CYF admits errors before 12yo's death
Wed, 03 Oct 2012 6:11p.m.
By Ingrid Hipkiss
A coroner's inquest into the suspected suicide of a 12-year-old girl while in Child, Youth and Family’s care has heard evidence of a catalogue of errors committed by social workers.
They include delays acting on allegations the girl named Krystal was being abused, mistakes in assessing her suicide risk, and a failure to pass on vital information.
The court heard that three weeks before her death, Krystal had been welcomed into a new Barnardos foster family and appeared to be settling in well.
“We made every effort to make Krystal feel as special as we possibly could,” says her carer. “I took her shopping and she could choose whatever she wanted and things like that. We were very aware because of what was said that this was a very hurting child.”
But the carer was never told the extent of Krystal’s hurt – that she'd alleged recent sexual abuse or that she'd undergone a suicide risk assessment.
Paul Smith from Barnados says that knowledge would have changed their level of support.
“It would've meant we would've provided extra support and extra conversations with the caregiver around the risks to Krystal and we would've had a discussion with the CYF social worker around, is there any external support counselling?”
Child, Youth and Family admit they failed to pass on relevant information about Krystal’s history and emotional state.
“We do accept that the care plan - any of the care plans that we've been talking about - are not acceptable and don’t' meet the ministry's standards,” says CYF northern regional director Marion Heeney.
CYF also accept there was a four-day delay in moving Krystal and her siblings from the home in which the alleged abuse occurred, and that mistakes were made during her suicide risk assessment. Her risk was assessed at level three, when in fact her real risk was almost four times higher.
“Had it been interpreted correctly it is possible that further intervention may have occurred to determine whether Krystal was suffering from a mental health disorder,” says Ms Heeney.
No one knew how troubled Krystal was, but a telling off and argument with her sister may have been the tipping point.
Her carer says the argument got “really violent” and involved hair-pulling. That night Krystal died from what are believed to be self-inflicted injuries.
The coroner is tasked with determining the circumstances of Krystal’s death and whether the mistakes, action or inaction of social workers was a factor in her death.
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