"Foster children left in care despire serious allegations of abuse"
- Category: Foster Care
- Created: Sunday, 15 September 2013 23:30
- Written by Lisa Pryor - Sydney Morning Herald
A NSW father who fostered more than 300 children around Sydney confessed to raping a foster child in his care, documents obtained by the Herald show. The man and his wife fostered children for 30 years and had been awarded medals in the Order of Australia for their work. They had also been profiled in an article in The Australian Women's Weekly celebrating foster carers.
The confession in August last year came two years after the Department of Family and Community Services conducted an investigation into claims that the man was sexually inappropriate with foster children. Children were left in his care after the investigation even though the department found some of the behaviour did occur.
The man was remanded in jail in August last year on charges including nine counts of aggravated sexual assault of the teenager, who had a number of disabilities.
His confession came the day after the girl reported the abuse to friends at her school. The rapes he confessed to occurred over a two-month period last year.
The case was never made public because the man died in custody soon after being charged. The death, understood to be a suicide, is being reviewed by the Coroner.
In 2010 the family was investigated over allegations by another teenager who had left a placement with them. Her allegations included that he had "French kissed" a teenager in his care, appeared naked in front of children with only a small towel covering his genitals, and talked to children about his sex life.
Both parents denied any inappropriate behaviour had occurred.
The Herald has learnt this is just one of many cases where NSW children have been left in the care of foster parents facing serious allegations. A backlog has been building within the department's reportable conduct unit, which manages complaints about foster carers, with hundreds of allegations awaiting investigation.
"This backlog has been years in the making, and clearing it is a high priority for Family and Community Services,'' the minister, Pru Goward, said. ''Close to $1 million has been allocated to maintain and support high standards of care for children, including additional expert investigators and improving the electronic case management system so allegations can be investigated more rapidly."
Department figures show there are 502 current investigations in the unit, most relating to carers, with 272 falling into the "reportable" category that includes neglect, physical abuse and grooming children for sexual abuse.
A spokesman for the NSW Ombudsman, which oversees the more serious complaints against foster carers, said: "The issue of delay … will be discussed in our office's annual report".
In many cases children remain with the carers who have allegations against them while the case is being decided. The Herald is aware of at least one investigation where foster children are living with a carer even though the woman's partner has been accused of sexually abusing his step-daughter.
Senior caseworkers in the department have expressed concern that there will be even less oversight of foster care as the department outsources foster care.
One long-time casework manager said: "We know now that carers that we have rejected, and some agencies have rejected, are being picked up by other agencies and used." This includes families that have been rejected due to a history of domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse. One carer who was dropped after physically assaulting a child in their care was picked up by another agency. (Source : http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/foster-children-left-in-care-despite-serious-allegations-of-abuse-20130915-2tt1h.html)