Defeated and feeling helpless in a system overwhelmed by caseloads and “crippled by politics”, a Child Safety officer reveals what “broke her”.
Defeated and feeling helpless in a system overwhelmed by caseloads and “crippled by politics”, a Child Safety officer reveals what “broke her”.

The ‘toxic culture’ of Child Safety is 'unbearable'

Defeated and feeling helpless in a child safety system overwhelmed by caseloads and "crippled by politics", a North Queensland officer reveals what "broke her".

The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she gave her heart and soul to the job for more than 15 years, but a "toxic" work culture forced her to resign recently.

"The whole department is run like a business and it's all about who can save the most money and who can reach their targets," the former Child Safety Officer said.

"I can't change the system from the inside but someone has to expose it.

"More kids will die in care, particularly teenagers. It will be risk taking, drug overdoses and mental health and they'll just get written off."'

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The former Child Safety Officer said it was "no surprise" that Townsville was dealing with ongoing youth crime issues and warned the horrors that have already unfolded won't be the last tragedies witnessed.

The former Child Safety Officer said repeat offenders had complex backgrounds "riddled" with intergenerational trauma that was often left unaddressed.

"We expect the kids to behave like well conditioned kids, but they have experienced so much unaddressed trauma (and) those kids then go into the too hard basket and are forgotten about.

"They can't function, that part of their brain is engaged all the time, they're stealing a car because it gives them an adrenaline rush, a good feeling and unless they feel something extreme they feel nothing, because they are locked in a world of trauma.

"We should be working on early intervention, but we're not doing anything preventive."

In the last year alone, the Queensland Government has spent $1.3bn in the child protection system and employed an additional 500 frontline staff since 2015.

Yet, the former Child Safety Officer painted a damning picture of overwhelmed staff with little to no inexperience and persisting concerns over training and pay.

She said incident reports were "often downgraded" to be of lesser urgency because caseworkers had no resources to investigate.

"I do know from personal experience, I've had a 24 hour response incident not being responded to until four months later.

"We don't have enough staff that give a damn anymore because they're so burnt out and the culture is so toxic.

"I did not get any professional supervision other than the private supervision I sought myself, so apart from standardised training relating to policy and procedures there's no professional development."

A spokeswoman for the Child Safety, Youth and Women Department said its data showed the average caseload for North Queensland was below the state average at 16.6 per CSO.

She said the average caseload statewide had been 18.1 or below per Child Safety Officer, down from more than 21 per CSO in 2012-15.

"There has never been any direction given to downgrade intakes because of workload in the NQ region," the spokeswoman said.

"The department ensures all staff who are responsible for decision-making and providing case work services to children and families receive regular, planned professional development and supervision."

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. 

Originally published as The 'toxic culture' of Child Safety is unbearable


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