CYF girl’s death provokes inquiry

4:00AM Saturday Sep 20, 2008
By Elizabeth Binning

An investigation is under way after a distraught 12-year-old girl died in Child Youth and Family care, less than a month after she was allegedly abused by a caregiver.

The girl was found dead in a North Shore home by a younger sibling. Police say there were no suspicious circumstances and the case has now been referred to the Coroner.

But the girl’s extended family are upset she was put into the care of a man who molested her and the fact it took four days for CYF to remove her once the allegations were made.

The girl and her seven siblings were put into the care of a Northland family 2 1/2 years ago.

Her father, who had supervised visits, told the Weekend Herald one of his sons accused the caregiver of hitting the children about two years ago but CYF never did anything about it.

“We were always telling CYF that these caregivers were hurting our kids,” he said. “They said they would go and investigate it. They came back and said we were lying and the kids were making it up.”

At the beginning of last month the girl told her father, during another supervised visit, that she was being abused by her caregiver.

The father told the CYF case worker about the allegations that day but nothing happened. “He said, ‘I’m sorry to hear this but it’s only alleged’. I told him he can take us to the police – we had no vehicles to get there – and he said, ‘We’ll keep it internal and we’ll deal with it ourselves’.”

Under agreed protocol the girl should have been immediately removed from the caregiver and police notified. But it is understood neither happened as the social worker did not alert anyone that weekend.

By Monday, unhappy with the lack of action, the father went to his local MP and the police. CYF was also renotified. It was not until Tuesday that the children were all removed from the Northland family’s care.

Because of the large number of siblings the girl and her 7-year-old sister were separated from the others and sent to a home in Auckland, which her family claim added to her distress. She was suffering from the abuse and had the added pressure of feeling responsible for separating her siblings.

Last Saturday her younger sister found her dead in their bedroom.

CYF deputy chief executive Ray Smith said the staff involved in the case were “devastated” and their deepest sympathies went to the family.

“As always when a child in our care dies we will look into whether everything possible had been done to protect them from harm.

“Allegations raised against one of the caregivers resulted in the matter being referred to the police … and the children were immediately removed while investigations occurred.”

The family say the removal was not immediate as the case worker was told on the Friday and the children weren’t taken away until the Tuesday.

The girl’s grandmother said she hoped her granddaughter’s death would result in changes within CYF.

“Maybe she was giving her life to make life safer for others.”


Also see “Nature or Nuture” (pp. 10-1, 13-14) Herald Weekend Supplement. At the end of June 2008 4522 youngsters were in the care of CYF. The annual bill for looking after them rns to $778 milion and about 3/4 of that is spent on children in foster care. (p. 11)


2 responses to “CYF girl’s death provokes inquiry”

  1. Great publishing

  2. Child Youth and Family should be Sued for negligent conduct over this girls death!!! Its amazing that they were repititively told of the abuse going on by family but chose not to investigate!!!!

    Until CYF have policy reforms in place, and a independent monitoring body. Ensuring that social work is conducted in a fair, valid and consistent manner children will continue to die in CYF care.

    We need to learn from history and recent mistakes, CYF social workers still have too much unaccountable freedom in their roles. Social Work standards are are too loosely formed, this is extremely dangerous specifically for the 6,000 plus children in CYF care with non family care givers.

    This is a REAL problem that all the public should be aware of and participate in solving. Just my personal opinion “Society is collectively responsible” and changes are urgently needed with in CYF infrastructure.

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