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Jeffrey Baldwin Story

December 20, 2005 permalink

In yesterday's Globe and Mail, Christie Blatchford presented the full story of Jeffrey Baldwin, including material not presented at the trial. It is a damning account of the failure of CCAS, bypassing the usual platitudes about the best interest of the child.





As the murder trial of Jeffrey Baldwin's grandparents moves into its final phase, CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD looks at the role in the family's life of the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto. Through exclusive interviews with some of the key players and access to documents not part of the criminal trial, a picture emerges of how the agency failed again and again to protect the children.

If the story of Jeffrey Baldwin is about one thing -- aside from the guilt or innocence of the grandparents accused of starving him to death -- it is about the child-welfare agency that was for 36 years intimately enmeshed with the little boy's family.

It was this agency, the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto, that consented, fatally as it turns out, to Jeffrey and his three siblings being placed in the care of the grandparents.

Through exclusive interviews with some of the key players and access to documents not part of the criminal trial of Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, The Globe and Mail has pieced together a harrowing account of how the CCAS failed to protect the youngsters.

Yet while the trial put Ms. Bottineau and Mr. Kidman under the microscope before Ontario Superior Court Judge David Watt, with nothing less than their liberty at stake, they are the only principals in this tale who have had their conduct fully scrutinized.

The CCAS is not in any meaningful and public way held to account for its mistakes in the death of five-year-old Jeffrey in 2002, or any other. Neither are any of its 52 sister children's aid societies in Ontario, which in fiscal 2004-05 collectively ate up $1.174-billion of taxpayers' money.

The only body that even critically examines the deaths of children like Jeffrey is a small, underfunded and woefully short-staffed arm of the Ontario Coroner's Office -- the pediatric death review committee -- and it has no power to enforce change.

Indeed, what the late Ronald Reagan once said about government appears true of Ontario's children's aid societies: They are, in the former U.S. president's words, "like a big baby -- an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other."

The CCAS has been involved with Jeffrey's family since 1969, when his maternal grandmother, Ms. Bottineau, gave birth to her first child, through the fall of this year, when Jeffrey's surviving brother and two sisters were abruptly removed and separated from the foster home where they had lived together for almost three years.

These two events, which bookend all else that happened, demonstrate such a stark lack of common sense, or street smarts, that it is as though agency workers were forbidden to use the tools that ordinary people call upon every day to make assessments of those they meet: What does Mr. X look like? What is Ms. Y's background? What have they done in the past?

The CCAS didn't do even a rudimentary check on the grandparents and thus missed in its own aged records the fact that Ms. Bottineau and Mr. Kidman, now 54 and 53 respectively, were both convicted child abusers when the agency approved them as legal guardians of their daughter Yvonne's quartet of youngsters in three separate proceedings over three years ending in 1998.

The agency has explained this failure, in part, by citing a policy vacuum (there was then no rule to make such checks in cases where relatives were stepping into the breach) and by pointing to the confusion caused by the plethora of last names in the case and no automatic link to old files.

But the agency didn't make this mistake only once.

It made the same mistake at least five times over the years.

As Yvonne and her husband, Richard Baldwin, kept losing their children to her mother and Mr. Kidman, so did they keep on having more -- one who was stillborn in 1999 and another who was born this past summer and was immediately seized by the CCAS.

It was a pattern perhaps bred in the bone.

Ms. Bottineau was convicted of assault causing bodily harm as a teenage mom in the 1970 pneumonia death of her first baby, Eva, who later was found to have suffered multiple fractures consistent with battered-child syndrome.

Undeterred, Ms. Bottineau had another child the next year, and another the year after that, both by the same boy-man -- reported in agency files to be a distant cousin and a heavy-drinking product of the children's aid and foster systems -- before she took up with Mr. Kidman.

It was these two youngsters who in 1978 Mr. Kidman seriously assaulted. Late that December, he pleaded guilty to two counts of assault causing bodily harm for what were described as extensive beatings. He was fined $150 on each count.

