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Promises in lieu of Responsibility
October 21, 2005 permalink
How many parents can kill a child, then escape jail with the excuse: "We are making changes to ensure it won't happen again."? Answer: Social workers exercising parental rights. An instance appears in the article below. The proposed change, to scrutinize family members more closely, will result in even more separation of children from their relatives.
Baldwin's death spurs changes to system
Ontario's deputy chief coroner, Jim Cairns, says steps are being taken to prevent another tragic death like that of Jeffrey Baldwin. The five-year-old boy starved to death in 2002 while in the custody of his grandparents.
They are now on trial for murder. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Elva Bottineau, 54, and Norman Kidman, 53, won custody of their four grandchildren after Bottineau's daughter was deemed to be an unfit mother. In November, 2002, the five-year-old was found dead.
Decades earlier, the couple had been convicted of child abuse, and Bottineau, as a teenager, had been convicted in the death of her own infant daughter. In spite of this, they were given custody of Jeffrey and his siblings by Toronto's Catholic Children's Aid Society.
When the horrifying details of Jeffrey's treatment and death became public, the Catholic Children's Aid Society said a terrible mistake had been made, and, in the future, any relative wanting to take custody of a child would be thoroughly investigated.
Since then, the coroner's office, the provincial government, children's aid societies across the province, and family-court judges have also taken action.
Deputy Chief Coroner Cairns says the tragedy weighs heavily on everyone.
"[There are people] who can't sleep at night because of what this poor little boy went through, and [from thinking about] what we can possibly do to stop it from happening again," Cairns says.
The province has introduced legislation to make house visits and criminal background checks mandatory before relatives can take custody of children.
Cairns says most children's aid agencies have started doing the checks, even though the bill isn't yet law, and many family-court judges are refusing to grant custody to relatives until the screening is done.
"Certainly it's not just this death, but shall we say that this death spurred it on."
Cairns says a decision on whether to hold an inquest into Jeffrey Baldwin's death won't be made until the murder trial is over.