Social worker sacked over missing child

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A social worker who failed to tell his superiors that a child in their care was missing was rightly sacked, the Employment Relations Authority has found.

Gavin Temara had worked for Child Youth and Family in Auckland for nearly 10 years before he was fired last November.

In May last year, Mr Temara was assigned to a family, known as the K family, which had already been in the social welfare system for three years.

In the two months that followed, Mr Temara completed safety assessments of the family without interviewing any of the children.

An initial report by Mr Temara identified a long history of neglect and violence, the authority said.

Another report by him identified vulnerable infants and that one of the children, RK, was showing dangerous and criminal behaviour.

He prepared an order for that child only to be removed from the the child's parents.

He later interviewed RK and an older sibling who both reported no problems in their home. Mr Temara did not interview any of the other children.

On July 1, Mr Temara was contacted by a colleague who told him one of the children, 8-year-old MK had gone missing from the family home.

He had been missing since the previous day and the parents were going to the police.

"Mr Temara took no further action on the file. He did not note MK's disappearance in CYFS records or advise his supervisor this had occurred," the authority said.

Four days later the child was found and told police of incidences of violence towards all the siblings.

MK was placed in emergency care and custody orders were made for the other children.

Mr Temara was fired for serious misconduct following an investigation by the agency.

He told the authority his actions did not fit within the definition of serious misconduct within the disciplinary policy. At best it was "conduct that brings the employer into disrepute".

The social worker's failure to interview the children, despite knowing there had been 17 previous domestic violence incidences was "an act of wilful negligence or gross incompetence", authority member Tania Tetitaha said.

Because Mr Temara did not notify his superiors for four days that MK was missing, they were unable to use their own resources to help in the search for the child, she said.

His dismissal by the agency was justified, Ms Tetitaha ruled.

- APNZ

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