CYF did not put alert on file

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 13:39 01/12/2013
Parklands
PETER MEECHAM

CARE HOME? Parklands, an Auckland home for the intellectually disabled, was shut down by the Ministry of Health after it was discovered staff were abusing and neglecting the residents there.

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A couple who were investigated by government agencies and police for allegedly abusing disabled children were able to become foster parents because staff never placed a warning on their file.

A Child, Youth and Family agency placed a group of teenagers with Linnaire and Neil Joslin just months after their home for the intellectually disabled was shut down by health authorities, due to the neglect and exploitation of residents.

Abuses exposed at Parklands, the Joslins' care facility in rural South Auckland, included a 15-year-old severely impaired boy who was left in a paddock to eat grass.

The mistake with the foster children was only realised when the Sunday Star-Times ran an article about the abuse at Parklands earlier this year.

A report into how the couple were able to become caregivers, commissioned by CYF chief executive Bernandine Mackenzie, showed that despite an investigation into the abuse allegations by both CYF and police before Parklands' closure, there was no warning in the system about their behaviour.

The Ministry of Health also failed to advise CYF it had shut the facility down after its investigation into the abuse claims.

Because of the lack of information sharing and recording, the Joslins were able to pass through CYF's "stringent" vetting process and background checks. CYF said it didn't red-flag the Joslins' file because the allegations were unproven by police.

"Police investigated the physical abuse allegations at Parklands while CYF made sure the boy was safe and had the right supports," a statement from CYF said.

Police did not proceed with charges because of a lack of evidence, CYF said. It said normally if carers were investigated, the information was recorded on a file.

"The issue with Parklands is that neither Mr or Mrs Joslin were identified or confirmed as the alleged perpetrators, and none of the allegations were substantiated."

Labour's social welfare spokeswoman Sue Moroney said she was shocked to learn why the error had been made.

"CYF ought to know that disabled children are the most vulnerable. Any allegations need to be recorded no matter if they are proven or not," she said.

Moroney said the lack of information sharing in a country as small as New Zealand was "an extremely serious mistake".

"It's gobsmacking that government agencies cannot share information."

Questions put to the Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, were referred back to the ministry.

CYF's report said since the Joslin incident it had developed a new memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health to ensure better communication.

"Communication between the two agencies could have been better in this case and we're working with Health to remedy that," CYF said.

"One good thing to come out of this is a stronger working relationship between the agencies."

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- Sunday Star Times

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