Care not Custody – Tamara's story

Care not Custody – Tamara's story

Tamara’s (not her real name) parents separated when she was very young, following a history of family violence and substance abuse. She originally lived with her mother and younger sister, but was eventually removed from her mother’s care following multiple instances of neglect and verbal abuse. Her mother would often disappear for prolonged periods leaving the children to fend for themselves. Tamara would wake up to find her gone and have to skip school to look after her little sister. When her school notified Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), she was eventually placed in residential care, aged 12.

Not long after her placement in care, Tamara was charged in relation to a scuffle with workers in the unit. She had gone to sleep in her bedroom mid-morning feeling unwell. Around 11am, one of the residential care workers came into her room and woke her up to tell her lunch would be ready soon. Tamara was upset at being woken up and swore at the worker. The worker then returned with the shift manager, who told Tamara she would have to get up for lunch. Tamara refused and swore and told them to leave her alone.

Rather than leaving Tamara in her room, the manager removed her computer from her room as punishment for swearing and she and the worker then attempted to physically pull her out of the bed. When Tamara continued to resist and swear, she was informed money would be deducted from her allowance for aggressive behaviour. At this point, Tamara hit the worker across the face and stormed out into the yard, overturning a pot-plant. Police were called and she was charged with assault on the worker.

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Read more information about Care not Custody: a new approach to keeping kids in residential care out of the criminal justice system