The betrayal of Baby Jane Doe
A string of errors by child safety authorities allowed a Queensland baby to be horrifically abused. (This is a generic file photo of a baby.)
Warning: This story contains details that some readers may find distressing
Ten Queensland child protection workers are facing disciplinary action for failing to protect a baby girl who suffered bleeding on the brain, broken legs, hemorrhaging in both eyes and fractured ribs at the hands of her parents.
The child safety department should also be prepared to pay the legal fees of the child if she decides to sue for neglect when she is older.
The Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian has released a scathing report into the case, concluding the baby was failed by the department "multiple" times.
The baby was deemed at risk before she was born.
But a series of blunders or oversights by the child safety department saw the baby go home from hospital with her parents when the baby was supposed to have been taken into child safety protection.
The parents had a history of child abuse and the father - described as a "Reportable Offender" - was wanted by police interstate when authorities became aware the mother was pregnant again in 2011.
He would eventually be charged with grievous bodily harm because of the injuries he allegedly inflicted on the baby girl when she was about two months old.
An interstate agency contacted the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, advising it of the at-risk unborn child when the girl's mother was pregnant and the Regional Intake Service arm of the department notified police.
Two Risk of Harm reports were done by the interstate agency while the mother was pregnant and Queensland's child safety department decided the child would be taken into protective custody when she was born.
However, the department failed to issue any Unborn Child High Risk Alerts to hospitals in the area which would have told hospital staff to notify the department after the birth.
And the department only tried to visit the home of the family once, when no one was there.
The baby was born and taken home by the parents and when she was six weeks old, a doctor noticed bruising and cuts to her head and cheeks.
The doctor contacted the child safety department but no official record was made, or if it was it was deleted.
The next time the baby would be seen by a doctor she would have bleeding on the brain and extensive retinal hemorrhages in both eyes from being shaken, legs which had been fractured for at least two weeks and a fractured rib which was healing.
At this point, child safety officers had still not sighted the baby.
In the two weeks between the initial doctor's complaint about the bruises and cuts on her head and the baby's hospitalisation, Centrelink had told the department the baby had been born according to its records.
A child safety worker tried to contact one hospital in the area, asking if the mother had been admitted. The hospital said she had not and no other hospitals were contacted, according to the report.
"The subject child was detrimentally affected by multiple failures in the department's service delivery which amounts to maladministration and requires redress," the CCYPCG's report said.
"... as such, the department has an ongoing responsibility to provide not only ongoing care, protection and therapeutic services for the subject child, but also to ensure access to appropriate legal services and other advice and assistance.
"This will allow the subject child to pursue any legal and other remedies available, at an appropriate age and time."
Child protection workers were slammed in the report and the Department's Ethical Standards Unit as well as the Crime and Misconduct Commission have been called into assess whether 10 child protection workers should face disciplinary action for their perceived failures.
The employees under fire are three child safety officers, three managers, two team leaders, a regional director and a regional executive director.
The CCYPCG made 18 recommendations which state a slew of practices at the child safety department should be overhauled including the management chain and the processes in place when a health professional reports a suspected abused child.
The department should also apologise and provide an explanation to the girl when she is old enough, pay her health bills for the rest of her life and give her monetary compensation, according to the report.
The department has been granted Long Term Guardianship of the girl until she is 18 years old.