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

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Life As An Advocate Foster Carer. Whistleblower Against Corruption – Part One

THE VALUE IN SILENCE IS SILENCE Im a person who suffers with a number of disabilities. In the spirit of my integrity my disabilities are:

Parkinson’s Disease
Dystonia Movement Disorder
Marfan Syndrome
Epilepsy (Myoclonic, Simple Partial, Petit Mal).
Arnold Chiari Brain Malformation
Spinal L4-L5 S1, C3
Hearing 52% loss both ears
Right hand arm shoulder knee post operative permanent incapacitation

As a State Accredited Carer in Victoria I have begun to formally publish my experiences in the Care area, its hopeless failings of young people in its care & staff in agencies of DHS Victoria. As one of those Carers I hold my hand up as one of those who was intimidated into silence or have removed my accreditation as a carer. I was told I “wasn’t a team player…..” whilst I advocated for suicidal kids with multiple disabilities & AOD issues. Many of these kids were and remain severely traumatised by a penny pinching Department and the ‘professionals’ supposed to be Case Managing working with Volunteer Foster Carers I CHOOSE NOT TO BE SILENT I was lead to believe by advertising in all the warm and fuzzy paraphernalia given to me, that Berry Street Foster Care in the first instance actively sought Gay Carers. Unfortunately, I chose to believe the drivel peddled by its CEO Sandie De Wolf through their website to this end. Sandie De Wolf is ultimately responsible for the professional incompetence of her staff in the Grampians Region’s Ballarat Office. Following a few months providing foster care to its young people, I realised that in as much as blatant homophobia wasn’t immediately prominent, old school values from many of its staff is most certainly is.  It’s clear more training & education of staff in this organisation need commence & infact be escalated as a matter of priority. Ironically, the training model to educate prospective Foster Carers is prepared by Anglicare and delivered by idiots many of which should have been pensioned off years ago. When I challenged both Berry St Ballarat & Anglicare St Lukes Bendigo, as to the outward presentation of its staff in the manner in which I was treated as a Carer, they immediately removed my accreditation & that of a friend as a Carers as pay back.  Both organisations are challenged to face the discrimination levelled to me on the basis of #homophobia & #disability. I approach advocating for myself and others with utmost vigor & determination – I have to. I call it survival. At the same token. The fact foster care agency staff actively conspired to fraudulently cover up these discriminations over some time is no surprise to me. Infact, I expected it sooner or later. The as yet to be published whispering campaign began quite quickly. Again it was carefully disguised by other means, commonly occurs so that denials can be easily placed when victims complaints are lodged. As indeed they did in my case, accept, senior Berry Street staff and Management conspired to provide a letter with some text they new to be untrue in order to facilitate the cessation of my volunteering as a Carer with another DHS Foster Care agency. That agency is St Lukes Bendigo run by no other than the Anglican Church – Anglicare if if I must. I’ll have a life experience with the Anglican Church to talk about later.

