was supervised by a rotation of youth workers. But the boy began sniffing paint and leaving the home to live on the streets.
Mr Macdonald said the department did nothing when the boy’s father took the child from the home and moved into a caravan at the boy’s grandfather’s home in Brisbane.
Ms Clements commented that the department did not properly investigate whether the grandfather was a suitable carer and that it was alarming their assessment of the grandfather was so “misguided”.
Evidence showed the boy did not attend school after he was placed in care and started collecting knives, guns, regularly sniffed paint and told a Kid’s Helpline operator that he was suicidal.
The department again took no action when the boy made a serious attempt at suicide, leaving a note on a mirror.
The inquest heard the child mixed with an older group of illicit drug users who would supply his father with drugs.
The grandfather informed the department that he could no longer cope with caring for the child and travelled overseas for a total of 63 days during which the child was left home alone.
The team leader’s reason for inaction was that the boy’s file was to be transferred to another office.
However, the inquest found there was no decisive action taken to transfer the file between September, 2004, and February, 2005, when the team leader went on leave and an acting team leader sent the paperwork to another office. By this time, the boy’s whereabouts were unknown.
On July 22, 2005, the boy spent time with his father before returning to his grandfather’s home where he showed him a .25 calibre handgun, indicating it was an early birthday present. The grandfather told him to get rid of it, but did not confiscate it.
The next day, he was on the phone to his father trying to negotiate with his dad to pick him up to have a meal together. His father was not available and told the boy to catch a bus.
The child rang his father again and said “Good-bye dad” before shooting himself in the head.
Ms Clements made a number of recommendations at the close of the inquest including allocating priority funding to the department, addressing staff training, and changing procedures.
“The bureaucratic war between departmental offices in Toowoomba and Brisbane continued as to whose responsibility it was to care for (the child),” she said. “The result was a tragedy for (the boy).”
Mr Macdonald said he and other Toowoomba solicitors who worked on child protection cases hoped these findings would prompt another review.
The Department of Child Safety, now the Department of Communities, is addressing disciplinary issues with a team leader involved.