A terrified family living near a group care home in Townsville say they’ve been driven to the brink by an ‘untouchable’ child who has repeatedly broken into their home and stolen their pets.
Queensland Shadow Child Protection Minister Amanda Camm says the state is seeing “consistent failings” from the government to address the protection and safety of vulnerable children.
A Townsville mum, who cannot be named for legal reasons, says her children have been living in fear for the last two months due to the actions of a troubled girl living in a group home on their street.
She said the girl — who is under 13, the age of criminal responsibility — has broken into their family home three times since September and stolen their beloved dogs.
“It’s horrendous, and police are called constantly, but they can’t do anything to stop her because of her age, and she knows it,” the mum said.
“I know that because she told me point blank: ‘You can’t do s**t.’
“My young kids feel unsafe in their own home. When they hear the dogs barking at night, they’re terrified and start crying because they think she’s back.
“It’s concerning because her carers are employed to take care of her, but she’s often out in the street in the middle of the night in her nightie from as late as 1-4am.
“Why isn’t child safety doing their jobs?”
When the Bulletin approached the Department of Child Safety for an explanation, a spokeswoman said they were working closely with their service providers in managing and responding to issues of concern raised by locals about residential care services in their neighbourhoods.
“Actions we might take to resolve concerns include engaging with neighbours; changing the mix of children living in the house; reducing the number of children in the house and increasing support to the residential service and/or young people to manage complex behaviours,” she said.
“The hours and support provided by staff, including awake shifts, fluctuate in line with the individual needs of young people.”
It comes after Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill raised concerns about how care homes were being managed in the city at a hearing into Queensland’s new youth justice legislation.
“I’m hearing of horror stories in some of the suburbs around some of the care homes where children will be placed there (after detention), and there is nothing to restrain them,” she said.
“They get their mobile phones back, they ring their mates, and they’re off on their next jaunt.”
“Some of these care facilities, it’s my belief, aren’t managed very well. They are managed externally from Sydney or Melbourne, and it’s more about profit making than about caring for kids.”
Residential care services in Townsville generally support up to three or four young people with moderate to extreme needs in one home, according to the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs.
“Qualified staff are rostered to provide care, supervision and therapeutic supports to keep highly vulnerable young people safe and well,” a spokeswoman said.
“Residential care placements are only arranged when the preferred placement options of kinship or foster care are unavailable, or if it is the best option to meet the young person’s individual needs.”