Child, Youth and Family have admitted failing a 12-year-old
girl who took her own life while in foster care after she
claimed to have been sexually abused by a caregiver.
Krystal, whose surname is permanently suppressed, was found
dead in her bedroom by her younger sister at their Auckland
foster home on September 13, 2008.
She was one of eight children from a Northland family placed
in Child, Youth and Family (CYF) custody in 2006 after their
parents were arrested on drugs charges.
The kids went into foster care for two years before Krystal
alleged on August 1, 2008 that she had been sexually abused
by one of her caregivers and they were moved out.
Krystal killed herself after being sent to her room for
fighting and being told she would not be allowed to stay if
her behaviour continued, a coroner's finding released today
It slams the social welfare system for a series of failings
by social workers after Krystal made the sex abuse claims.
Coroner Morag McDowell said Krystal's new caregiver, who had
been looking after her for only three weeks, was not properly
informed of her fragile mental state.
The troubled girl was not given the counselling or
psychological support required, the report says.
Coroner McDowell outlined a number of "missed opportunities"
to manage the girl's fragile mental state.
She expressed particular concern over the care plan given to
her new caregiver, which was out of date and lacked detail
about her individual needs and personal history.
"Ensuring that those people taking over the parental duties
of a child have all the necessary information needed to
provide adequate support tailored to that particular child is
fundamental," Coroner McDowell said.
CYF said it fully accepts the coroner's findings into
The social worker who produced the sub-standard care plan
left CYF soon afterwards, while another social worker
involved in the case subsequently received extra training.
"Put simply, we failed Krystal," CYF's deputy chief social
worker Nova Salomen said today.
Since the 2008 death, the government agency had made "big
changes" in the ways it works with abused children "to try
and prevent a failure like this happening again", she said.
It has strengthened its care plans to improve key information
provided to caregivers and implemented a specific assessment
tool for social workers who work with children over the age
When a child or young person was evidentially interviewed,
there were now clear guidelines that required specific social
CYF has also made changes to its information systems for
social workers to highlight suicide risk and critical risk
The agency said gateway assessments were now being used to
assess the wider needs of all children in care. CYF has now
automated the scoring on those tests to remove the risk of
CYF apologised to Krystal's family for its failures, Ms
"We agree with the coroner that this case is a reminder for
social workers to focus on the needs of children rather than