16 July, 2010

A system failure - Part I

Tomi K was born the day after New Year’s Day, 1980. His mother was an alcoholic who drank all through his pregnancy, as well as that of his two-year-old sister Suzie. Visiting DoCS officers constantly found the home littered with rubbish, food scraps, beer and other alcohol bottles, cigarette butts, unwashed plates, cutlery and clothes.

In June 1980 Tomi was hospitalised with severe nappy rash after his mother was found unconscious outside the local pub. Tomi was unkempt, not well cared for, and seemed to be an unhappy baby. He lay miserably in his cot, and did not interact with staff. His mental age was found to be lagging, and he was delayed in his personal, social and language development.

Suzie was in a similar state of late development. She was very small for her age and unable to speak, uttering only monosyllables. She was diagnosed with foetal alcohol syndrome, a type of retardation caused by the mother drinking throughout pregnancy.

Tomi improved a little while in hospital, but regressed once he was released back into his mother’s care. However not long after, in August 1980, his mother dumped Tomi and Suzie with her parents and fled. When DoCS visited, the grandmother was found in a drunk and disorderly state. DoCS intervened and made both children wards of the state, placing them in an institution.

In November 1980 Tomi and Suzie were placed with foster parents, the Banks. Tomi initially settled well, and his development improved. In March 1981 he began to have convulsions, and in May began to display tempter tantrums and would regularly hold his breath as long as he could. He was prescribed with Dilantin and by 1983 had no more seizures.

In 1984 the relationship with the Banks seemed good, although they were a little concerned about unusual behaviour from both of the children. Suzie in particular was displaying overtly sexual behaviour, and Tomi had a habit of putting everything into his mouth and eating it (pica).

In 1985 Tomi started kindergarten. He was still eating everything he could lay his hands on. He seemed to have no fear about it, and it seemed to be a device to get attention, even if it was just to be punished. He was disruptive in class, and had a limited concentration span. He quickly became alienated from other children, and often injured them with sticks and stones. He also liked to urinate and defecate in the sinks and washbowls (encopresis). He had no fear about being punished for any of this, and seemed to have no sense of shame.

In August of 1995 this behaviour became increasingly self-destructive. He would hand upside down on the money-bars and fall onto his own head, bite his own fingers, gouge his own eyes and rub his feet in glass. He talked about death all the time, and was often found trying to hurt or kill small animals. He ate cockroaches, and regularly peed on the floor.

A psychologist who saw the children wrote a report for DoCS: “In summary, Suzie and Tomi are both extremely disturbed children who came from a very deprived background. Their behaviour is typical of that classically described in children with this degree of deprivation including excessive eating of normal and abnormal things as well as a lack of affect and any sense of guilt or responsibility. I should think that the prognosis for the children from a psychological point of view is very dismal indeed… I certainly do not think there is any evidence that there is a neurological disease except for the brain damage and clumsiness which are the result of the alcohol exposure during pregnancy.”

Another doctor commented that both children “have gross behavioural, emotional, educational and cognitive problems … explicable on the basis of the grossest abuse and disruption of attachments in the early years”.

By October of 1985 Mrs Banks was no longer able to cope with the children, Suzie in particular. She asked DoCS to remove the children, and by November she told them that if no alternative placement was found for Suzie within three days, she would leave her at the DoCS office.

In addition to the encopresis and pica, Tomi was also displaying self-harm and other dangerous destructive behaviour, as well as lying, and showing overt sexual interests for his age.

Nevertheless, Tomi and Suzie were not removed from the Banks’ care until March 1986, after a doctor was critical of their standard of care and what he described as “incompetently inappropriate management”. He felt that Mrs Banks was ambivalent towards the children, and had created an isolated, hostile environment. He was of the opinion that if the children had been receiving appropriate care, developmental problems such as poor concentration and co-ordination would have improved.

Suzie and Tomi were sent to institutions including Mirali, and by June they were in the Lindfield unit of Barnardos, which was for severely emotionally disturbed children: “The two children are very difficult management problems who require intensive and continuous care which is far beyond that required for a ward in normal circumstances”.

In April 1987 after some improvement, both children were sent to stay with Miss Williams. Around the same time, their natural mother had been leading a more stable life, and coping well with her three other children. So, despite things going well with Miss Williams, both children were returned to the care of their natural mother in March 1988. In November their status as ‘wards’ was officially removed.

