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Complaints to Families SA before girl died

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Families SA will review its handling of a case involving a young mother whose four-year-old daughter died after repeatedly being forced to ride a motorbike.

David Waterford, deputy chief executive of the Office for Child Safety, said Families SA received 22 notifications about Chloe Valentine and her mother Ashlee Polkinghorne.

The matters were investigated, but Families SA was unable to substantiate the complaints, he told ABC radio on Thursday.

Polkinghorne, 22, and her former partner, Benjamin McPartland, 28, were jailed on Wednesday for at least four years for the manslaughter of Chloe through criminal neglect.

The couple made the 17kg girl get back on the 50kg motorbike over a three-day period, despite her suffering massive injuries from repeatedly falling off and crashing in January 2012.

When Chloe was eventually unconscious in a semi-vegetative state, the couple waited eight-and-a-half hours before calling an ambulance.

During that time, they went on Facebook, accessed internet banking, googled what to do with an unconscious person and smoked cannabis.

In jailing the couple, South Australian Supreme Court Justice Trish Kelly said that, unfortunately for Chloe, “your place was a dangerous place for that child”.

Waterford said Families SA received its last notification about Chloe on June 11, 2011, about six months before her death.

Staff visited the house and observed “things were very positive” and the interaction between mother and daughter was very good.

As happens in all cases where a death occurs in a case involving Families SA, the independent Child Death and Serious Injury Committee will review the case and report to the relevant minister.

Waterford said Polkinghorne and Chloe were referred to the Safe Babies Program in 2007 and worked with the program for three years.

The Opposition says Chloe’s distressing death highlights the need for an independent commissioner for children who can look into such cases.

Families and child protection spokesman Stephen Wade said such a commissioner would be able to use investigative powers to assess every aspect of the case, providing confidence in the conduct of the department.

“We urgently need an independent commissioner to make sure these tragic events are minimised in the future,” Wade said.

 

 

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