Police criticised over missing teen's death
Police have been forced to review how they deal with reports of missing children after a teenager who fled from his caregivers died in a car accident.
Isaiah Eru Paora Nathan, 13, died on December 15, 2010 after he was speeding in a stolen car and failed to navigate a corner on Winsford St, Manurewa. He died at the scene.
Nathan was first placed in Child, Youth and Family care in 2009 after a violent incident and a slew of notifications about his home situation, according to a finding released by Coroner Katharine Grieg last month.
He fled from the first caregivers he was placed with in December 2009, and CYF was unable to find him until March 2010.
Nathan was then placed with a family in Kaitaia, but in September 2010 he fled with another child staying at the house after he "received three phone calls from his mother and appeared unsettled".
Police and Nathan's social worker in South Auckland were notified immediately.
The officer in charge filed a missing person's report for each of the boys. The other boy was found at his mother's house.
Police took no further action and Nathan's social worker tried and failed to contact his family.
When a different social worker took over Nathan's case, he was notified in November 2010 that the child was seen arriving at a supervised access meeting with his mother and siblings.
"The social worker had had no contact with police about the search for Isaiah, and was not clear on who was in charge of the police file," according to the findings.
Later that month, Nathan was picked up by police officer on an unrelated matter. The officer saw the missing persons alert but did not know the teenager was supposed to be in CYF custody. He dropped Nathan off at his stepmother's home and left a message for the officer in charge of the missing persons file.
Nathan died in the car accident a month later.
Coroner Grieg criticised police saying there had been a "systems failure in the police alert system".
"Contrary to police missing persons policy, the officer in charge of Isaiah's file did not consider the case to be high priority, and did not inform the Counties Manukau police station, despite rightly believing that he would be staying in that area," she said.
Coroner Greig added that the officer in charge of the missing persons file did not provide regular updates on the progress of the case and "no proper effort" was made to find the teenager.
"Had the police intelligence system have included a note about his placement in CYF custody, as well as his missing persons status, he could have been returned to CYF care at that point."
Coroner Grieg noted that CYF did not have a particular policy on how to handle situations where children fled their caregivers homes.
"The lack of structured, formal communication between CYF and police on the matter meant another opportunity to locate and return Isaiah was lost," she said.
Coroner Grieg recommended the New Zealand Police and Ministry of Social Development finalise a joint policy on the management of children and young persons in care that are reported as missing.
She also recommended to the commissioner of police ensure that all staff are familiar with the missing persons police and that training should be mandatory.
She then recommended that the chief executive of the Ministry of Social Development considers whether it's own policy provides even guidance for staff for when children are reported missing.
The agencies are now implementing a joint policy, which includes timeframes and reporting procedures for when a child is located.
Police have also been in consultation with CYF for the past year to implement a new process of reporting children and youth as missing to police. Police manuals and training modules have also been updated.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Pals and playmates (pictures)
Reacting to a sudden cancellation
New Zealand's best deck built yesterday
Appreciating Tony Allen
The meaning of blogging