But there was much more in the CCAS files, only some of it made public at trial and virtually none of it used when it mattered most.

Ms. Bottineau was first diagnosed in a 1970 psychiatric assessment as a "borderline mental defective" with an IQ of 69, a hostile personality and a sexually provocative manner. The diagnosis was confirmed nine years later when psychologist Ruth Bray assessed her again at the request of a judge.

The judge had asked for the assessment because the couple still had their three young daughters living with them --Yvonne, Yvette and Tammy -- though the CCAS had removed the two children Mr. Kidman assaulted.

The Globe has interviewed one of those two children, the girl, who is now 34 and living in southern Ontario, gainfully employed and happily married with two youngsters of her own.

So uncannily similar was her and her brother's dreadful childhood to the suffering Jeffrey and his sister would endure three decades later that it is almost as though the first two youngsters served as practice children for the grandparents, providing them with the opportunity to perfect their maltreatment skills.

What happened to Jeffrey and his sister, who were then five and six, "is exactly what happened to us'' at the same age, she said, referring to herself and her now 33-year-old brother.

As Jeffrey and his sister were locked in a dank and unheated bedroom, she was kept in a dog cage, sometimes for weeks at a stretch, and her brother confined to a garbage can. As Jeffrey and his sister were so desperately thirsty that they drank from the toilet, so did this woman and her brother. As Jeffrey and his sister had to stand on a rubber mat in a corner of the Bottineau-Kidman house that was known as "the pigs' wall," so, when this woman and her brother were allowed out, were they made to stand over an air-intake vent that was between two bedrooms.

"You were always cold," she said, her voice jarringly mild. "I was always hungry. I drank out of the toilet. It was exactly the same."

A lengthy affidavit produced at the trial by CCAS worker Jennifer Maryk, who conducted a review of the agency's records after Jeffrey's death, confirms much of what this woman told The Globe about the abuse she and her brother endured, particularly their state of near-starvation and their over-sexualized behaviour, complete with the girl's disclosure to a foster mother that she and her brother "had been taught to perform sexual acts together."

This was all in the agency's own records. It is undeniable that in the late 1970s the CCAS recognized -- at least on paper -- that Ms. Bottineau and Mr. Kidman were dangerous.

Indeed, the agency maintained for several years "orders of supervision" on the family and the three young daughters whom the CCAS left in the home.

Yet within four years of Mr. Kidman's criminal convictions, the agency was anointing Ms. Bottineau as one of its own child-care providers.

Ms. Maryk's affidavit shows that by 1983, Ms. Bottineau "was working as a home child-care provider with the support" of the CCAS. The woman went from being what a psychologist described in a report to the agency as "a danger to herself as well as to others" to so reliable a caregiver that the CCAS was entrusting her with other people's children.

From April, 1983, through to November, 1984, and perhaps even through the fall of 1986 and beyond -- it is unclear from the affidavit how long it went on -- Ms. Bottineau was being paid by the agency as a "funded daycare provider," even despite what appear to be at least two documented complaints about sexual abuse that were deemed "unsubstantiated."

The agency declined a request from The Globe to discuss these issues at this time.

"The CCAS deeply regrets the circumstances that led to Jeffrey Baldwin's death," reads a statement the agency provided. "We plan to discuss the substantial changes we have made to our own operating policies and the sector-wide reforms under way that will help reduce the risks that such a tragedy could happen again in the future."

But not now, the agency said. "While the charges against Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman are before the courts, the CCAS has been advised by legal counsel that it should not comment on these issues before the trial is completed."

The only external review of the CCAS conduct, written by a consultant named Susan Abell in September of 2004 at the agency's request, makes no bones about background checks being a core function of the social worker's job or of the impact the lack of them had in Jeffrey's case.

"The inability to connect to the past history of the extended family when the children were referred for protection services in 1994 meant that the Catholic Children's Aid Society was a participant in Jeffrey and his siblings being at risk," Ms. Abell wrote.

