Girl left to starve after serious signs of neglect missed

The four-year-old girl lived in a house with dog faeces inside.

It’s impossible to imagine that anyone could have missed the warning signs.

But somehow the four-year-old girl’s skeletal frame, dirty feet, lice and chronic absences from preschool were completely overlooked for months.

By the time the Victorian girl, who was cared for by her aunt, was finally admitted to hospital in a “life-threatening” condition, she weighed just 9.3kg and was unable to sit or stand up by herself, The Herald Sun reported.

The girl spent 21 days fighting for her life on a ““high-risk feeding” program in hospital in February 2018.

In that time she gained 4kg before, before adding an extra 4kg over the next month.

She was taken into foster care, where it is understood she has ongoing behavioural problems and feeding issues.

"Across the board"

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is being questioned over how such a shocking case of neglect could have been missed.

This began at the girl’s aunt’s committal hearing held across three days in April, May and June this year

The court heard that the department failed to notice the girl’s condition until two weeks before her hospital admission when her aunt claimed her weight loss was due to a bout of gastro.

Her pre-school teacher also failed to alert the department that the girl missed dozens of kinder days and would “gorge” herself on food when she did appear.

The committal hearing was also told that a caseworker was assigned to the aunt’s young daughter after her niece was hospitalised.

But even then significant red flags continued to be ignored.

Case worker makes shock confession

A home inspection in February last year found dog faeces inside, dirty sheets on the child’s bed and “little amounts of food”.

But the case worker found the woman had complied with “all recommendations made by the department”.

She claimed there were no grounds to make a protection order on behalf of her daughter.

In the committal hearing the case worker admitted welfare reports were sometimes filed without physically sighting a child.

The department has reviewed the child’s case but refused to say whether the worker had been disciplined.

"Breach of the duty of care"

Magistrate Simon Garnett slammed the department in his committal decision.

He emphasised that home visits with only a cursory check of a child were “meaningless” and a “clear breach of the duty of care owed by the department”.

He went on to say that the department shared “culpability” with the aunt for the “significant harm” done to the girl.

“In my opinion, the department was in breach of its duty of care,” he said.

“Notwithstanding the workload of Child Protection Practitioners, the regular monitoring of and supervision of carers needs to be thorough.”

The girl’s aunt is due to stand trial next year accused of negligently causing serious injury.



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