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Maddy Downman's family want answers about 17yo's suicide in care

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Lukes Dad's picture
on Sun, 09/14/2014 - 10:13
Fight Child Protection Department Corruption: 
 17-year-old Maddy Downman took her own life in a residential care home in Darwin.
Photo: Maddy Downman, 17, took her own life at a residential care home in Darwin

The family of a 17-year-old girl who took her own life at a residential care home in Darwin say the Northern Territory Government failed in its duty of care to a ward of the state.

They say Maddy Downman did not receive adequate support for depression, and they feel being in care contributed to her suicide.
For four years until she took her own life Maddy had asked to leave state care and go home.
Both her mother and father told the ABC's 7.30 NT program they kept appealing to the NT Department of Children and Families to allow her to come home to either Katherine or Mount Isa in Queensland.
They also say they have not received an apology from the Government for their daughter's death.
The Department of Children and Families will not comment while an internal investigation and coronial inquiry are being held.
The Child Protection Minister also says he cannot comment on the details of the case during the inquiries.
"They can't get away with this," said Marion Downman, Maddy's maternal aunt.
"Legally they were the parents, they should have taken care of that little girl and they didn't. And now two sides of the family are left to pick up the pieces."


'We want to know why she died'


Last week, the family gathered together in Katherine to arrange Maddy's funeral and piece together what led to her suicide.
Maddy mother, grandmother and maternal aunts from Katherine, and her father and paternal aunts from Mount Isa in Queensland, said they knew she had struggled with depression and anger about being kept in the child protection system.


Legally they were the parents, they should have taken care of that little girl and they didn't. And now two sides of the family are left to pick up the pieces.
Marion Downman, Maddy's aunt


But they had hoped she would battle through it.
Maddy was taken into the Government's care aged 13, starting with a stint in juvenile detention in Darwin, at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.
Marion Braun, Maddy's maternal aunt, said the teen had been in trouble with police for minor offences.
Maddy's mother Cheryl Downman had suffered a stroke and some resulting paralysis in 2005, and this had made it harder to raise and discipline the child.
The family would travel from Katherine to Darwin to visit her in care.
"Maddy had an amazing case worker," Ms Downman said. "She always organised for the family to go up and stay in a hotel and we'd spend the whole week with Maddy up there."


"She'd ring at least twice, maybe four times a week - as many times as the carers would let her ring."
Ms Downman last saw Maddy on June 5 this year.
She had driven from Katherine to Darwin to visit her daughter.
After dinner, Maddy had begged to hide in the boot and be smuggled out of residential care.
She took her own life just after midnight that night.
Early the next morning on June 6 two police officers woke Ms Downman in Katherine.
"They first started talking about Madeline and Mum said we just left her in Darwin," Ms Downman said.
"They said no, we've just come here to let you know she's died.
"They didn't say nothing they just handed over a coroner's card and told us to get in touch with the coroners if we wanted any answers."



'For four years Maddy asked to go home'


Maddy's Katherine family said during the past four years she constantly asked to be allowed to leave residential care in Darwin.
"She didn't like it, she just wanted to return home," Cheryl Downman said.


I thought she'd get the best care up there, being in a foster home. But every time I went to Darwin to visit her, she just seemed more and more depressed.
Cheryl Downman, Maddy's mother



Some of Maddy's four sisters and younger brother still live at home in Katherine with their mother and grandmother.
They were told Maddy would not be allowed to leave residential care until she was 18.
"I thought she'd get the best care up there, being in a foster home," Ms Downman said.
"But every time I went to Darwin to visit her, she just seemed more and more depressed."



Father offered Maddy a home in Mount Isa


Several years before Maddy's death, her mother and father, Greg Dempsey, had split up and he moved back to his hometown, Mount Isa.
Mr Dempsey said he had offered Maddy the chance to stay in Mount Isa.
"It would have been last year and the year before that, and just every time she rings and she wants to come," he said.


