EXCLUSIVE: 'Child safety put me and my kids in danger'
WHEN the Department of Child Safety passed Anne's* personal information on to her ex-partner while he was in jail, she immediately feared her for life.
The Ipswich mother said, second to the day police handcuffed her and child safety officers took her children away, realising that her jailed former partner could track her down on his release was the worst moment of her life.
"I was in a relationship for 13 years. I had two children and I loved him. I honestly believed it would change and it didn't," she said.
"There was a lot of domestic violence ... so police charged him and he got eight months for that and got released. During that eight months child safety gave him my personal information.
"Upon release he was allowed visits straightaway and still today he is legally allowed to be in my children's lives through child safety, who would come and pick the kids up.
"They would take them to see him."
Anne says the "human error" made by Springfield's child safety office meant her former partner knew she had moved into public housing, knew her parent's address and had transcripts of private conversations she had with her children while they were in the department's care.
"I got a letter in the mail stating it was a human error," she said.
"I found a private rental and because all of my information was released I was told I had two days to move. To compensate the fact they had given my information out they got me into department housing and paid for the removalist - that's it.
"I was going to be found there because (my former partner) was born and raised in Ipswich. He knew where I was going to be.
"This has had a flow-on effect on everything in my life. Since I am in department housing I am struggling to get rental approval."
While they could not comment on any specific clients or families, the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Service admitted they had made a mistake.
"In March 2015, confidential information contained in court documentation was passed on to a parent," a spokesperson said.
"The department takes all complaints very seriously and works with clients to resolve complaints and make any necessary improvements to our practice.
"The department has apologised to this client and worked with the client to ensure the safety of family members involved. (It) has also counselled staff involved and improved screening processes for court documents to ensure this does not happen again."
Even after Anne left her violent relationship, her former partner continued to track her down before he was imprisoned.
After she left him Anne said her ex continued to stalk her, break into her home, drove through her garage door, broke windows and in that, in the end, she realised she couldn't keep her or her children safe.
"He would come around and basically terrorise us," she said.
"When I reached out for help I went to my son's school and said there was still quite a bit of domestic violence at home.
"Instead of suggesting we go to a refuge they stepped in and asked if I could keep the kids safe and I had to tell them, no, I couldn't.
"An officer at the school had made a complaint to child services on my behalf and I wanted them to. I just didn't think it would go the way that it did."
Anne's children were both less than six years old when they were taken away.
"They handcuffed me in my home, took the children, I didn't get to say goodbye and it was only a couple days later I got to see them," she said.
"They were put into a home in which I can only say they were abused. They had multiple bruises and my daughter's hair was actually moving from the nits. The house was a squalor and the carer was unfit.
"They got moved to another carer and she and her husband are beautiful people.
"The kids are home now. I don't know how many other women or men child safety have done something like this to and all they can do is sit there and say, 'I'm sorry'.
"This experience has taken something from me that I'll never get back. That part of me is dead.
"You try to move on and how can you when you keep getting dragged down by people who should be there to help you."
Anne says the support she received has been inadequate and the only 'apology' she was given was in a letter in January last year, which she felt was not genuine.
"It doesn't matter the amount of money the government keeps throwing at child safety - and it seems to be a very big political issue at the moment - if officers aren't trained properly," she said.
"The officer who made the mistake had a trainee and blamed it all on her. That poor trainee was never seen again.
"The officer then told me she got a promotion and child safety later said she could not be questioned on anything.
"It's really not good enough. I hope my story helps other people speak out."
*Not her real name. Anne's identity has been concealed for her protection.
The Queensland Times questioned the department about the following issues but were told a response could not be provided. We asked:
- How the mishandling of information occurred.
- How the person whose information was mishandled was compensated and/or where a formal apology was sent.
- Whether there have been similar complaints which have come out of the Springfield child safety office and whether human errors of the same nature are a problem for the department.
- The QT asked whether the specific child safety officer who handled the case where information was passed onto a parent was terminated and/or retrained.