A social worker supervisor has rejected assertions she was “all too willing” to accept that the broken leg of a baby girl, who died from abuse three months later, was accidental.
Families SA supervisor Loretta Parenta has given evidence at the inquest into the death in Adelaide of four-month-old baby Ebony, who died in November 2011 at her violent father’s hands.
Two child protection workers say Ms Parenta encouraged them to downgrade Ebony’s case after the child suffered a broken thigh, a move that would avoid an investigation into the cause of the injury.
But Ms Parenta, who manages social workers and is responsible for allocating case work, denies doing so.
“That is not what I did,” she told the South Australian Coroners Court on Wednesday.
Baby Ebony suffered multiple skull fractures and dozens of other fractures to her ribs, collarbone, leg, fingers and toes during her short life.
The inquest has previously heard Ebony presented at hospital in August 2011 with a broken femur.
Her parents explained at the time that the father was holding the child when she fell onto her pram, trapping her leg in the wheels.
A radiologist at Adelaide’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital immediately suspected the `spiral’ fracture was non-accidental and alerted child protection services.
But the parents’ explanation was eventually accepted after Ebony was transferred to the Women and Children’s Hospital and a subsequent social worker visit was deemed positive.
The court heard two child protection workers, who have given evidence, claim Ms Parenta told them an investigation involving police and Families SA would be stressful for the family.
“What would you say to the suggestion that … you rushed to judgment on this particular injury and were all too willing and ready to write (it) off?” Deputy Coroner Anthony Schapel asked.
“I don’t believe that,” Ms Parenta replied. “I’m very surprised at that.
Ms Parenta said Families SA often did not have the staff to do all that it needed to do, and that at a time during Ebony’s case she was taking on the extra work of another supervisor who was on leave.
Ebony’s teenage mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was a ward of the state in NSW when she fell pregnant and moved to Adelaide, but the guardianship was not transferred.
The inquest is examining communication between state child protection agencies and the response of those services to Ebony’s situation.