The allegations are revealed in a report published by Guardian for Children and Young People Penny Wright following interviews her office conducted between 2017 and 2019 with children and young people in state residential care.
According to the report, one young person said she was subjected to “significant and consistent threats to safety by residential care workers, particularly with regard to sexual safety” sometime between 2006 and 2016 when Families SA was the authority in charge of child protection in the state.
“This young person described several incidents of being sexually threatened by workers, including one worker saying he would like to get into bed with her,” the report states.
“The young person stated she responded to this threat by taking her siblings into bed so there would be no room for the worker to get in.”
The report says the young person reported the alleged incident to Families SA – now the Department for Child Protection – and the worker was subsequently removed from the unit.
It does not state whether the worker was relocated to a different unit or if Families SA terminated his employment.
Your baby will be black so you should get rid of it
According to the report, the same young person reported another incident where a worker allegedly stopped by the side of a road while driving and demanded she engage in sexual activity with him while another young person present filmed.
“On this occasion she said she and the other young person threatened to report the worker and this led to him driving off again and not repeating this,” the report states.
The report quotes the young person saying “they believed him and not me” when she reported the alleged incident to the Department.
It says the same young person also reported “frequent inappropriate behaviour from workers that made her feel unvalued and unsafe, for instance being told her parents ‘should have dropped you all (her and her siblings) at the pound’, and, when she fell pregnant while in care, ‘your baby will be black so you should get rid of it’.”
“This young person was informed that these incidences constituted serious abuse and was offered assistance from the Office of the Guardian to raise these complaints with the Department for Child Protection again,” the report states.
The young person, who was over 18 years old at the time of the interview, reportedly declined the assistance but engaged with post-care support services.
InDaily contacted Wright to ask when the incidents allegedly occurred and what subsequent action the Department took.
A spokesperson said the incidents were “historical” but declined to provide further information.
InDaily asked the Department for Child Protection if it was made aware of the allegations and, if so, what action was taken, but was told the department could not comment on any specific child or young person who is currently in care or who has left care.
The department’s chief executive Cathy Taylor said the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in care was “the number one priority” for the Department.
“All reports of assault or harm made by children and young people in residential care are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated,” she told InDaily.
“In addition to holding a current Working with Children Check, residential care staff employed by the department have undergone a psychological suitability assessment.
“The two-part assessment process involves a psychometric assessment followed by a one-on-one interview with a psychologist, producing a statement of suitability to work with children and young people in residential care.
“Psychological assessment has been part of the department’s standard recruitment practice for child and youth workers since late 2016.”
The State Government has implemented significant child protection reforms in response to several high-profile scandals within Families SA.
In 2014, former Families SA carer Shannon McCoole was convicted for sexually abusing children as young as 18 months old.
A Child Protection Systems Royal Commission heard serious red flags were not acted on during his employment at the department.
The same year, an inquest began into the death of four-year-old Chloe Valentine, who died two years earlier after being forced to ride a motorbike that she repeatedly crashed while her mother and partner filmed.
The inquest revealed several reports were made to Families SA about Valentine’s care in the years leading up to her death, but the department took little action.
A senior practitioner told the inquest the agency was short of resources, which was why it did not investigate a number of notifications.
Last year, Families SA was again savaged by the state’s Ombudsman in a report into the case of two siblings murdered with their mother at Hillier in 2016, which laid bare departmental “inertia, complacency and misplaced priorities” that saw authorities “do nothing” to protect the children despite serious warnings about their welfare.
The now-reformed Department for Child Protection is currently implementing recommendations made in Margaret Nyland’s 2016 Royal Commission report into the state’s child protection systems and a separate Commonwealth Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
According to the latest update in September last year, the Government has fully implemented 164 of the 256 recommendations.
Wright’s report has been provided to the Department for Child Protection and Minister Rachel Sanderson for consideration.
It follows November’s release of the Guardian for Children and Young People’s annual report, which revealed children in state care were voluntarily choosing to stay in prison because they felt fearful and unsafe at residential care facilities.
The report also revealed serious physical and sexual abuse was occurring at residential and commercial care units, prompting Guardian Penny Wright to declare “many aspects” of the state’s child protection system were “in crisis”.
Make your contribution to independent news
A donation of any size to InDaily goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. South Australia needs more than one voice to guide it forward, and we’d truly appreciate your contribution. Please click below to donate to InDaily.