However Tomi’s behaviour continued to decline, and by November 1990 his natural mother and her husband were no longer able to cope. 10-year-old Tomi was constantly running away, deliberately placing himself in danger, sniffing turpentine and other destructive activities. He was suspended from school in December and returned to Minali children’s home.

In 1991 a treating psychologist described Tomi as having a poor self-image, and viewed the world as a threatening place. He was unable to trust most adults, and his behaviour was worst when he was under stress. In February his mother and husband refused to have him back, and once more he was made a ward of the state.

In December that year his mother refused to have him home for Christmas, and his step-father banned him from writing to her. This was the ‘ultimate rejection’ for Tomi, and his behaviour became even worse. He began to escape from the children’s homes and commit crimes.

In 1992 he was charged with two counts of ‘break, enter and steal’ and one charge of stealing a motor vehicle. Psychologist reports for the court showed that he was angry, hurt and disappointed about his mother’s rejection, and blamed his step-father. He was openly defiant, abusive and sullen. He showed no interest in anything, no spontaneity. He was emotionally empty, not even showing any anxiety facing court. He was diagnosed as likely to develop an avoidant personality disorder.

In December 1992 he was sent to live with Mr Walker. He was still showing distress over his mother’s refusal to have any contact with him, and had created an idealised image in his head of his absent father. In a way, despite all his misconduct, he was desperately searching for people who would care for him.

Living with Mr Walker went well, and in 1993 Tomi, now aged 13, asked Mr Walker to adopt him. Its not clear what progress was made with this, and by 1994 Tomi’s behaviour was once more becoming aggressive, and he was caught setting fires and destroying property, including causing over $2,000 damage to a St Vincent De Paul shop. He was sniffing turpentine again, and the stealing and violence increased. In August he was sent back to Minali Children’s Home, where he was charged with damaging property and given nine months probation. He claimed he now hated Mr Walker, and resented his affection.

He still fantasised about having the perfect family, although he was seen to be immature, and still emotionally empty. He spent most of his time getting drunk and taking drugs, and enjoyed self-mutilation. He continually stole cars, and in September of 1994 was found at the home of a known paedophile by Flemington police.

In June 1995 he left the Home to live on the streets. Occasionally he stayed with his sister Suzie, and spent most of his time stealing car radios to buy drugs. But in August he went back to Mr Walker’s house and asked for another chance. Mr Walker claimed Tomi insisted on sleeping in his bed, despite his efforts to get him out.

Around November 1995 Tomi met Geoffrey Boyson at Central station, and began staying with him regularly. Boyson wasn‘t considered ideal by DoCS and Tomi was told to go back to Mr Walker. He did so, but continued to visit Geoff regularly, and eventually left Mr Walker. But in June 1996 Tomi called Mr Walker, asking if he could return. Walker let him come back, but it was not long before he demanded Tomi leave, as his behaviour had not changed.

In August 1996 16-year-old Tomi collapsed from alcohol poisoning, and escaped from the hospital to go and stay with Geoff Boyson, officially taking up residence there in August of 1996. DoCS visited and interviewed Geoff and made police checks, and he came Tomi’s official carer in October of that year. DoCS weren’t entirely happy with the situation, but they did not have a great deal of choice in the end, as Tomi refused to stay anywhere where DoCS assigned him, and continually absconded to Geoff’s place in Enmore.

He lived with Geoff for the next few months, but in fact spent most of his time on the street, doing drug and committing petty crimes to support his habit. He actually spent very little time with Geoff, using his place mainly for drugs, and only staying there when the two of them used drugs together.

Geoff brought home drugs he had confiscated from residents where he worked. Tomi also gave him drugs - this seemed to be the real basis of their relationship. He was adamant he would never have gone to Geoff’s in the first place if he hadn’t been allowed to use there.

Geoff was a gay man with suspected paedophilic tendencies. At his house, advertisements from ‘Campaign’ and ‘Outrage’ were found, as well as an index to advertisements in women’s magazine with images of babies and young children, naked or semi-naked.

The relationship deteriorated between the two in October, when Tomi claimed that Geoff raped him on around the 10th. Tomi said he was on drugs at the time, and not able to resist.

Tomi left Geoff’s place and didn’t return for two weeks. During this time he met up with a friend of his, Stone, at a squat in Parramatta. According to Stone, they had the following conversation:
Tomi: What would you do if someone raped you?
Stone: In what way?
Tomi: Rooted you, and stuff like that.
Stone: I’d kill ‘em

to be continued....

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