Child safety officers work in constant fear

Last updated 15:08 14/08/2012

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Queensland's child safety officers work in constant fear they will be blamed if a child known to them dies or is hurt, an inquiry has heard.

Department of Communities and Child Safety executive director Brad Swan has told a state child protection inquiry his staff were always concerned about whether their risk assessments were right. As an example of the difficulties officers have to confront, Mr Swan cited the case of a 13-year-old boy who defecated in public, sniffed paint and petrol, used marijuana, required fortnightly anti-psychotic injections and had a child protection history since 2002.

Dealing with challenging behaviours was part of the job, but child safety officers feared not making the right decisions, he said. "The concern is always around the fact ... are you making the right decision, is it safer to remove the child or can we work with the child in that family environment?" he told the inquiry.

He said the annual child death review kept staff on edge.

"Certainly in the previous processes in the child death review, staff felt that it was a very punitive process and we believe that did have an impact on staff in terms of their decision making," he said.

Inquiry Commissioner Tim Carmody suggested the situation should be turned around to become more about learning. He said it would be reasonable to let staff know they were not going to get it right 100 per cent of the time and would be supported if a problem occurred.

There are about 900 child safety officers in Queensland.

The inquiry continues.

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