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Social Workers Excused
November 19, 2005 permalink
The persons exercising parental rights over Jeffrey Baldwin, and the ones genuinely responsible for neglecting his welfare, will not be called to testify at the trial of the foster parents accused of killing him. The public will learn nothing in this trial of the true failures leading to his death.
The Globe and Mail
Crown at Baldwin trial won't call children's aid witnesses
By CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD
Saturday, November 19, 2005 Posted at 4:25 PM EST
Prosecutors will not be calling any witnesses from the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto when the Jeffrey Baldwin murder case resumes next week.
The unexpected decision, made this week during a break in the trial of the little boy's maternal grandparents, comes on the heels of Crown attorneys Bev Richards and Lorna Spencer frequently referring in open court to their plans to question several social workers from the agency, but particularly Margarita Quintana.
The practical effect of the decision is that the conduct of the agency and its workers will go unexamined at the trial.
That may in turn ratchet up the pressure for some sort of public inquiry -- either a coroner's inquest or a full-blown probe headed by a judge -- into the broader circumstances of the little boy's death.
Though almost six years old, Jeffrey weighed only 21 pounds and stood only 37 inches tall at the time of his death. His emaciated body was covered with a layer of fecal bacteria -- consistent with what evidence at trial has revealed about how he was confined for long periods of time to a cold, fetid bedroom such that he lived surrounded by his own waste -- and his lungs were filled with pneumonia.
Ms. Quintana was the agency worker in charge of the family's case when the CCAS supported Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman -- now charged with first-degree murder in Jeffrey's starvation death -- gaining legal custody of the little boy and three of his siblings.
The custody transfers were made in three separate proceedings over the course of several years ending in 1999.
Astonishingly, the grandparents were able to take over care of the youngsters despite the fact that each of them is a convicted child abuser, Ms. Bottineau convicted of assault in the 1970 death of her first child, and Mr. Kidman convicted eight years later of assaulting two of her children from a previous relationship. Information about their criminal records -- as well as psychological reports suggesting Ms. Bottineau was of marginal intelligence and a potentially dangerous parent, as well as other complaints about the pair -- were all contained in the agency's own records, but went undiscovered.
Shortly after Jeffrey died on Nov. 30, 2002, CCAS executive-director Mary McConville confirmed that the crucial information had been buried in the agency's files, but had not been checked because of a policy vacuum in so-called "kinship care" cases -- where relatives come forward, as happened with Jeffrey and his siblings, when a youngster's parents are deemed unfit, to take the child in.
But evidence already heard at the trial has revealed that the agency also ignored its own red flags about the grandparents on another occasion -- and in the early 1980s had approved Ms. Bottineau as a CCAS daycare provider and was actually paying her to care for other people's children.
Toronto Police homicide detectives first asked Ms. Quintana for an interview about two years ago. Indeed, the grandparents' trial has twice been delayed in part because prosecutors were either unable to arrange to interview her or, when in recent weeks they finally succeeded, they then needed time to review the videotape of the interview.
The decision not to call the worker means that the prosecution case could be completed as early as the end of next week.
Source: Globe and Mail