The teenager in hospital. Picture: supplied
The teenager in hospital. Picture: supplied

Teenage girl left to ‘rot in squalor’

CHILD Safety was warned that a teenage girl was "rotting in a resi house" on the Gold Coast only for her to be diagnosed later with leukaemia.

The Bulletin has revealed residential housing, where children cannot be fostered out, was failling to deliver adequate food and care to some children as profit-hungry agencies rort the system under the watch of Child Safety.

The kitchen pantry of a Gold Coast home where two teenage brothers live in residential care under Child Safety.
The kitchen pantry of a Gold Coast home where two teenage brothers live in residential care under Child Safety.

A registered nurse, who was a friend of the 15-year-old girl, told The Bulletin: "I saw for myself the squalor this kid was living in when I went to that house (in Coomera) to collect her and take her to hospital. It still really pains me. It still breaks my heart."

The average cost per child in resi-care is estimated to be at least $200,000 a year but can reach just more than a $1 million in extreme cases.

The nurse in her complaint told DOCS: "She has developed chronic pain issues. Pain that goes around her body and no medical testing can find a source for this. Her liver function tests show abnormalities.

The fridge at a home where Gold Coast teenage boys are in residential care under the watch of Child Safety.
The fridge at a home where Gold Coast teenage boys are in residential care under the watch of Child Safety.

"I know she is now refusing to have the call-out doctor last evening and even today refused to see the local GP. Many a time I ring and find her crying and in chronic pain, stating she has not slept for days."

The nurse asked DOCS to move the New Zealand-born girl to Logan where staff understood her culture. The "high risk" kids around her were destroying rooms, cars, and using drugs.

"As a trained nurse, my alarm bells ring out about this child's mental health," the nurse wrote.

"To my understanding she has not been referred to Child and Youth Mental Health yet and no referral to a psychologist has been mentioned either."

Text messages between the nurse and DOCS workers in September last year show the breakdown in communications between Child Safety and resi-care agency workers.

Resi-care kids like Steve are starting to talk out about the failures of the Child Safety system. Picture Glenn Hampson
Resi-care kids like Steve are starting to talk out about the failures of the Child Safety system. Picture Glenn Hampson

"She can't even manage to brush her hair. When I took her for a haircut her hair hadn't been brushed for three weeks. The loss of weight alarms me - 8 kilos is my guess," the nurse wrote.

The nurse was taking the girl's clothes home to wash. "I don't think she would cope if sent back to the resi home due to be left in that room to rot," she wrote.

A DOCS staffer in a text said residential care staff were working hard to help the teenager.

"Please know that the residential had been trying hardest to get her out of her bedroom, she was consistently refusing," the staffer wrote.

As the teenager's temperature spiked and she became more fatigued, she was moved to Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane.

The sick Gold Coast teen. Picture: supplied
The sick Gold Coast teen. Picture: supplied

"I'm begging the mother to come and visit the kid. I'm going up to Brisbane to stay beside her and support her tomorrow. The f…. family should be there," the nurse wrote.

The teenager was diagnosed with stage two leukaemia, and by early October DOCS arranged with relatives for her to be flown back to New Zealand to be with her mother.

A whistleblower believes resi-care had failed in its care under the legislation which demands adequate food, clothing and shelter be provided for a child.

"I believe that she was subject to systemic, medical and emotional neglect accusing of faking, not given pain relief medication by staff after 10pm," the whistleblower wrote.

"She was not picked up when she was incapacitated due to pain and the organisation did not seek further medical intervention to inquire about the cause of her pain and incapacity.

The teenager's mental state declined, she was culturally isolated and resi-care failed to respond to requests to move her.

The whistleblower questioned whether family members were informed of the child's deteriorating health. She is yet to be in remission after chemotherapy.

The nurse remains "heartbroken" about "this kid being let down at every turn" and recalls her shock of first inspecting the Coomera house and taking her teenage friend to a GP.

"I was greeted with chaos. This girl was too ill to sort out her bedroom. She had been spiking temperatures and left to life in sweaty sheets," the nurse told The Bulletin.

"She was too ill to shower and get out bed and was left in squalor. I was appalled that the staff had never tried to help sort out her washing."

Mudgeeraba MP and LNP spokesperson for women Ros Bates called on Child Safety to conduct an internal review.

"It sounds as if she was sent to resi-care with serious medical issues and absolutely no support. If that is true it completely undermines the whole system and shines a massive spotlight on the failures that include resi-care," she said.

Child Safety Minister Di Farmer said the Child Protection Act 1999 prevented her from commenting on individual cases but the Department had "a rigorous process that deals with complaints".

"The safety and wellbeing of all children in care is incredibly important to all our child safety workers," she said.

"Every day they work to support children and young people in care, sometimes in situations most of us wouldn't even want to think about."



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