The death of four-year-old Chloe Valentine occurred after the agency tasked with her protection, Families SA, took the “path of least resistance” and proves the state’s child protection system is “broken and fundamentally flawed”, a coroner has found.
Chloe died from horrific injuries after repeatedly crashing a motorbike she was forced to ride over several days at a home in Ingle Farm in Adelaide’s north in January 2012.
Her mother, Ashlee Polkinghorne, and Polkinghorne’s partner at the time, Benjamin McPartland, were jailed for manslaughter by criminal neglect.
South Australian coroner Mark Johns, handing down his findings into Chloe’s death today, recommended sweeping changes to the state’s child protection services.
“Nothing less than a massive overhaul of Families SA and its culture and training of its staff will be sufficient,” he said, adding that the government agency “took the path of least resistance and the whole history of its dealing with Ashlee is a history of drifting, irresolution and aimlessness”.
More than 20 notifications were made to Families SA before Chloe’s death from family and friends who were concerned for her welfare.
Many of those concerns were largely ignored by the agency.
Mr Johns described Families SA as “broken and fundamentally flawed” and recommended that laws were changed so that anyone convicted of manslaughter or murder of a child would automatically have any future children removed from their care at birth.
He said a child should only be returned to their parent’s care if they could prove to a court that they were fit to be a parent.
Mr Johns also called for a social workers registrar and recommended that all social workers with less than 12 months experience be supervised by senior workers when having contact with clients.