It was Ms. Abell who identified "at least five different pivotal points when there was the opportunity to search for the old records," the latest in 1998 when Jeffrey's little brother was placed with the grandparents, but that it was never done.

Even here, though the agency did a "formal home study" on the grandparents before the little boy was placed with them, Ms. Abell said, "the report was minimal and doesn't include a police check."

As far back as 1997, the year before that home study was done, even Hockey Canada was urging its member minor hockey associations "to conduct criminal record checks where possible" and to "thoroughly research individuals who apply for coaching and other positions." Such checks are now mandatory across the nation.

The Globe has obtained a copy of Ms. Abell's 37-page report.

Even this woman, a veteran social worker and the executive director of the Ottawa CAS before her retirement two years ago, didn't get to interview the front-line workers involved in Jeffrey's case "due to legal implications."

However, it appears unlikely Ms. Abell knew that Ms. Bottineau was, for that undetermined period in the 1980s, a CCAS-paid daycare provider.

Certainly, she made no reference to it and doesn't appear to count it as one of the five points where she says the agency logically might have checked for the old records.

The terms of her review, she said frankly, were determined by CCAS senior management, who decided she should focus on the services provided to Jeffrey's parents during the period 1994 to 2002.

Ms. Abell concluded that, because Ms. Bottineau went to the CCAS with concerns about her daughter and son-in-law's care for their first baby, and kept pestering the agency as each successive child was born, the CCAS began to see her as an ally.

"Given the level of her concern for the children," Ms. Abell wrote, "the role of the grandmother was viewed as a family strength."

Moreover, Ms. Abell found, "there does not appear to have been follow-up with the family after the children were living with the grandparents. With each subsequent placement, the grandmother applied for custody within weeks and the case was closed for further service."

Lacklustre background checks and poor investigations are familiar laments about children's aid agencies.

Though Jeffrey was not "receiving services," as the jargon of child welfare puts it, when he died on Nov. 30, 2002, he would have been if the CCAS had done minimal checks -- either of the records it already had or even a simple criminal-records search.

In the eight years before Jeffrey died, the agency was involved in much-publicized deaths of two other young clients -- the April, 1994, murder of baby Sara Podniewicz by her parents, and the June, 1997, starvation death of infant Jordan Heikamp. Both died while ostensibly being monitored by the CCAS.

In those cases, as with this one, it was evident that CCAS workers failed to properly investigate the caregivers and to adequately monitor the vulnerable children.

As British Columbia Judge Thomas Gove noted in his famous 1995 review of one little boy's death and the child-welfare system in that province, "Many other children continue to die in similar circumstances, yet little seems to change."

Many of the most significant problems he found in the death of Matthew Vaudreil centred on poor investigations. As he noted, "background history . . . does not seem to be part of an investigation."

All the damning information the CCAS had in what Ms. Abell described as "child-protection files, court files, child-in-care files and adoption files" was never once accessed.

Even without it, the agency was concerned enough about Jeffrey and his three siblings that four times they held a "high-risk-case conference."

Yet the only record checks performed were done on the people who were losing the youngsters -- their parents, Yvonne Kidman and Richard Baldwin. Not one check was done on those seeking custody of them -- the grandparents.

Most cruelly, it is debatable what the agency has learned -- beyond adopting a new policy requiring background checks on relatives seeking custody -- from its failures in Jeffrey's death.

The same day the little boy died, his siblings were retrieved by the CCAS. After a brief stint in emergency foster care, using what's called a "collateral" agency, Carpe Diem, the CCAS placed the shattered youngsters in a permanent foster home so far removed from their experience, and so preposterously beautiful to their weary eyes, that Jeffrey's oldest sister believed they had been brought there merely to have Christmas pictures taken.

There, under the care of a woman named Karen and her husband and their own two young girls, the siblings bloomed.

