During an investigation in 2005, both caregivers admitted to the department that they had hit Eslick with the open hand and at least once with a belt, although they knew it was against department policy. They admitted another relative also hit Eslick with a hairbrush.
However, caregivers denied they left any bruises, and Eslick told her social worker at the time that she injured herself getting in and out of her bunk bed.
In the same inquest, the foster father admitted that he forced Eslick to stand in the corner for ten minutes and hold a phone book over her head in order to coerce her into confessing to the theft.
Also in 2005, the foster mother admitted to locking Eslick in a tent in her bedroom, while Eslick said at the time she was locked outside in the tent on a hot day while her foster mother hosted a baby group indoors. Eslick said being locked in the tent with no food, water or toilet was a regular occurrence.
A complaint to child protection agencies claimed that Eslick was “regularly humiliated in front of people outside the family,” but the department could not substantiate this.
The filing shows that the foster parents sometimes threatened to bring Eslick back to the department, while sometimes saying they wanted to adopt her permanently.
Eslick’s attorney, Danielle De Paoli of Maurice Blackburn, said it was “incomprehensible” that the department did not remove Eslick from the placement.
“So many alarm bells are ringing in these records that I find it really shocking that no action has been taken,” De Paoli said.
“It makes it clear that the department just has to have the appropriate resources. They conducted their own investigations, they substantiated the claims and found that the children were at further risk of being harmed, but due to a resource issue this was not a priority.”
Eslick’s maternal grandparents applied to be Eslick’s family carers and were deemed suitable, but this was not done. They later became foster parents to three more children.
The filing shows that as a child and teenager, Eslick told her social workers that she wanted to stay with her foster parents. She now says she hasn’t seen a single social worker in more than 12 months and that her foster parents taught her what to say.
As a teenager, she began self-harm and survived several suicide attempts. She owes her love and care to her son, now the same age as when she was first placed, who helped her get through difficult times.
As an adult, Eslick spent more than 12 months trying to get her file from the department, but had no success until she hired an attorney. The department agreed to an out-of-court settlement almost immediately.
De Paoli said that this case stands out because it is so recent, while many other cases relate to historic treatment by foster parents in the 1950s to 1970s.
De Paoli said the settlement amounts in those cases are confidential but typically more generous than the National Redress Scheme for victims of institutional sex abuse, which has an average payout of $80,000 and a cap of $150,000. There is no allegation that Eslick was sexually abused in the foster home.
A DCJ spokesman said the department was working with victims’ families and their legal representatives to resolve claims as quickly as possible in a trauma-informed manner. The ministry could not comment on individual cases.
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