Lauren Eslick spent most of her childhood with foster parents whose punishments included hitting her, forcing her to hold a telephone book above her head and locking her in a tent.
Her ward case file from the Department of Communities and Justice shows she was left in a long-term placement from age five to 18 despite the department believing her to be at risk of harm and suitable alternative care being available with her maternal grandparents.
Now Eslick, 27, has received a confidential payout from the state government, which had parental responsibility after removing her from her birth mother because of violence and drug use.
Eslick said she wanted to share her story because many people assume foster children are “bad kids” or told her she should be grateful.
“You can have a family that looks perfect but inside the family it’s horrible and manipulative,” Eslick said. “We looked like this nice little church family … I was sent to a private school.”
The case file, which is more than 1100 pages long, states she was at risk of harm because of “inappropriate methods of discipline” and describes her foster carers as “inexperienced” and her foster mother as “authoritarian”.
The case file also shows the foster carers repeatedly told the department they were not coping and asked for greater support and assistance, which was not always forthcoming.
The file details how various friends, relatives and professionals made several complaints to child protection services about the foster carers’ treatment of Eslick, including concerns about “bruises the size of handprints” when Eslick was nine or 10 years old.
Eslick’s maternal grandparents applied to be kinship carers for Eslick and were assessed as suitable but this did not occur. They later became foster carers for three other children.
The case file shows Eslick as a child and teenager told her caseworkers she wanted to remain with her foster carers. She now says she never saw any single caseworker for more than 12 months and her foster parents coached her on what to say.
As an adult, Eslick spent more than 12 months trying to get her case file from the department but was unsuccessful until she got a lawyer involved. The department agreed to settle out of court almost immediately.