Corruption, Aiding & Abbetting Fraud. Scapegoating Foster Carer’s

Further to my three previous blogs:

Recently I formalised complaints as to these blogs to Minister Jenny Mikkos, Minister Jacintha Allen, as well as the Chief Executive Officer of Berry Street & Regional Directors of both Berry Street & Anglicare St Lukes.

Im  pleased to note Minister Mikkos has chosen t make two recent media interviews where she indivates a preparedness to clean up the Foster Care Sector.  Minister Mikkos – This simply cannot happen without the Foster Care sector being back under State Government control until such time as some of the old school and dead wood is summararily dismissed.

As I have clearly proven, both Berry Street & Anglicare’s positions are untenable. Berry Street CEO Sandie De Wolf PHONED ME ON “………….with an attempt to intimidate me to back away from the issues I’ve raised, asking also that I refrain from open verbal attack calling to account those staff to which have clearly corrupted both their roles and that of their employer in this vital human care sector. The conversation with Ms De Wolf AO (her self considered to be the ‘darling’ of the Foster Care sector) was heated, although as she persisted in the misguided adventure of protecting her corrupt staff completely bedazzles herself refusing to accept responsibility though at the same time openly admitting she has no idea her Regional Director Steve Johnson, had shamelessly signed his name to a fraudulently written letter by the following:

Johnson asserts I had been deregistered as a foster carer – WRONG ! & that I “failed to work as part of a team – also WRONG. If challenging Berry Street to provide appropriate referrals to Pediatric advice for drug addicted foster kids upsets your bed count each day and as a result, my determination to ,are sure these kids are adequately provided for (at my expense), I’ll gladly wear the wrath of an organisation seeking to dispense with me as a carers by any false means they can, because neglect on their level isn’t a good look how is it ? Better to blame the foster carers after all eh? An easier target & protects the millions of dollars in public money paid each year to CEO de Wolf’s Berry Street agency. It also protects by default a building of mostly genuine paid Case Managers, who themselves must wear the wrath of dirty, under handed & corrupt staff higher up the chain, like for example Suzanne Pickard, as self proclaimed ‘Vetran’ of this sector. Problem is Pickard’s position is insulated by a long standing habit of protecting the ‘old guard’ of her dear mate, Sandie De Wolf, both after all sit glued to their seats on the board of Berry Street.  Then there is the now former Manager of Home Based Care Matt Chandler “now no longer wi this organisation”. Might it be because he was accused of assaulting a foster child on Berry Streets Grampians regions grounds in 2014? I’ll sure as hell never know because of course they refuse to say.

strange thing is, the LETTER DATED…….Matt Chandlers name appears as a participant on the select panel for current and former foster carers as one of those who penned his name to my removal as a foster carer. Same man also who took great acception to me seeking authority for (and got from DHS Ballarat Case Manager Irene Padric) and as request by Centrelink Child Psychiatrist – AOD Counselling through “Stepping Out”. You see Matt reckoned it would label the child if I took him for routine counselling and support for drug addiction. What would Chandler have me do when said child comes home daily substance abused. Sit and whistle Dixie and pretend this wasn’t hapoening? I take my role as a volunteer Foster Carer and therefore duty of care very seriously indeed. And yes, I attended several sessions with the young charge all the while Chandler complaining this Counsellor “wasn’t working as part of the team” Problem is Chandler hasn’t even read his own clients file notes. Hard he done this he would have seen that Berry Streets own AOD staffer recommended his counselling be upgraded to the level of the stepping out program. Never mind he remained hell bent on ridding the thorn in his side – ME.

It never appears to be within the level of possibility that Carers are the backbone of the Foster Care system to the paid staff, and that given they appear hopelessly overloaded – Carers are ever willing and able to pick up the slack. Indeed, some paid staff have privately admitted to me on several occasions they’re glad I picked up and ran with the White flag on behalf of Berry Street to an AOD counsellor as they weren’t going to get an “authority in time”.  In time for what I wondered? Put simply while the incompetence of paid agency staff is clearly evidenced here & at the highest agency levels, kids are seriously neglected by none other than the system that is supposed to protect vulnerable kids – child protection itself.

I recall an incident in which Matt Chandler former Manager of Home Based Care at Berry Street’s Grampians Region, was accused of assault by another of the kids I’d been asked to foster. Yes this kid had a history, they all do. The allegations were serious & I had been barely briefed by staff (off the record of course) as to what occurred. This Manager was not I was advised in anyway suspended with or with or without pay. I’m not sure of the end result as to whether or not these allegations were considered founded or unfounded, accept that I’m aware a physical altercation most certainly did occur. Chandler says it was required of him to restrain said child on this particular occasion. No matter what though Chandler most certainly should have been suspended with pay and away from the Berry St Office where this incident occured.

