Royal Commission into child sexual abuse: children in care denied access to their own files

By Paul Bibby
Sydney Morning Herald
June 29, 2015

Kate Finn, India Spicer, Tash Dale and Jonathan Eyles at the Royal Commission into Institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Young people who spend their childhoods in Out of Home Care are finding it virtually impossible to access their own case files because the process is choked in red tape, the Royal Commission has heard.

As the Commission continued its examination of institutional child sexual abuse on Monday, four youths who grew up in care described the instability, under-resourcing and lack of ongoing support which continue to characterise the system.

The youths, who now advocate for others in care, said that many wanted to access their case files but gave up because of the impenetrable bureaucracy such requests involved.

"I decided not to do it because it was going to be a nightmare," Kate Finn from the Youth Movement Initiative said.

"I've been told that I need to have permission from anyone who can possibly be mentioned in there who is over the age of 18," she said.

Tash Dale, a youth consultant with the CREATE Foundation, said she struggled through the process with her sister but was still only able to access part of her file.

"I had to give reasons and say exactly which part of my life I wanted to see," she said.

"They [also] wipe out information if something is in your file that might pertain to your brothers and sisters. I don't get that. They are my family."

Earlier, the youths described how children in care were sometimes moved through dozens of refuges and foster homes because no one could take them long term.

Ms Finn said she had worked with a teenage boy who had been moved 22 times to different homes and facilities.

"He was moving every six months at one stage and he was never able to form a support system and with a carer and with an agency worker or with a school, even," she said.

India Spicer, also from the Youth Movement Initiative said this isolation made young people more vulnerable to sexual predators, particularly online.

"You have a young person who is feeling lost and isolated and who will take any affection or attention they can get whether it's negative or positive," Ms Spicer said.

Ms Dale said that a lot of children in care were afraid to report abuse because they feared they would not be believed, or would end up without anywhere to live.

"I was afraid that I was going to end up being homeless and not have anybody actually care about me," Ms Dale said.

"I think a lot of children in care are afraid the placement is going to break down f they say anything."

More than 50,000 children in Out of Home Care in Australia.

Indigenous children are nine times more likely to be in care than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

The hearing continues.



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