Vulnerable children have revealed a secret life of prostitution, hard drugs including heroin and violence while living in residential care. Andy Burns - Andy.email@example.com - Herald Sun – February 11, 2013.
Wards are victims of a record number of assaults and sex attacks while living in state care [Victoria] last year. Care workers say a lack of beds is a major cause of the trouble, with children as young as 12 groomed for drugs and sex work by their older peers.
Documents obtained under Freedom of Information show there were 512 assaults, sex attacks and rapes of children in care last year, a 130 per cent jump in three years.
Industry experts say the situation is dire, with more kids at risk of slipping through the cracks.
Three youths have told their stories, saying that during their time in care: they became users of drugs including marijuana and methamphetamines. They were introduced to prostitution. They witnessed systematic violence and abuse. They were sexually assaulted.
One girl said that as a 13-year-old, she shared a house with two older wards who began "pimping" her as a sex worker at a train station.
"They were both prostitutes, so they started giving me their drugs and stuff and they gave me a drug habit so that I would start doing that with them," the girl said.
She said she was permitted by carers to walk out of the unit on a nightly basis.
"They (residential workers) didn't care, you didn't even need to say where you were going, you'd just walk out the door," she said.
"If you have girls who are really f...ed up and you put them with 12-year-olds — it should not happen," she said.
Sandie de Wolf, CEO of the non-government Berry Street children's program, said the lack of beds for the 500 children in Victoria was leading to the mixing of vulnerable young children with older troubled teens.
"You don't put a vulnerable 13-year-old girl who has been sexually abused with three older acting-out boys, but if that's the only bed, that happens," she said.
One care worker said many children who went into residential care came out worse off.
DHS head of policy for Victoria's Eastern Region, Chris Asquini, said "the dial is definitely turning" in a positive direction since a department overhaul in 2007.
"It's about keeping your staff motivated to keep going in the face of some very complex, difficult, confronting work," Ms Asquini said.
Minister for Community Services Mary Woolridge said the Government had made progress and was committed to reform.
LISA Comment: Just like the management of group homes for people with an intellectual or multiple disability, DHS management of "Child Protection" is equally unable to properly manage the business of ensuring the provision of proper and accountable care.