  • Last year I had been asked to care for a troubled teenager in Bacchus Marsh. Aged 16, I shall call him MrM. MrM is a great kid, but he had been in the system for quite a while I was told. The system was playing handball with MrM & he knew it. He initially resided in country NSW. Mum suffered bi-polar, twin younger siblings learned inappropriate behaviour from their older brother. MrM’s eldest brother was incarcerated interstate. Whilst I had the opportunity to do so much with him, much of my work was constantly belittled by way of Berry Street staff constantly pulling me back from what they knew I was capable – advocating. Of course the State Government beauocracy moves at a snails pace, its agency in this instance, Berry Street – even slower. The left-hand never knows its right.
  • MrM needed AOD Counselling & fast. So after registering with Centrelink & his application for youth allowance, I was asked by a Centrelink Child Psychiatrist to get (as part of the Centrelink approval process for Youth Allowance) AOD Counselling. I raised this in emails with the then Berry St Grampians Manager of Home Based Care – Matt Chandler. I CC’d his Case Manager and his Berry St support officer. Matt chastised me in written response NOT to pursue AOD Counselling because they didn’t want a ‘label’ placed upon MrM. Chandler wanted to avoid external AOD support because he knew it would expose the failings of their own internal system. Infact it was Berry St’s own internal AOD ‘Counsellor’ who confessed to be privately she’d “gone as far as she could with her budget…MrM needed someone external to Berry St”  I asked did it not seem to matter to Berry Street staff this kid has been using  Ice, dope & alcohol. It didn’t matter MrM had participated in petty crimes against society – he was after all ‘just a kid…no labels here thanks….we’ll just pretend its not an issue’.
  • It wasn’t until I raised these professional Berry Street incompetencies direct with DHS Case Manager Ballarat Irene Padaric that MrM had been given a small window of opportunity that the establishment in Ballarat was ‘prepared to listen’. Her approval of the Centrelink Psychiatrist who interviewed MrM to seek AOD Counselling & support was too complicated for Berry Street staff. So, I went it alone more or less as Berry St were certainly no support to me as a Carer.  Berry Street – all talk an no action !
  • Sleeves rolled up, I networked AOD Counsellors I was aware of having formally worked in State Government myself. Accept now Im a Volunteer giving back to the Community. I met privately with AOD Counsellor I shall call MsG. MsG was prepared to at least meet MrM. AT LAST I was getting somewhere, knowing the chastising I knew I was about to cop from the Berry Street 3 stooges !And yes I communicated this to the Berry St hierarchy and yes they responded in writing. Surprisingly 2 staff stupidly denied written communication regarding this ever existed. I still have ALL written communications between agencies & DHS – Unfortunately for them.
  • On a number of occasions in 2014 MsG met with MrM. The last meeting before he absconded again, MrM was beginning to open up to MsG. As a witness to this flower opening up to a beautiful person as MsG is (and with more than 20 years experience in the AOD Sector) I began to see another window of opportunity opening here although we had but a few months to work with this kid. Yep, DHS and Berry Street was about to give up on this kid by ‘exiting him from the aged based system’. MrM was on his own.
  • Chandler though thought he had a great idea, before MrM was to be exited from the DHS system, he arranged for a desperate call to be made to my mobile. Pleading for the temporary placement at my home, a house id inherited from my mother fairly recently prior – A child I shall call MrBM. Fairly scant at best was the information provided by Berry Street as to the history of of MrBM. The fact that Carers are entitled to a brief was commonly and in this case in particular conveniently absent by Berry Street, they blamed DHS. DHS blamed them – you know, that left and right hand again? As I was later to discover MrM & MrBM had past contact. Under the circumstances Berry St preferred not to place these two males together. They did though and it was at my expense and to my detriment, the placement was made. Assuredly for two days only. Unfortunately in those two days, the boys absconded together, taking some valued possessions from my home and stole a car from elsewhere. A free fall of events followed inc a lack of advise that in as much as Berry St knew these boys had been arrested by Police and had them in Custody, they chose not to tell me as the primary Carer. Never mind that I have a duty of care towards these two. I had joined some friends later that day and had a rare treat out. We ventured to Daylesford to look at antiques. During that afternoon I was repeatedly summoned by Case Manager at Berry Street to go home as the kids had been charged by Police but that had been released from Custody and able to come home. The aggression by one of the boys in particular when he returned home caused me to be physically assaulted, my property damaged and more property stolen later that day when again MrBM absconded, he said because he “hated Berry Street & DHS”. He never “wanted to be cohabitation with MrM…..” On other words it appeared to be a set-up by Berry St knowing full well (as they did acknowledge) they expected “fireworks between these two but had no where else to accommodate MrBM. I was interviewed twice by a total of 7 staff personally.
  • As to the imminent exiting from the system of the original foster kid MrM, quickly MsG his AOD Counsellor and I networked sources interstate giving the heads up to them that MrM was about to arrive ‘home’. He had a number of responsibilities about to be forced upon him, in effect by the state and its agency. “No matter” the state said, “he’ll do well, you trained him well”. This young person had the world at his feet, yet didn’t know what to do with it. Still panicked and frightened, after another absconding he was put on public transport and shunted back to another state. after all, he was now their problem not Victoria’s. As a Foster Carer I had no chance to say goodbye, no chance to think even. No chance to say “well if you need this go there, oh and counselling services are ready for you when you go home……” SFA – Nothing Manager Chandler and one of his Senior Staff Suzanne Pickard thought it might be nice if I “sent MrM a text to say goodbye”. His care poorly managed by these two.
  • For this I was given a written commendation by Sandie De Wolf for my contribution to his care & therefore his world. Thanks but no thanks to Ms De Wolf or to her incompetent follies of 3 stooges, this ‘award’ from Ms DeWolf is shallow comfort to what was to happen a few months later.

