Department’s no name, no shame policy over abuse of girl in state care

The head of the Child Protection Department has refused to reveal which of her staffers knew about the abuse case of a 13-year-old girl in state care who fell pregnant to a pedophile, saying she doesn’t want to “name and shame” and that no disciplinary action has been taken.

Oct 26, 2020, updated Oct 26, 2020
SA Department for Child Protection chief executive Cathy Taylor. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

SA Department for Child Protection chief executive Cathy Taylor. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Department for Child Protection chief executive Cathy Taylor told a parliamentary committee hearing this morning that there was no legal reason preventing her from revealing the name or position of the most senior staffer who failed to flag the abuse with the Department’s executive team or Child Protection Minister, but “being a leader” meant she would not reveal their name publicly.

The 13-year-old  victim, who is under the legal guardianship of the state, was preyed upon in January by pedophile Matthew McIntyre, who groomed her using the teenage dating app MyLOL.

She became pregnant to her abuser and later had an abortion.

The case was referred to the police and the 35-year-old man has been sentenced to three years and nine months imprisonment with a non-parole period of one year and 11 months.

Taylor said despite “a number” of her staffers being made aware of the case, she was only informed after a journalist asked the Department to respond to the court sentencing remarks, which were made public.

She said as a result, Minister Rachel Sanderson was also not informed until after it was reported in the media.

“I’m aware of various people in the Department who became aware and obviously some of them are more senior than others – what I’m not prepared to do is name and shame,” she said.

“It would be so easy for me to name someone and go ‘you beauty, it’s done and dusted and they’re responsible’.

“We’re not a department of blame – we are a department of accountability.

“At the end of the day, I’m the most accountable person in the Department as the chief executive.”

The committee’s chair, Labor MLC Kyam Maher, argued there was “significant public interest in just how high up these incidents do go before they’re not passed on”.

“We’ll never know how it was escalated, will we?” he said.

“We do have powers to subpoena, so I suspect we will be meeting sometime early next year to continue these conversations.”

Taylor said she was “happy to be very transparent” but she was “not prepared” to say exactly who knew of the abuse.

“It was a youth worker who first of all identified this, who actually raised this with police,” she said.

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“Then it was a social worker doing their job, who ensured that there was appropriate supports and referrals.

“Staff sought advice back in March about whether it should be dealt with as an adverse event review, or a complex case (and) it was identified at the time that it should be dealt with as a complex case.

“I can’t talk as to why staff didn’t report.”

Under the Department’s complex case reporting protocols, the chief executive must be informed.

Taylor said staff “missed an opportunity to raise it up with us” but no disciplinary action had been taken.

“Our staff essentially did everything right,” she said.

“I’m not going to criticise them. That’s not the sort of organisation that I’m leading.”

The Department has since reviewed the case and staff have been reminded of their reporting obligations.

Deputy chief executive Fiona Ward there was “no failure to act whatsoever to protect the child”, with the police being called “within hours” of the youth worker uncovering the abuse.

“The matter was not reported to the chief executive or myself, but it was reported through a clinical lens through another pathway,” she said.

InDaily reported last month that Guardian for Children and Young People Penny Wright was also not informed of the abuse until one week after McIntyre was jailed.

The State Opposition has called for an independent investigation into the case.

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