They did so as one would expect in youngsters who had been grossly traumatized -- in fits and starts. Each child had different and painful adjustments to make.

The sister who had been locked away with Jeffrey had to learn that a toilet was not for drinking from or washing in; that she did not have to Hoover down everything in sight because there really was another meal just around the corner; that she should brush her hair. The little girl had to learn, in short, that she was a valuable, worthy and lovable human being.

The older sister, who had been treated relatively well under the Bottineau-Kidman regime but simultaneously given far too much responsibility and far too much exposure to adult anxieties, had to learn that she was a child who was free to be a child.

Mostly, she had to learn to accept that she could not have been, should not have been, and would never have been expected to be Jeffrey's saviour.

Critically, she had to learn that her terrible, corrosive guilt was misplaced.

The youngest boy, who had been spoiled by Ms. Bottineau and Mr. Kidman in the ways they believed mattered -- with material things and overtly preferential treatment -- had to realize that he was no longer the first among unequals. He had to pick up after himself, not order about like a servant any adult female he encountered, and stop whacking and berating his little sister. He had to understand he was no longer that precocious creature called "the Prince" by his grandparents.

These are tough lessons, not learned overnight and arguably not even in a lifetime.

But the children made significant progress, every bit of it chronicled in the regular "plans of care" that Carpe Diem prepared and sent to the CCAS and its lead worker.

The little girl, enrolled by her foster parents in everything from karate lessons to swimming and Brownies, gained physical confidence and, with that, began to show the first tenuous signs of self-acceptance. The elder girl made friends at school and became popular, did well academically and began to shed the reserve that was a necessary shield in her grandparents' house, where Jeffrey was a dirty secret to be kept from the outside world. The little boy, though prone to temper tantrums and stubbornness, was learning that men, especially husbands, need not hit their wives and that women were not chattel.

It was this youngster who inadvertently precipitated the crisis that, just before Thanksgiving this year, saw the children abruptly yanked from the foster home and separated.

The reason for their removal has been shrouded in secrecy, but The Globe has interviewed the foster parents at length and seen documents that appear to support their version of events.

The foster mother was walking the five children -- Jeffrey's sibs and her own two -- to school. En route, the little guy suddenly sat down smack in a neighbour's driveway and refused to move.

"Buster," she said, "if I have to drag you there I will," and with that, and a reminder that he would get to play basketball that day -- his new favourite game -- she scooped him under one arm and half-carried, half-dragged him the rest of the way.

"They [the CCAS] say I should have stayed with him," she said in the recent interview. "But I couldn't leave the four girls on their own.

"I'm not Betty Crocker," the foster mom said with a tearful grin of how she handled things that day, "I'm a normal mom."

The little boy went into his class and promptly reported: "My mom dragged me here." Teachers and school officials were well aware that they had the youngsters from a "high-profile" child-death case in their ranks. They were on high alert, and called the area children's aid society.

In short order, social workers descended upon the school, and all the children -- but for one of the foster mom's own daughters, who was sick and had gone back home with her --were privately questioned.

The little boy, finding himself in his rightful place once again -- the centre of adult attention -- complained that his foster mom had also thrown his computer away, tossed his money in the fireplace, locked him in his room.

Meanwhile, Karen was back at her house, blissfully unaware of what was coming.

At five to 3, she was back at the school to walk the kids home. A case manager from Carpe Diem met her there and said, "There's a problem. There's been an allegation."

Soon, they were all back at her house -- two workers each from Carpe Diem and the CCAS, a couple of representatives of the local children's aid, the five children.

The foster mom sent the kids upstairs, knowing it was futile and that they would hear everything anyway. The oldest girl, with her learned distrust of social workers, was already packing.

The questions came hard and fast for Karen. Do you call the kids names? Yes, she said, if you mean did she tell the little boy, "You have to pick up your toys; bend at the waist!" or tell one or another of them, "You can't watch too much of the idiot box, or you'll become one." Do you send them to their rooms? Yes, she said, sometimes, but their doors are open and they each have their own music there and besides, "How do you punish children who have been through what they've been through?" Do you yell at them? "I have five children under the age of 11," the foster mom told them. "You need to be louder than them."

