The West

Update: 1pm The 20-month-old baby girl from Boulder who was taken to hospital a week ago with serious head injuries has died.

The baby, who had been in State care, had been on life-support since she was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital on August 16.

Child Protection Minister Robyn McSweeney confirmed the girl died due to organ failure and said her life support was not switched off.

Ms McSweeney said the death would be the subject of two independent inquiries — one by the Coroner’s Office and one by the Ombudsman.

This would be in addition to a departmental inquiry and an ongoing police investigation.

Major Crime Squad officers have upgraded their inquiry to a "suspicious death investigation" and are appealing for help from the public.

Officers are investigating what caused the baby’s injuries which came to light when she was returned to her foster home after a supervised visit in Kalgoorlie with her birth parents.

The baby and a four-year-old sibling were removed from the birth parents last year because they were no longer being cared for in a safe environment.

People from the department’s general pool of foster carers looked after the children until March when they were relocated to Boulder with family members.

Ms McSweeney said she was “satisfied” case workers at the department had done all they could to ensure the baby’s well-being.

“There was a departmental worker with the little girl at lunchtime, she was taken home and then a few hours later she appeared at the Kalgoorlie Hospital and she was floppy and needed resuscitation.”

Ms McSweeney said case workers had visited the little girl weekly as required by the department’s procedures.

She denied the case highlighted faults in the department’s placement of children and defended the decision to place the baby with relatives.

“When a little child comes into (the department’s) care in the middle of the night, we don’t want them sitting in a police station. What we like to do is place them with relatives.

“We do have emergency foster carers, thank god and we do have group homes and thank god for that but if you were six or eight years of age and your parents had been fighting badly … and mum was lying on the floor hurt then you would want to go to a relative so that’s what we do,” Ms McSweeney said.

Ms McSweeney said she had doubled the number of departmental staff working in Kalgoorlie since 2007-2008 and had allocated $536 million in the budget for child protection measures, an increase of 57 per cent since she had been minister.

“So yes I’m satisfied that we’ve been putting in the resources and the policies in this term of Government.”

Department director general Terry Murphy confirmed a full investigation was taking place into the placement and care of the child.

Mr Murphy said the report would be sent to the Ombudsman's child death review committee which will undertake and independent investigation and review.

He said part of the review would make recommendations to the department on its practices and procedures in the case of the child.

Opposition child protection spokeswoman Sue Ellery has renewed calls for the Government to launch an independent inquiry into the death of a Boulder toddler in State care.

"I do think it’s appropriate an independent inquiry be undertaken into the circumstances of the placement of this little girl," she said.

She said the Government must ensure the Ombudsman’s report is made public.

Ms Ellery expressed sorrow and sympathy for the little girl’s family and "all those who loved her".

"The death of a child is always a tragedy," she said.

She said the Department of Child Protection was under strain with a 91 percent jump in child safety and well-being assessments in the past year, and said the Kalgoorlie office had one of the highest number of unallocated cases in the State.

The number of open safety and well-being cases being investigated by Department of Child Protection officers State-wide had jumped from 1726 in August 2011 to 2007 as of May this year, she said.

"I don’t know if any or all of these factors contributed to the death of the little girl, but they are worrying numbers," she said.

The West Australian

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