Inquest halted after son’s ‘confession’

REVEALED How state failed Joedan Andrews
Karen Kissane, Law and Justice Editor, Wentworth

NSW   CHILD protection workers failed toddler Joedan Andrews in several instances before his death in late 2002, waiting too long to investigate his family, according to a review by their own department.
An inquiry into Joedan’s care by the Victorian Department of Human Services also criticised its own workers for failing to talk to his maternal grandmother, Veronica Andrews, who had notified them she feared he was not safe with his mother, who was using drugs. The department closed its file on the family two months before Joedan’s death.
The report said the Aboriginal support agency believed, following their contacts with the grandmother, that Joedan was at high risk.
Yesterday the inquest into his death was halted when coroner Malcolm Macpherson declared that he now believed there was enough evidence to satisfy a jury that a known person had committed an indictable offence.
This followed evidence by the mother of Colin Moore, the de facto husband of Joedan’s mother, Sarah Andrews. Mrs Moore told the inquest that Colin, a remand prisoner, had made a confession to her on Sunday when she visited him in jail.
She said, “(Colin) was telling me that they were in a car, driving a car, with Sarah and Joedan. They were going a bit too fast and turned a corner and Joedan went out the window. He wasn’t breathing and they panicked.”
She said Colin told her they wrapped the body and then he and Sarah “put him in the couch”. She said she had not asked her son about Joedan’s blood having been in his house.
Joedan, a Mildura two-year-old, disappeared while staying with his mother and Colin Moore on an Aboriginal mission at Dareton, NSW, on the weekend of December 14-15, 2002. His partial remains were found at a local tip a few weeks later.
The report said the office managing Joedan’s case was short-staffed and had a high workload in 2002. The document was released under freedom of information and is a heavily edited version of a Child Death Inquiry Report on Joedan’s case. It does not name staff and uses pseudonyms for family members including “Jeremy Apple” for Joedan.
The inquiry into the department’s handling of the case also found:
· It was 28 days before the family was visited after the first notification (14 days is supposed to be the maximum delay in non-urgent cases).
· There was no evidence that a comprehensive risk assessment was made.
· Case notes about visits to the family were missing, and existing notes “contain minimal detail and little analysis”.
· Child protection workers and the Aboriginal support agency held different views over the risk to Joedan and failed to communicate with each other.
“This lack of co-ordinated response was never resolved,” the report said.
“Given the young (age of Joedan) and the nature of the concerns identified in the notification (including exposure to drug use and domestic violence, lack of supervision and parenting issues) a detailed discussion with (his mother), to develop a comprehensive assessment, was essential.
“There is no evidence this occurred. The case notes are limited and do not provide a strong sense of the assessment process. Ultimately, questions are raised as to how and why Child Protection formulated the assessment that it did.
“It is not known how the conclusion was reached that (Veronica Andrews) was not genuine in her concerns and that (Joedan was) not at risk in (his) mother’s care . . . No contact was initiated directly with (Veronica) to discuss the protective concerns, and this was despite (Veronica’s) ongoing insistence that the (boy was) at risk.”
Serge Petrovich, lawyer for the DHS, opposed the release of the full report, arguing that the review was skewed to a management viewpoint, contained inaccuracies, and had not been conducted with the kind of rigour and fairness required for findings to be published.
Child Protection was first notified about Joedan on April 12, 2002. Joedan’s mother agreed to work with a family program and the file was closed on August 23. It was reopened after a second notification, but was closed on October 15, 2002.
The review found no evidence the issues in the notification were canvassed with Sarah Andrews and she was not asked whether she had a partner.
“The acting team leader . . . was supervising almost 90 cases (or about 40 families) . . . There was the same number of clients on the Long Term Team List, and the team manager also had responsibility for an additional 20 cases.” It concluded: “The reviewers found there to be fundamental case practice issues that resulted in key practice standards not being met in this matter.”
DHS file name for Mildura toddler Joedan Andrews
– 28 days before the family was visited (maximum is 14 days)
– No evidence risk assessment was made
– Case notes about family visits missing
– Communication breakdown between child protection workers and the Aboriginal Support Agency
From Child Death Inquiry Report into Joedan’s case.

First published in The Age.