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Coroner to Disclose Child Deaths
April 8, 2006 permalink
The following report reveals plans to disclose reports of child deaths. Our previous research suggests Ontario has 28 deaths a year in foster care, yet less than one per year gets reported in the press. The disclosure of the true death rate could lead to the kind of public reaction that would provoke real reform. The coroner's plans could be good news. but we remain skeptical. The coroner may omit deaths in foster care, or suppress the names of the children, making the reports almost useless to the public.
Child death details to be public
Change made in response to 5-year-old Toronto boy's death
Coroner's office given mandate by provincial government
Apr. 7, 2006. 01:00 AM
DALE ANNE FREED AND NICK PRON
The Ontario coroner's office is set to begin publicly disclosing the details of all suspicious child deaths in the province, the Toronto Star has learned.
The move, effective immediately, will blow the lid off the secrecy that previously surrounded such deaths. Provincial coroners investigate about 230 child deaths annually; about 20 are deemed suspicious.
The change was prompted by the death of 5-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin, who died on Nov. 30, 2002, in what has been called perhaps the worst case of child malnutrition seen in Canada.
Jeffrey's maternal grandparents, Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, were charged with first-degree murder in the boy's death. After a four-month trial without a jury that ended early this year, Justice David Watt is expected to deliver his verdict today. An inquest is also expected to be called.
"There are lots of lessons that can be learned by children's aid societies about what types of deaths occur while children are in their care and what can be done about them," deputy coroner Dr. Jim Cairns said in an interview.
Prior to the new mandate from the provincial government, "that information has not been getting to them, to the children's aid community in Ontario" said Cairns, chair of the Pediatric Death Review Committee, which falls under the chief coroner's office. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services is giving the committee $100,000 to carry out statistical analyses on child deaths.
"We'll be able to look at recurring themes of child deaths. If children's aid societies take recommendations from this report, they might be able to change their policies and practices, and prevent similar deaths from occurring in the future," Cairns said.
The latest development was welcomed by Jeanette Lewis, executive director of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.
"The system needs to learn from horrible cases such as Jeffrey's," she said.
Today's verdict at the University Ave. courthouse comes as MPP Andrea Horwath (NDP-Hamilton East) is calling on the province to give its ombudsman the power to investigate complaints involving Ontario's 53 children's aid societies.
The bill passed first reading on Wednesday.
"In Ontario, there is no independent investigative avenue for people to turn to complain about the children's aid socities," Ombudsman André Marin said in an interview.
"Here you have a huge bureaucracy, swallowing $1.5 billion of provincial money and handling the most vulnerable of children in society, yet outside the reach of oversight."
Material relating to Jeffrey Baldwin omitted