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Woman says she warned department before 'abhorrent' sexual abuse of granddaughter

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An Adelaide toddler was subjected to "abhorrent" sexual abuse as child protection authorities refused to act on concerns her father was a paedophile.

In an exclusive interview with 9News, the girl's grandmother said repeated pleas for the man to be investigated weren't taken seriously, until police found sickening video evidence that her instincts were right.

By the time the man was arrested in November 2021, he had been subjecting his daughter to degrading abuse for well over a year.

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"You don't know what it's like to know your granddaughter is in the care of a paedophile… and the people you've gone to for help, who are supposed to help children, have done nothing," the grandmother said.

"We were bringing it up a lot… more was coming out as time went on (but) no one was listening."

The woman says she became concerned about the man's behaviour shortly after the girl was placed in his care by the Department for Child Protection.

"We came across some videos on my daughter's laptop that he tried to delete and we took them to the department … but nothing was done," she said.

The grandmother says the videos, whilst disturbing, were not direct proof of paedophilia, but that she later passed on more clues to the child's case worker.

"He'd been watching animated child pornography and we raised that with the worker and the response we got was 'I don't know whether police take cartoons as seriously.'

"He also sent us a photo of my granddaughter which was disturbing and explicit (and) that was shown to the department."

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The Child Protection Department's interim CEO Erma Ranieri has acknowledged the "quality of practice in the case was not to a standard expected by the community..."

9News understands requests for a meeting with the department to discuss the concerns were refused and at least two emails, detailing complaints, failed to lead to action.

The woman says after making the repeated complaints one case worker said "it's like you want them to have been abused".

The Child Protection Department's interim CEO Erma Ranieri has acknowledged the "quality of practice in the case was not to a standard expected by the community and that this has caused significant distress for the child and family involved".

"The case was thoroughly reviewed following a formal complaint made to the department," Ranieri said.

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The grandmother says she has spoken out to bring reform to the child protection system.

"This review revealed gaps in practice which have been followed up, as part of the department's commitment to continuously improve its services."

In the District Court this month, the man pleaded guilty to maintaining an unlawful relationship with the child, as well as multiple counts of producing, disseminating and possessing child exploitation material.

His own lawyer, Emma Shaw, described the offending as "abhorrent" and said "the consequences for his daughter are profound".

The victim's new foster carer says the girl has been suffering night terrors and behavioural issues, which have seen her excluded from school activities.

"All this is going to impact on her education and long-term future goals if we cannot get the support she needs," the carer said.

District Court Judge Anthony Allen said he regards the offending as "the most serious" of its kind. He will sentence the man on May 29.

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The Department of Child Protection said it is working closely with the family to ensure the child involved has access to all of the necessary supports into the future.

The grandmother says she has spoken out to bring reform to the child protection system, claiming if concerned she could legally record conversations with department case workers, she could have exposed "incompetence" and even "conflicts of interest" much sooner.

"(My granddaughter has) got to live with this for the rest of her life… and it didn't need to happen," she said.



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