A preliminary review of the Department of Child Protection’s involvement in the case of a Bunbury baby who died after he was allegedly assaulted by his teenage father has found no negligence by the department’s staff.
But the Department has come under fire from the Opposition after director general Terry Murphy was unable to provide details of the DCP’s contact with the teenage boy – who is a ward of the State - in the lead up to the baby’s death.
The baby died last month after receiving critical head injuries in Bunbury Hospital on February 15.
The boy’s father, 15, is facing a charge of aggravated grievous bodily harm, which police have said might be upgraded.
At a public agency review hearing before the Community Development and Justice Standing Committee today, Mr Murphy and the DCP’s executive director of country services Emma White were questioned about the DCP’s history with the teenage boy.
Mr Murphy revealed the boy’s case worker remained based in Cannington, despite the teenager moving to Bunbury to live with his pregnant partner and her family several months ago.
He said while this living situation was not endorsed by the DPC, the teenager was transient and “one of that very small group of teenagers who are very difficult to care for.”
“We actively pursued him, and looked to support him at every opportunity we could but we did not have as strong a level of engagement with him as we would have preferred… it was not for want of trying.”
Mr Murphy said the teenager was a “seriously disturbed young man” and had a number of problems.
However, he stressed that there was nothing in his behaviour that could have predicted the baby’s death.
Mr Murphy and Ms White will travel to Bunbury next week for the first time since the incident. When asked to provide details of the case worker’s contact with the boy leading up to the incident, Mr Murphy said while he could not provide exact details, regular, multiple attempts were made to make contact with the teen.
He said an initial review into the case had not shown any breach of policy or procedures, or any negligence or culpability within the DCP.
Outside the hearing, committee chair and Labor MP Margaret Quirk raised questions about the level of vigilance by the DCP.
“How someone can declare that the department did everything it could when we don’t have the basic information is somewhat perplexing,” she said.
“I think there is a level of complacency there. The desire not to blame individuals I can see why that’s commendable but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be looking at lessons learned and how things could be done better.”