Conversely when allegation is made against an unpaid Foster Carer by A Foster child, without question, the Carer is suspended from providing more care. The support provided by the system in this regard is scant to say the least, lip service at best. The documented statements made by paid staff in a Carers file in evidentially indicate ALL support if provided to the Carer. I can tell you for a fact it is not. Allow me to expand upon this example.

One of kids in my care returned to placement after being questioned by Police earlier on the same say for stealing  a car in the early hours and taking it for a spin. After 6 hours in Police Custody, said child was released back into the care of Berry St staff.  He was in turn then told to return by train to my home. When he returned to placement it was clear the was going to be an incident. It wasn’t a matter of if but when. It wasn’t that this child was angry with me, he was angry with the system. Blame is a big thing for these kids and usually it’s the Carers who cop verbal and physical abuse (often daily as in my case). But we care, so we battle on and survive as best we can.  Well as predicted this kid was agro and turned his bedroom in my house upside down. When I attempted to engage the child in an attempt to calm him (sometimes this helps sometimes it escalates the behaviour). He assaulted me and damaged by property and stormed from my home. Out the front exclaimed some hate speech directed to me and punched the nearest light pole. I was then to discover he made an allegation it was me who had assaulted him (not that was otherwise the case) and that the injury he sustained by hitting a street pole was self harm arisen from his own anger.

In the meantime of course, I was suspended from caring and waited several months whilst being interviewed twice. Once by Chandler himself with another staffer & the second time by 4 additional staff. The allegations were eventually dismissed a said child admitted his injuries were indeed self inflicted.

When Foster Kids make these allegations, the allegation stays on the carers file no matter what. It’s then added by person or persons unknown in the agency (Berry Street in this case), that the allegations were either supported or unsupported. Of course it was a false allegation and therefore unsupported.

So, Carers are in effect, suspended, (paid staff at least in the aforementioned) are able to continue in their role. Double standards to say the least. But you see Chandler already had me in his sights. Paid lip service to the investigation in terms of it’s timing and at the same time dragged his feet and dragged this out for as long as he possibly could. The Department, evidently encouraged his behaviour. For Chandler of course, he was a hero in his own lunch box. It allowed him to scapegoat the Carer, by looking good to his masters DHS & at the same time send a warning shot across my bow about Caring through Berry Street whilst on his street as it were. It was payback if you like (read through my previous blogs).

Carers are provided support its said through the Carers Association. A State Government body headquartered in Melbourne. For all the good this office does other than paying lip service to “process” (their words not mine), it may well not be there at all. Carers are also provided with “Counselling” though no referral was ever offered in my case other than scant “if you want it there is go get it”, no back grounding or written referral was ever made. In other words in all said and done, Carers are on their own.

Caring for troubled youth is challenging to say the leat keeps me active, keeps me feeling alive and needed in terms of caring for a fellow human being, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I could walk away from caring for the difficulty in working with beaurocrats. I will not. If all carers walked away without speaking out & fighting stupidity on the part of staff, it would be the agencies and the Govenment of the day first to speak out themselves for the desperate need for Carers.

Any wonder hundreds of Carers are leaving the Foster Carer system for many of the same reasons I’ve written about. Why would they bother ? Simply because like I, they’re passionate about advocating for young (often homeless) people. But advocate too hard and agency staff are exposed for what many of them are hopelessly overloaded at best, at worse blatantly I’m incompetent.

In good health,

iDrew

 

 

 

 

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Life as an Advocate Foster Carer, Whistleblower Against Corruption – Part 2. Why trusting State Government appointed contractors is incredibly difficult to volunteer for.

BERRY STREET FOSTER CARE

Foster Caring through 2014, I was asked to provide care for two young males.  I received a call after hours in my car from Senior Case Managers Andrew McCausland & Suzanne Pickard. I was already frustrated with the unprofessional conduct of Pickard – a supposed veteran of the Child Protection area. I couldn’t be more disappointed with her underhandedness behind the scenes of smiles to my face, knife in my back. It seemed doing her job for her as an unpaid, volunteer Foster Carer was none to pleasing to precious Pickard. As to McCausland, he was a little more difficult to read. Ive worked in Mental Health before and learnt to study the behaviour of adults – even the cunning ones. You know, smile to your face…knife in your back !

I remember the weekend because my eldest brother & neice were also coming to stay for the same weekend. The arrangement was booked some time earlier as I was Executor to my late mothers estate & we had to discuss the arrangements I had made for the disbursements of her estate.