The foster care system has long been under funded, coupled with long established homophobic guidelines over the years, its commendable Premier Daniel Andrews is planning to make it possible for gay people to adopt children but makes no mention of gay carers. No mention either of suitable funding and reimbursement rates as to the latter. No validation of past wrongs suffered by carers in silence, no reimbursements for carers out of pocket in providing care to ‘wards of the state’. I estimate my out of pocket expenses to be well into the thousands. As I said earlier, I intend publishing the fraud orchestrated by Anglicare St Lukes, aided using a letter written by Steve Johnson – Director of Grampians Region for Berry St at the request of Anglicare. In other words there was a conspiracy to professionally unseat me as a carer. Johnson stated to Anglicare St Lukes (in a letter I have been provided a copy of) I had been “deregistered as a Carer as I did not work as part of a team….” As all of my communications to Berry Street were in writing by email and responded to some of the time by the recipient, Johnson therefore provided a false statement signed by him to Anglicare St Lukes to this effect hiding behind staff to his junior to hold the hand of Anglicare in allowing it to attack me as an Accredited Carer. Why? Simply because I was “agitating and advocating for higher funding” for kids in severe life crisis. I demanded and got a formal investigation to the behaviour of these organisations.  A 2 hour interview in my home at Bendigo & again – at my request. I offered  to have the meeting taped by me, Anita Pell declined sighting her scriber, a female staff member.  This was completed by Anita Pell, a stalwart of the system of some decades.  Johnson refused to provide me with a full and unredacted copy of the review by Pell instead ‘cherry-picking’ the criticism’s (I assume made by Pell’s ‘internal’ report) he chose to offer thinly guised apologies.Im more than happy to publish copies of all relevant documents inc letters & emails. In absence of anything else, I can only assume Regional Director Johnson and his CEO DeWolf agree their letter to St Lukes was wrong and in error and that therefore I have been wronged, character assassinated & still prevented by preparedness to give back to the community its care of me, by providing care Im able to provide to others as I remain intact Accredited – young folk. Yesterday I wrote an email directly to a Case Manager at Berry Street Suzanne Pickard who I believe blatantly pursued undermining my professional standard of Foster Care. She made a number of false statements in my Carers file, (signed by her alter-ego ‘the writer’) yet to be subsequently responded to, apologised for, even retracted. This does no favours for the integrity of her employer Berry Street. For these reasons and several others, I have called for the dismissal of both her & several other staff within both Berry Street & St Lukes. The Manager of Home Based Care Matt Chandler, Im advised has since “left the organisation”. After close of business tonight I received an unsolicited phone call from Berry Street CEO Sandie DeWolf, she demanded I do not email this staff member directly instead asked me to email the CEO herself directly. I would if I could be confidence in the competency of Ms DeWolf in handling these matters, clearly its beyond her capacity as CEO. She appeared to have scant recollection of the manner in which I have been harassed by her senior staff, including previous requests not to publish names of the underlings in both Berry Street & Anglicare St Lukes. So with all this, Ive met with my local MP Jacintha Allan, I’ve spoken directly to the Minister responsible Jenny Mikkos MP  Ive also met with ABC Radio and The Age.  Incidentally the victimisation, harassment and discrimination escalated after I had lodged previous formal complaint to my local MP Jacintha Allan last year as to all of the above. Today I also met with one of Jacintha’s PA’s ‘Sue’. Sue now has additional factors Ive asked both her office and the Ministers Office to formally investigate. Today, both Berry Street & St Lukes deleted my tweets to them highlighting their collective joint conspiracies to cast statements they knew to be false as to my Volunteer Foster Care I will write in the next blog Case History as to the balance of these events and more relating to other Foster Care kids in my care. The State under previous Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge MP re Foster Care was equally as deplorably managed by these agencies IMHO as well of course as DHS itself.  Wooldridge declined to investigate the Foster Care system and its funding module. Her silence was as deafening as it was incompetent. Im glad her Liberal Government was dismissed by the people of Victoria. Again, I call upon the Minister Jenny Mikkos MP for Community Services to launch a statewide review of Foster Care. Facilitate formal apology to me, and set in train formal training modules required of all paid employees of state based DHS & its agencies with respect to Disability & Sexuality. Staff must be retrained in legislative requirements, common respect and courtesies of volunteer Foster Carers. They must right their wrongs including interfering my application for and approval of Public Housing. My approval has been received, but DHS and its agencies have sought to unhinge my needs on disability grounds for a suitable property also to continue to provide care for young people while Im humanly able. Berry St & St Lukes refuse to give me the names of the staff responsible. I will get those names and I will publish them when I receive them. I keep notes & back them up. Im a copious note keeper, I have to, to remember. Thank you for reading, and I commend it to you. Please share & comment.