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Loophole allows convicted criminals to foster WA children

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CONVICTED criminals can foster children in WA, a loophole the State Government is being called on to urgently fix.

But Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk did not answer questions this week about exactly how many criminals have been given custody of some of the State’s most vulnerable children.

In the wake of the shocking murder of 12-year-old schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer by her foster father Rick Thorburn in Queensland, questions have been asked nationwide about the state of our foster system.

Thorburn, who had a lengthy prior criminal record, was last week sentenced to a life jail term for killing Tiahleigh in 2015 after he learnt his 18-year-old son Trent had been having sex with the girl, and was worried she was pregnant.

Under WA law, only those convicted of “Class 1 and 2 offences” — encompassing homicide, serious assault, sex offences and offences against children — are banned from being foster carers. Ms McGurk said the screening process, which could take six months or more, was comprehensive to ensure the safety of foster children and competency of foster carers.

It included 19 hours of training, police and department checks, confirmed references, several home visits and a Working with Children Card for all adults in the household providing care and support to a foster child.

“While a criminal record does not preclude someone from becoming a foster carer, anyone with a conviction for a Class 1 or Class 2 offence is precluded from becoming a general foster carer,” the minister said. “Each application is assessed individually and where an applicant has a criminal record, the nature of the offence — and when it was committed — is taken into account.”

Opposition child protection spokesman Nick Goiran said it was important the State Government urgently reviewed the loophole.
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