Pickard made the call to my car, my friend Mykael was witness to the call as of course it was hands free. Pickard was aghast I refused to agree with her request that in order for me to agree to accommodate these two young people – I would not (as Pickard insisted) alternately accommodate my siblings in a hotel to make way for the Foster kids emergency placement. I told Pickard that both my brother a Registered Psychiatric Nurse in South Australia and my Neice had both been regularly Police checked in accordance with the requirements of their jobs.

Other than occasional mutterings in the back ground, McCausland barely uttered a word. The placement needed to occur that night as DHS and Berry Street were needing to Foster a total of 6 siblings. Pickard indicated they would need to discuss the fact that my siblings would also be staying in my home that weekend. It was clear in the minds of all concerned that I did not need or seek the permission of either DHS or Berry Street to have family stay.

Approximately one hour later, a DHS Government van pulled up to my driveway where upon I spoke at length with two female Child Protection Officers . I reiterated the conversation I had with Pickard and McCausland earlier that evening. The CPO’s were quite happy with the conditions I had set upon agreeing to foster these to young lads. the kids then exited the vehicle and we did introductions all round. The kids were ecstatic to hear the barking of my Chihuahuas inside as they ‘love dogs’ and couldn’t get inside to my home quick enough. My Brother & Neice still hadn’t arrived from South Australia at that time. Darkness of the night had set in, it may even have been a bit cool that night, I can’t exactly remember that detail.

We collected the two kids meagre personal belongings as the CPO’s did have much time to collect to much of the personal effects of the children before they were taken into care by the state. We parted company with the CPO’s all smiles and inside we went to have introductions to the dogs. The kids eyes were like saucers, they couldn’t believe they had such a welcoming committee. It meant lots of playtime was before them. Hopefully I could distract them sufficiently enough to occupy their minds away from what was to be a rather unpleasant experience as to a family court matter booked before the Magistrates Court early the following week.

As is often the case, CPO’s called later to make sure the kids had settled in well and were travelling well with no major behavioural issues to work with. Other than the usual traumatised effects of being removed from their parents, the kids were doing remarkably well – though through the guise of brave little faces. They’re such courageous little fellows, I knew life was tough right now but I reassured them we’d get through it. Though I tried not to obviously change the subject that first night when the kids were clearly looking forward to returning home Monday or Tuesday the next week, as thats “….what Mum and Dad told us….”

The kids had fun decisions to make in the coming minutes, which of the two choices of vacant bedrooms they wanted to call their own for the next few nights. To hear two clearly traumatised kids laugh as they negotiated the terms of their agreement to take in turns so they could have access to the television adjacent to one of their bedrooms just incase they couldn’t sleep. It didn’t matter if they wanted to watch TV late. There was more for the kids to be concerned about than staying up a little later. As it turned out, they fell asleep watching the tele anyway.

The following morning, we knew we had to meet one of the CPO’s at Ballan. Half way between Bacchus Marsh & Ballarat. We’d arranged the night before the kids didn’t have access to their medication. At around 10am Saturday morning, off we drove on the freeway. As I was driving, the kids knew there was more deals to be done – ‘who bags the front sea next to Drew’. As it turned out I had previously set child lock on the back doors, we were thankful they chose to sit together in the back. We pretended we were chauffeurs so the kids could summon their driver to come and open their doors for them when we parked at Ballan to obtain the kids medications. This Chauffer bit they thought a huge joke, but laughter often quickly turned to sadness if just a little reminder of home travelled in and out of their thoughts that weekend.

We played one of those games called loom band I think it was where both boys made wrist bands and various other colourful little toys to play with. After all they didn’t have any toys to play with. That Saturday we bought these two sets of loom band, all colourful…some sparkly some not – but all fun. Kept them occupied for hours on end. It was hard to get a word in edge ways as they borrowed my iPad to check tutorials (under my supervision of course) as to how to navigate their way through difficult left, right,up,down turns. Buggered if I could follow it – but they had it down pat !

As the weekend was fast drawing to a close, we drove to the Ballarat Magistrates Court complex to meet with two state funded Solicitors. One for each lad. I had chatted with both Solicitors independently and together as their knowledge of some finer detail appeared scant. I was humbled to receive dual congratulatory thanks and admiration from both Solictors for jumping on the ground quickly in keeping the lads extremely busy all weekend. Trips to Werribee zoo and much more. We all met at Beechworth Bakery next to the Magistrates Court Complex. Much food was had. We could have had breaky at home, but we all decided some luxury was in order and ate out, and boy did they eat – groovy. Eating and drinking well is a good sign, again though through very brave little faces and minds.

It wasn’t long before they were summoned to the court room with their guardians – then the State Solicitors.Both female Counsel were lovely to speak to and mighty appreciative of my work with the lads in such a very short time.

