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Journal of Murdered Boy
March 27, 2008 permalink
Columnist Lindor Reynolds was able to read the social worker's notes in the case of the late Gage Guimond.
Winnipeg Free Press
Social workers kept good notes of depraved care
Lindor Reynolds, Updated: March 25, 2008 at 12:55 AM CDT
Gage Guimond's internal CFS file, appropriately enough, ends with a mistake.
An entry dated July 24, 2007 notes that the toddler's final funeral costs were $3389.89. That's a neat trick, given the two-year-old's burial would not take place until a week later.
But what's one more clerical error when it's stacked against the fetid pile of missteps, errors in judgment, bad decisions and criminal behaviour documented in the dead child's file?
From April 28, 2006 to July 24, 2007 there are seven pages of notes on Gage's wretched life. They make grim reading -- not just because you know in advance the story ends with a battered and broken child.
The terse entries in the Gage Dakota Guimond file do more than document the short, unhappy life of a little boy. They serve as a direct indictment of the child welfare system.
The very people who were sworn to protect Gage and his sister knew what was happening to them every step of the way. They took notes. They phoned each other. They gave second, third and fourth chances to everyone except Gage, his sister and the loving foster family who could have saved them both.
When a CFS worker supplied diapers and food to a woman temporarily (and reluctantly) taking care of the children, she alleged their mother was using drugs heavily.
A note went in the file.
Two days later, Gage was left in the care of another woman -- one whose last name the CFS workers didn't know. Their mother had disappeared again, Gage needed milk and diapers and he had a serious eye infection. It was again alleged that the mom was using drugs heavily.
A note went in the file.
On May 3, 2006, Gage's foster mother reported he was returned to her from a family visit dirty and hungry. On May 15, the foster parents outlined his medical and developmental problems, including his severe asthma. On July 17, they reported he returned from another family visit reeking of cigarette smoke.
It all went in the file.
On and on it goes. CFS was so determined to return Gage and his sister to their birth family that it ignored warning signs that could have been seen from space.
Workers tried to drop off the kids for a scheduled visit at the home of their grandmother, Beverly Beardy. She wasn't home. They tried again. Beardy cancelled that visit because she had an appointment with her own probation officer.
When Gage was staying with Beardy and CFS workers visited, they documented the fact that she wasn't there but an older man was present and someone else was sleeping on the floor.
There is no indication CFS workers ever identified the strangers who were left in charge of the children.
On May 25, 2007, the workers discovered evidence of a drinking party at Beardy's house. She wasn't home.
The children, now lice-ridden, were taken from Beardy May 29.
It's all in the file.
CFS had to find another home for these poor kids. They rejected the option of returning them to their stable foster family, to the couple who made doctor appointments the birth family didn't keep, who listed the children's likes and dislikes and who wept when the children were taken from them.
That's in the file too.
A CFS worker pointed out that Shirley Guimond, the great-aunt ultimately chosen to care for the Guimond children, has a cat and her house was perhaps not an ideal choice for an asthmatic toddler. Gage and his sister were placed there anyway.
After Gage was found dead in Guimond's house, CFS carefully noted that his sister "was found to be covered in bruises." The file detailed Shirley Guimond's criminal history, which includes a previous arrest for assault.
What is not in the file is critical. Why did a collection of allegedly trained child welfare workers prove incapable of connecting the dots that lead from the tragedy of Gage Guimond's birth to a 15-year-old drug-addicted mother to the tragedy of his death, allegedly at the hands of his ex-con great-aunt?
Could no one have known where this was leading?
They had information that spoke to child neglect, abuse, hunger and depraved indifference. They wrote it all down -- and then they wrote down the cost of Gage Guimond's funeral.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press