A letter from the local children's aid society received more than two weeks after the meeting notes the agency had "verified" certain "protection concerns."

The yelling was deemed "moderate risk of emotional harm;" the half-dragging of the little boy "moderate risk of physical harm;" the sending of the youngsters to their rooms -- the little girl, for instance, would be told to stay in her room until she brushed her hair, which could take hours if she got distracted -- was labelled "moderate risk of cruel and inappropriate treatment."

Despite that, Karen told The Globe, the local agency concluded the children were not at such risk that they had to be moved. It was the CCAS from Toronto that made that call, and so, that very night, Oct. 4, the youngsters left their foster parents' home forever.

When the children were called downstairs and officially "told" what they had already overheard, "all five of them burst into tears." The little boy immediately recanted, said he'd been lying -- indeed, the Carpe Diem reports of this year noted that he "has a tendency to lie about anything and everything" and was bitter about his loss of status -- and that he didn't want to go. The older girl announced she was packed. There was a platoon of cars outside the house, ready to take them away.

"I told them, 'Make us proud,' " the foster mom told The Globe, weeping.

The three children remain in separate foster homes -- apparently, their therapists believed the sight of one another was causing them to be "retraumatized," so the removal provided an opportunity to test that theory -- and meet once a month for a supervised visit at a neutral site.

"They kept saying they had to 'err on the side of caution' because of the 'high-profile nature of the case,' " the foster mom said.

She remains furious and bewildered. CCAS workers "were in this house every 30 to 45 days," she said, and knew first-hand how well the children were doing.

The Carpe Diem reports refer to increasingly warm bonds the children and foster parents were developing, with remarks from the children themselves that they wanted to "grow up in that house and stay there forever," and praise for the foster parents.

Almost gruff and affectionate, the foster mom was blunt that she had expectations for the three youngsters, just as she does for her own two. Where the social workers urged her to be happy if the threesome merely socialized at school, for instance, Karen believed they should also do their homework.

It was a bit of a philosophical divide, with the foster mom believing the three were capable of greatness, and the social workers content if they were attending classes.

Karen's own two daughters were devastated by the sudden removal.

The foster parents had just bought a new van, the better to transport their brood about. The whole configuration of the couple's sprawling new house was geared to there always being five kids there -- bunk beds for two girls in one room; for two others in another; the boy's awash in Spiderman paraphernalia; both leaves always in the big wooden table in the bright kitchen.

As plain, good sense was missing in the beginning, so it was again at the end.

For years, the Catholic CAS failed to perform what is surely the most elementary task in child welfare -- that is, check out the people getting custody of a youngster -- and ultimately failed to protect Jeffrey and his siblings.

Then, when Jeffrey was long dead, the agency was hyper-vigilant, and overreacted to the angry allegations of a furious little boy even though they appear to fly in the face of evidence singing the praises of the foster home.

These are flip sides of the same coin -- on the one, extreme institutional sloppiness; on the other, the harshness of zero tolerance.

The only independent body that reviewed Jeffrey's death was the pediatric death review committee, originally set up in 1991 and expanded six years later under Ontario deputy coroner Dr. Jim Cairns. He decided, after a series of inquests into the deaths of children being monitored by children's aid societies, that the committee would review the deaths of all youngsters who "died with an open CAS file" within the previous year.

It is possible, even probable, that Dr. Cairns could decide after Judge Watt's verdict is delivered to hold an inquest into Jeffrey's death. But just as the review committee can only make recommendations, not impose them, so are inquest jury recommendations merely suggestions.

Ontario's Children's Advocate, an agency of the children's and youth services ministry, cannot investigate either, and indeed, in a 2003 report called It's Time to Break the Silence, was pronounced the least powerful and worst-staffed of the eight child advocate's offices across Canada.

