A 12-year-old girl could become one of Australia's youngest mothers. The country's child welfare authorities are slowly waking up to the situation and have now banned the boyfriend from visiting the girl.
The girl had been sharing a bed with a 15-year-old boy for a year now, ever since her mother allowed him to move into their home in rural New South Wales.
AdvertisementBut when her father pleaded with staff at the Department of Community Services helpline several times they failed to do anything about the situation.
Police said they were also unable to intervene because both children were under the age of consent. If the boy was 18 or older police would have immediately begun a criminal investigation.
When the girl's father had to take custody of her in March, he discovered his daughter was pregnant. She is now about halfway through her pregnancy.
The department said it had failed to act earlier because staff were working on more urgent cases.
The Daily Telegraph report has sent everyone running for cover. NSW Community Services minister Linda Burney has admitted major mistakes were made by her department.
The girl was ignored by the Department of Community Services (DoCS) because "the system was stretched", she says.
There was no intervention by DoCS, despite pleas from the girl's father for help, Mrs Burney said.
It's a disturbing case. It is true in my view that DoCS should have intervened more strenuously than what they did.
I'm of the view, as is the department, that there should have been more strident intervention than happened.
"The father did contact community services in early March and there was some investigation but clearly not enough was done and I want to acknowledge that."
Police said because the children were both under the age of consent and the girl failed to make a complaint of sexual abuse when interviewed, they were unable to act after the girl's father came to them on March 31.
NSW Opposition spokeswoman for community services, Pru Goward told ABC radio: "I don't think it's an isolated case. I think DoCS often, where it gets reports like this, ignores the reports of the families and the advice of the foster carers".
The pregnant girl will be eligible for the federal government's $5,000 baby bonus if she has care of her child.
An education department spokesman said the girl's school was providing as much help as possible.
"The school has concentrated on providing assistance that allowed the student to continue attending classes," he said.
He said help was being arranged for the student to continue her education after the baby was born.
Ironically while the DoCS swung into action late, banning the 15-year-old from seeing the pregnant girl, the boy's grandmother is protesting the ban as unfair. How come he can't be in touch with the future mother of his child, she wants to know.
She also disputed claims made by the girl's distraught father that her grandson had lived under the same roof as his girlfriend or had since spent time in juvenile detention.
"He's not in jail and he's never lived at the house," the Daily Telegraph reported the grandmother as saying.
Meantime there was another report that said another 12-YEAR-OLD girl was given a "party pack" of condoms and lubricant after she was diagnosed with chlamydia at a DOCS medical appointment.
The girl's family said police refused to act even though their daughter and the boy were under the age of consent.
Instead, DOCS sent the girl to the state-funded Warehouse Youth Health Centre at Penrith. Yesterday her parents said they were angry that their daughter was prescribed the contraceptive pill at the clinic, which features "condom stuffing" competitions and "safe sex party" pictures on its Facebook page.
A spokeswoman from the Western Sydney Joint Investigative Response Team - made up of DOCS, police and NSW Health officials - said, "while we understand the girl's parents found this confronting, DOCS must be guided by experts and the long-term health needs of the girl."