SOCIAL services departments are failing in their duty to care for our most vulnerable children, as shocking new figures show almost one in 10 kids in residential care homes in NSW were sexually abused in a single year.
The horrific statistic follows revelations by The Daily Telegraph last week that 41-year-old Coffs Harbour carer Dennis Kelly was facing charges of raping a 13-year-old girl living at a care home on the NSW north coast. Children living in residential care centres are among the most vulnerable in the community because they are deemed too unstable to be housed with a family.
And although they make up less than five per cent of all out-of-home-care children — the rest live with foster parents or relatives — they account for a third of all claims of sexual abuse against foster children made to the royal commission into child abuse.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that 35 children in residential care facilities in NSW were victims of sexual harm in 2014, about 10 per cent of the total number.
The royal commission has also received a staggering 1200 reports of alleged sexual abuse against children in residential care centres nationally over the past two financial years. Many of these reports were not followed up, often because the victims were too afraid to pursue the matter.
The instances of sexual abuse in residential centres is so rife that homes are being provided with “survival kits” stocked with condoms and lubricant in a bid to stem infections and teenage pregnancy.
One home to stock these kits is the Wundarra Services Centre on the NSW north coast, where Kelly is alleged to have raped the teenage girl.
According to police allegations, Kelly may have used a condom from a kit for the purposes of the alleged rape. “It’s preventive and I think a good thing,” the centre’s manager Garth Freudenstein said.
Kelly was hired as a carer by the government-funded Wundarra on a wage of $2200 per fortnight, despite having a lengthy criminal history including numerous assaults and break and enter offences.
It has also emerged that at least one bikie associate from the Coffs Harbour Lone Wolf chapter had been hired as a carer at Wundarra.
The Telegraph’s revelations prompted Family and Communities Minister Brad Hazzard to make criminal history checks mandatory at all residential care providers.
“The process of advising agencies of the new probity requirements for residential care workers who have direct contact with children has begun,” a spokeswoman for the Office of the Children’s Guardian said.
Family and Community Services secretary Michael Coutts-Trotter rejected suggestions the department was failing to protect kids.
“Children in residential care are unacceptably over-represented in cases of sexual harm, but less so in NSW than nationally,” he said
According to FACS, roughly a quarter of reports of sexual abuse in residential care referred to abuse carried out by another child.
“I was taken aback that a residential care provider would employ a care worker without doing a police check,” Mr Coutts-Trotter said.
“We’re imperfect and we learn from experience ... but I reject the notion that we’re failing in our central mission to protect kids.”
Mr Hazzard said the figures were “unacceptable” and vowed to reform of the sector.
“As a society we are horrified when children are harmed, and doubly so when they are harmed in the care system,” he said.
“The NSW government is driving a complete overhaul of the way we care for very vulnerable children.”
Karen Willis, executive officer of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, said paedophiles were preying on youths in residential care facilities because they were easy targets.
Chair of lobbyist group Bravehearts, Hetty Johnston, said it was a disgrace carers had been allowed to work with kids without undergoing any criminal history checks.
“We put these vulnerable kids with people who are supposed to protect them. It’s an absolute shocker,” she said.
Source : http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/almost-one-in-10-children-in-residential-care-homes-in-nsw-were-sexually-abused-in-a-single-year-shocking-new-figures-reveal/news-story/5d0699c909b60e88d84be7b969a2e90a