The Ontario ombudsman, André Marin, appeared this month before the standing committee on social policy -- the group reviewing proposed new child-welfare legislation -- to beg that his office be given power to probe complaints against children's aid societies.

In addition, he told The Globe in an interview, he has personally lobbied Premier Dalton McGuinty and the new Child and Youth Minister Mary Anne Chambers to push for independent oversight for the agencies.

"It's hard to find a champion," Mr. Marin said, because "oversight means accountability."

His counterparts in other provinces, Mr. Marin said, can probe complaints against a child-protection agency.

But while his office has investigative tools he calls robust -- the ability to subpoena witnesses, hold hearings, even send people to jail for non-co-operation -- he is precluded from probing complaints involving children's aid societies and long-term-care institutions for the elderly.

The bill revising the Child and Family Services Act has gone to second reading at the legislature, but though Mr. Marin said it would take only "a 10-word line" added to the bill to give his office the necessary authority, "there have been no changes" thus far.

"It's just a crying shame that children are not entitled to the same oversight" as the Ontarian who is denied a driver's licence, Mr. Marin said. "If you're after a licence and you don't get it, you can complain to me."

As Judge Gove wrote a decade ago in his searing indictment of the B.C. child-welfare system, "Child protection has, for as long as anyone can remember, been conducted in secrecy, with at least the perception that social workers are not accountable."

There remains no champion for independent investigations of children's aid societies, or for all those children who do not die but are merely injured and who suffer unnoticed.

There is none at all for the little boy who was once -- in the relatively glorious months before he was removed from his parents' sometimes violent and always erratic care and placed in the far more dangerous home of his grandparents -- called Jiffy Pop for his popcorn hair.

Did Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman kill Jeffrey Baldwin? Will they be found guilty of murder? At the least, their feet have been put to the fire. They have been called to account. In the matter of dead children in this province, that's as good as it gets. The buck stops with the alleged killers, not with those who arguably placed the victim in their sights.

Long-term solutions

Change legislation so the independent Ontario ombudsman can probe complaints about children's aid societies.

Better fund the pediatric death review committee, and change the definition of "an open CAS file" to include those children who die within two years of receiving services from a CAS and any other case it deems fit.

Better fund the office of the Children's Advocate so it can reach vulnerable children, such as those in foster care, to inform them of their rights to complain.

Remove the investigative function from CAS social workers and have agencies hire instead former police officers, coroners, public-health nurses -- anyone who "thinks dirty" and doesn't take at face value what prospective caregivers say -- as investigators.

- Christie Blatchford

Troubling history

Jeffrey Baldwin's death was the third high-profile case in less than a decade of a child dying while being monitored by the Toronto Catholic Children's Aid Society (CCAS).

Sara Podniewicz, six months

Died April 25, 1994

Parents convicted of second-degree murder. Expert evidence at trial showed that before she died of pneumonia,Sara suffered multiple fractures to her ribs, arms and a leg as well as internal bleeding in the chest cavity and spinal cord. Jury heard the CCAS case worker relied on information given by the parents and recommended the agency end its involvement with the family.

Jordan Heikamp, five weeks

Died June 23, 1997

Died of chronic starvation while in care of his 19-year-old mother, who had no home, no money and no job. A coroner's inquest, which ruled the death a homicide, heard that the case worker assigned to Jordan saw him only twice, the last time about two weeks before his death.

Inquest issued 44 recommendations, including a call for child-protection workers to focus on their young charges and not the parents or families.

Jeffrey Baldwin, 5 years

Died Nov. 30, 2002

Died of septic shock and pneumonia brought on by chronic starvation. Placed by the CCAS in the care of his grandparents, Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, both previously convicted of child abuse.

They are now charged with first-degree murder.

Source: Globe and Mail

Addendum: Sentenced. Children's Aid is powerful enough to routinely rebuff requests for information from parents, in the second enclosed article they succeeded even in stonewalling an investigation by the police.