"I said, 'Just see your caseworker and I'll fly up and we can sort things out to get you to come back with me'."
"But they never got back to me and I was more or less kept in the dark about what's been happening."
Maddy wanted to stay with her dad, her paternal aunt Liz Dempsey told 7.30 NT.
"When anyone rang her and spoke to her she just said, 'I want to come home to dad. I want to be with dad'," she said.
Both Mr Dempsey and Ms Dempsey said that, although she knew Maddy was in foster care, they had not known she was a ward of the state.
"They never made an offer to any of us," Ms Dempsey said.
"Any of us would have welcomed that child into our homes. But we weren't given that chance."



'Maddy grew depressed in state care'


Maddy's family said as she was moved from care placement to placement she became increasingly depressed and angry.
In the last six months she was moved from three different homes in Darwin, Ms Braun said.


When anyone rang her she just said, 'I want to come home to dad. I want to be with dad'.
Greg Dempsey, Maddy's father



"She showed plenty of signs," she said. "She graffitied over walls, put her feelings on the walls all the time and spray painted rooms black.
"I asked Maddy's carer whether she got any counselling.
"Her response was the last time Maddy had counselling was last year.
"She hadn't had any counselling all this year. And their excuse was that they couldn't make her."




By Jane Bardon




meatloaf's picture

I ask you this how can all these so called child safety officers be in these postions when none of them have had children themselves.

So they claim they know how easy it is to look after a child take Ms Carol PHillips of the Aterton Office , first has no qualifications to offer and was only appointed the managers postion in Atherton.

According to Carol PHillips all you need is to ask the child to be quite and do what you instruct them to do. WOW being a mum , What advice this is.

Yes you always get shit advice from some one who is not  parent and have no idea what a parent is all about.

Spinisters go away you have no idea what the hell you are talking about.

Sallie's picture

Hi, I have been away from any media for 5 years in order to survive suicide due to the inhumane treatment by DHS. I refuse to use the term 'protective parent' to describe myself in reference to dhs. To me it's a dirty lable. I am an extraordinary mother to two little ones whom I believe I put their safety at greater risk by making that devasting call for protection unaware that who I was calling was going to attempt to take my life several times in back to back relapses of an already existing dianoses of severe PTSD. Nearly 6 years later I have managed to 'just' keep my children in my care but not out of reach of who I call 'Destruction of Human Souls'.

I am new to social media but needed to seek help and understanding and PROTECTION for the three of us after they 'legally' abducted my children for more than 24 hrs just 'to give me a fright' I understand. I only found out about you all last night. I haven't slept since. My relief of HOPE is so great. My hope to connect with others who are walking in my childrens shoes and those who walk in my shoes. My soul is nearly broken but my heart broke to see that there are so many of us and we've been kept away from eachothers support in unity. Well I'm here now and I will not stop until we regain our rightful freedom from inhumane torture. I join you 100% because we don't have any other choice. Suicide is not a choice.

I have been expressing to each of my health care supporters, my army of friends and family that - if DHS succeeds in putting my life at risk to the point of death by suicide, that that death be investigated as MANSLAUGHTER. My long history of managing PTSD since I was a child and my education and past experience as a support worker in mental health, I believe without doubt that some cases of suicide are not by choice.

A Client's Death by Suicide after being aggrevated or neglected by such well informed professional 'social workers' who are aware of and repeatedly made aware of, the risks and nature of a mental illness of the 'Client,' should be made accountable and charged for being the direct cause of His/Her death. This relates to any death by suicide of any victim of child protection whether it be the reporting Parent or a Child or a Young person, male or female. My Children are lucky that I am empowered about how to best survive suicidal ideation, my God so am I. It does not make me immune to the triggers though.

If this fact that suicide can be proven with documented damning evidence that it is indeed an act of manslaughter and those responsible for that death are charged and covicted for it, there is a Light that has the power to change the system from arthur to marthur.

I've had My life destroyed of any quality by an alleged predator and a system who empowers such that I have had a lot of time to think about how to legally regain my freedom in order to regain my Children's freedom. Is anyone out there prepared to give my insight some thought please?