By this time, my brother and niece had arrived & we all dined together at the bakery that morning. State Solicitors were chuffed we were all working well as one big ‘sudo-family’.

Seemingly like clock work, I had received a call from their Case Manager Camilla Berger at Berry Streets Ballarat Office in Redan. Berger asked me to bring the two boys into Berry Street Offices without delay after their court appearances so we could discuss their Care Management plans. Of course we obliged as due Volunteer Foster Carers. Immediately upon our arrival appeared two Case Managers, one of which was none other than McCausland himself. The same McCausland who was involved in the telephone hook up days before.

McCausland and Camilla Berger in effect ambushed me at the door in the reception area with the lads. Berger gestured to the boys to follow her before going in behind a locked secure door. I was never to see them again. Berger never returned with the lads. I did not know as a Foster Carer that it was planned the lads were to be removed from our care for no known reason whatsoever by both McCausland & Berger. We couldn’t forward plan to tell the boys they would be going into an office they’d never seen before or be taken away by a woman they’d never known. That same day I sent an SMS to Berger and stated ….”thanks for the ambush…..” Berger did not reply.

As the boys disappeared behind a locked door with Camilla Berger, McCausland made small talk as moments later he’d ask me to follow him to a very small office that travelled along the same corridor the boys had walked moments before. He closed the door behind us. I asked what the hell was going on. There were no witnesses, just he and I. I cannot prove what was said other than a statutory declaration as to his unprofessional, unethical conduct that day. I was chastised for “not advising Berry Street I had siblings staying for the weekend and they had been troubled by this  found knowledge”. Clearly McCausland was lying, his conduct highly inappropriate as was his manner of entrapment of me in his office that morning. After he chastised me for approximately 20 minutes before he had opened the door and released me to the corridor to be walked from his office back to the main door and escorted from the building.I was again scapegoated for the incompetence behind the scenes. Even legal Counsel had some concerns.

This weekend morning was the last time I was to see McCausland & Berger again or any of his Berry Street colleagues at this time. The corruption and entrapment damn well astounded me.  Months later it grinds me deeply as it does still hurt.

I raised formal complaint by email to Berry Street CEO and Matt Chandler Manager of Home Based Care as to the unprofessional conduct of McCausland & Berger that day. I will detail further unprofessional conduct by each of these Managers and their colleague Pickard later. As far as I’m concerned McCausland & Berger are as of those along with Pickard who must be dismissed.There is no room for entrapment, corruption. There can be no excuses, no room for negotiation. I did not deserve to be treated this way, I did not know I was to be deceived that day let alone by McCausland in particular. He knew by this time we were to transfer to Bendigo & both he and Pickard were “pissed off” they had to “train” my mate Mykael to be formally accredited a Carer even though he had been supporting me months earlier in caring for MrM, as detailed in my previous blog.  Despite initial rumblings about Mykael’s Accreditation, I had been fully accredited months prior. It was convenient for Berry Street to be keen for me to Foster kids it seems were very difficult to accommodate and in many cases were a thorn in the side of both DHS & Berry Street in terms of finding suitable short to medium term stable care. The behaviour of Chandler, McCausland, Pickard & Berger was quickly collated in terms of noting their behaviour looking for reason & similarity. There was some I not dotted or a T not crossed and I suspect they’d been chastised by DHS for something they hadn’t done properly in this case. I suspect this was due to the minimum bed allocation for Child Protection Cases as required by DHS. Who knows, perhaps they didn’t want to commence placement with two homosexuals? You can though see a pattern developing. Though carefully crafted otherwise, given our standard of care was “exemplary” why would Berry Street staff take the action they did? Were they trying to hide a stuff up on their part? were they told to pull their heads in and tidy up this case? I don’t know. Although Berry Street evidently did because they apologised to me later, though without total, appropriate reasoning. Why did Berry Street staff further traumatise already traumatised kids?

16th July 2014 we were to leave Bacchus Marsh & move to Bendigo. My friend Mykael was already living in Bendigo & so as we were getting along well continued to live together as friends occupying separate bedrooms. It was a household working very well. We decided to challenge much of the old school methods, inappropriate treatment of Foster Carers. We could either walk away, or we could challenge the stereo typical methods of what are not isolated cases of appalling mis-management of Child Protection Case Managers and incompetence of and nepotism in staff between DHS & its agencies.

Theres much more to be documented I have yet to extrapolate further from both blogs surrounding the several cases of care I have provided.

I have advised Minister Jenny Mikkos & Minister Jacintha Allen MP this afternoon as well as sources in print & audio/vision media.

Part 3 to follow