Jeffrey's killers get no parole for 20 years

'They are the antithesis of nurturing grandparents'

Peter Brieger, National Post, Saturday, June 10, 2006

The murder of five-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin shocked Toronto and those responsible must pay, a judge said yesterday as he jailed the boy's grandparents for at least two decades.

Justice David Watt said Elva Bottineau cannot apply for parole from her life sentence for at least 22 years.

Her common-law husband, Norman Kidman, must stay behind bars at least 20 years.

The sentences prompted whispers of "yes, yes," in a packed downtown courtroom. Judge Watt said autopsy photos of the emaciated boy, who passed away shortly before his sixth birthday, resembled a famine victim or "a person with full-blown AIDS."

"I'm very happy with the result and now maybe [Jeffrey] can rest in peace," said Crown prosecutor Beverley Richards.

In his ruling, the judge expressed disbelief at the couple's treatment of their grandson and a granddaughter, both of whom lived in a spartan, unheated room that smelled of feces with a urine-soaked mattress on the floor.

"They are the antithesis of nurturing grandparents," he said. "The inhumanity of this crime shocked the community."

"Those who committed it must pay a very steep price," Judge Watt said.

The pair also received eight years each for unlawfully confining one of Jeffrey's sisters, who cannot be named.

The petite grandmother, wearing an oversized green sweatshirt, stared straight ahead before slumping back into her chair after the judge delivered his sentence. Kidman, dressed in the blue Metro Housing work jumpsuit he wears at every court appearance, showed little emotion.

The judge's harshly worded sentence -- and stiff parole restrictions -- were justified given the nature of Jeffrey's death more than three years ago, said Paul Culver, head of the Toronto region Crown attorney's office.

"It was a great judicial reaction, a great investigation, and a great prosecution," he told reporters outside the downtown courthouse. "Jeffrey was totally ignored during his life, but he certainly wasn't after his death."

Susan Dmitriadis, Jeffrey's paternal grandmother, tearfully accepted the sentence.

"It's not going to bring Jeffrey back," she told reporters. "But they didn't get away with it and I'm thankful for that."

In April, Bottineau and Kidman, who are both 54, were found guilty of second-degree murder in their grandson's horrific death. (Second-degree murder carries a life sentence with parole eligibility set between 10 and 25 years.)

Police investigators described it as one of the worst child-abuse cases they've ever seen. Jeffrey weighed just 22 pounds when he died, less than half the average weight of a boy his age. His body covered with sores and bruises, Jeffrey died of septic shock brought on by severe malnutrition.

Mike Davis, a former police investigator who worked the Baldwin case, called for a public inquiry to probe the Catholic Children's Aid Society, which let the couple adopt their grandchildren even though both had abused children in the past.

In 1970, an 18-year-old Bottineau plead guilty to assault causing bodily harm in the death of her first child.

The retired police officer criticized the agency's "lack of co-operation" during his investigation, adding that a scheduled coroner's inquest into the matter is not sufficient.

"This is not the only case where there have been issues with the CCAS," he said. "I'm very disappointed with them."

Mary McConville, executive director of the Toronto Catholic Children's Aid Society, rejected suggestions the agency did not co-operate with investigators. Since the Baldwin case, numerous controls have been tightened for all child protection agencies, including mandatory background checks on people who take children into their care, she said.

At a hearing last month, Nick Xynnis, Elva Bottineau's lawyer, said her abusive childhood and feeble intellect -- she has been diagnosed borderline mentally retarded -- should earn a 12- to 14-year term of parole ineligibility.

Because Kidman played almost no role in raising the children, he deserved less than the average 15-year parole ineligibility period for child-abuse crimes, his lawyer argued.

"Mr. Justice Watt's judgment speaks for itself," Mr. Xynnis said yesterday. "My client is obviously disappointed and my instructions are to appeal both the conviction and the sentence."

