A troubled girl’s truth

  • Struggling service: the Brangman Home for girls has been described as having many faults by one of the teenage girls that lived there (Photograph by Blaire Simmons, using a model)

    Struggling service: the Brangman Home for girls has been described as having many faults by one of the teenage girls that lived there (Photograph by Blaire Simmons, using a model)

This statement was written by a teenager who was placed in the Brangman Home for girls in Smith’s by the Department of Child and Family Services. Her name, age and the dates when she lived there have been left out to protect her identity.

I was put into the government homes because I was rude and I started smoking weed. I would leave home and come back on my own time. That was pretty much it. On the odd occasion, I was involved in a number of fights and this was enough for me to be put in the home.

One day these two ladies from DCFS came to my house to meet me. The next day I went to Brangman Home. I went court for a care order. It was three months and then six months and then three years. They let me go from Brangman Home once I turned 18.

When I first went into Brangman Home it was so nice. I was there and I was going on passes — a day pass or night pass. I was home for a little while and then they brought me back.

Sometimes the home does not have enough beds or mattresses, so I have seen residents sleep on the floor in sleeping bags. One time it was a room of eight people sleeping in one bedroom.

I had one experience where my life was threatened by a girl at the home that held a knife up to me. The Residential Treatment Services staff knew about this. The only thing that the staff did was move my bed outside the staff office.

There was another occasion when a senior RTS worker asked me to move my bed down outside the office. I can recall the incident vividly. The senior RTS worker returned to the home in a bad mood.

She told me to bring my mattress downstairs and put it on the floor outside the office. When the mattress gets moved down outside the office, you can hear the staff talking. I recall the staff calling some of the residents “lifers”. This is a derogatory name which means that we are going to be lifers in the “system” — in other words, we had nowhere to go and no one wanted us.

As far as they were concerned, the next step for us was jail. Many of them used to talk down on us. I felt horrible. How can staff that are supposed to be helping us say that about children?

The incidents of this kind happened far too often, but I never became immune to the insults and I felt sad for the other residents when these insults were made to them. The insults were hurled in front of other residents and often embarrassed us.

I recall a particular staff member calling a girl resident a “hoe” and telling her that she smelled badly and needed a shower. This caused the girl to cry. It seemed as if all the staff knew about how many of us were being treated, but few staff spoke out against it.

The staff didn’t keep our confidentiality. Other residents knew what was going on with us. It was horrible.

There were occasions where staff wanted to fight the children. One day while we were out in the DCFS van, one of the staff members got into an argument with a girl resident that led to a fight.

Other girls were present in the van. The staff member demanded that we all exit the vehicle and drove off, leaving us at the quarry in Harrington Sound.

We had to find our own way back to the home in Pembroke. This staff member remains employed with the DCFS.

One day, I was out for the day on a day pass, which required me to return at night. When I returned at night, I went to the kitchen to get food and the RTS staff on duty prevented me from getting dinner because they felt that since I was out on a day pass I should have obtained dinner while I was out of the home.

I felt like “what’s the point of coming back to the home if I can’t eat?”. If I had money to buy food, I would have obviously bought food, but I had no money.

This kind of behaviour was commonplace among many RTS staff who simply had a non-caring attitude and often talked down to us. There were a few RTS staff that looked out for the residents, but the majority of staff did not.

Often staff could be heard talking about how much money they were making off of overtime. Money seemed to be the driving force for them. When I first went to the home, we got one phone call that we were allowed to make between 7pm to 9pm to your family members.

If you get in trouble at the home, they prevent us from calling our family. It’s almost like a prison. My time at the home started off with a lot of family members attending my meetings.

However, the more I was prevented from communicating with my family, the more I was pulled away from my family. It was as if they wanted us to break apart from our family.

Sometimes if you get in trouble you can’t make calls. They would give us papers for passes late and then say we could not call our family.

There was an occasion where I learnt about someone breaking into the home, although I was not in the home at that time, I felt unsafe hearing about the break-in. My fears were further realised due to the numerous supervisors and staff that appeared to not have our best interest in heart.

One such example was when staff from the Department of Works and Engineering would have to attend the home to complete repairs to the property.

The RTS staff would allow the male workers to sleep on the couch in the girls’ home and there were times when the workers would be drinking inside the home. This incident is not a one-off and, unfortunately, RTS staff did nothing to stop the Works and Engineering staff from displaying this behaviour.

Unfortunately, the RTS staff were no better and some of the workers, including supervisors, used to smoke and drink whilst on duty in our company.

I heard from the boys’ home that an RTS female employee would smoke weed in the van with the boys at the home. Also, one time we were driving in the van and two male workers were on. They were drinking while driving the van that night, a Friday. They were drinking whilst driving us around. I believe that senior staff in the DCFS knew about this because when I would leave the home and smoke, the workers knew that I had been smoking because they could tell by my actions and appearance.

Similarly, if they knew that I had been smoking, they should know if their co-workers and staff were smoking. I knew the staff members had been smoking because I could smell it on them. They had bloodshot eyes and would say that they are tired.

There was also a male staff member that used to stare at us. It made me so uncomfortable. I don’t know why the DCFS would allow male workers to work with the female residents.

I wouldn’t wish the home on my worst enemy. One girl they treated so badly that she often said that she wished she were dead.

The Department of Child and Family Services did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations in this statement.

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Published Dec 13, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 13, 2019 at 7:55 am)

A troubled girl’s truth

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