Rejecting the defence arguments, Judge Watt noted the pair showed a "complete and boundless abdication of responsibility."

Not only did they willingly adopt their four grandchildren, the couple showed no interest in the boy's condition when paramedics arrived at their east-end home on Nov. 30, 2002, and tried to resuscitate Jeffrey, he said.

In fact, Bottineau berated firefighters for making too much noise and turning on lights in the house while Kidman remarked on his grandson's lack of toilet training, Judge Watt said.

In her diary, Bottineau warned that Jeffrey and his sister would be on their own if anything happened to her or Kidman because the children "were raised to be little pigs and can't behave themselves," the trial heard.

Jeffrey's grandparents beat him and his sister with a spoon and called them names, including "f---ers" and "bitch."

Judge Watt said the grandmother treated the pair's two siblings well by comparison -- differential treatment that he said suggested Bottineau "may not be very bright," but knew what she was doing.


Absence Of Emotion

All these years later, Mike Davis is still haunted by the memory of the death of Jeffrey Baldwin.

Davis was a cop in 2002, the lead investigator on the case of the five-year-old boy who would come to be the unfortunate poster child for child abuse in Toronto.

His grandparents, Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, were sentenced to life in prison for the crimes, and won’t be eligible for parole for more than 20 years.

Even four years later, Davis can’t comprehend the cruelty of the couple, who he interviewed after their arrests for the terrible crime.

“They didn't say anything at all,” he remembers. “I sat with them and I went through each and every picture of little Jeffrey. And there was absolutely no emotion whatsoever from either, either Ms. Bottineau nor Mr. Kidman. None whatsoever.”

Davis remains incensed that the Catholic Children’s Aid Society placed the little boy with the pair, even though they had previous records for abusing children.

“This is something that was contained within their files,” he charges. “Criminal convictions. Convicted child abusers.

"And absolutely nobody from the Catholic Children's Aid Society looked into their files to see and do any background checks on these parents before they were given custody.”

The society's Mary McConville takes issue with that statement.

“I absolutely disagree with Mike Davis' characterization of this agency's conduct with respect to the investigation and our cooperation during the trial.”

Davis’ response?

“At the outset, you had a social worker that was in charge of this case and I ... tried to make some inroads to interview this person and at no time did she ever come forward.

"She obtained counsel. And from that point on I never had the opportunity nor was I afforded the opportunity to interview this person, with the exception that I was to give an undertaking that she would not be charged with a criminal offence.

“Which was absurd because I could not give that undertaking due to the fact that I had absolutely no idea what she was going to say.”

The coroner has pledged to look into this case further with an inquest pending.

pulse 24 website

Comment: This ends the punitive phase of this case.

In foster care, the foster parents are hired contractors with no authority over the children. The social worker retains control over medical care, school enrollment, moving, vacations, and just about everything else except routine food, clothing and shelter.

But when things go wrong, the social worker never takes responsibility for her ward. The foster parents make convenient, and credible, scapegoats. In the Jeffrey Baldwin case, the incompetent foster parents have been put away for good. The responsible social worker has not even been named in the press, and will receive no punishment, not even a reprimand.

Now that the criminal process is complete, there may be a coroner's inquest into the death of Jeffrey Baldwin. In the few other foster deaths that have been the subject of an inquest, the jury has been under the control of social services. In the case of Jordan Heikamp, who starved to death in CCAS custody, the coroner's jury returned 44 recommendations, all suggesting more money and power for Children's Aid. This case will be no different.

A blog has appeared called jeffreyslawnow by Amanda Reed. Look at the last quarter of her first page for her agenda. Most of the suggestions amount to giving more power to Children's Aid, and merger of CCAS and CAS. How much of this is Amanda's conscience, and how much is part of a power struggle within social services?

Children's Aid will acquire yet more powers, and possibly one arm of social services will cannibalize another as a result of the Jeffrey Baldwin tragedy. The next time they need more money and power, will they let another child die?