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Scapegoats Found
Social Services Cleared

January 15, 2009 permalink

Two articles from different countries show a common reaction to a tragedy in foster care. In Illinois, where four-year-old foster child Alex Angulo died in the jaws of a rottweiler, the state is cracking down on pets in foster homes. In Manitoba, where thirteen-month-old foster child Cameron Ouskan died of an undisclosed condition, the foster father is getting the blame. Typically many functionaries of the social services system, social workers, physicians, judges, police, psychiatrists and therapists are involved in cases that send a child to foster death. None of them take responsibility for their failure, and no outsiders hold them accountable. The press rarely so much as mentions one of these actors when a child dies.



Foster families could face ban on owning some pets

January 14, 2009

Sun-Times News Group

The death of a 4-year-old mauled by at least one Rottweiler owned by his foster family could lead to a crackdown on how the state regulates the care of foster children in homes with animals.

Rep. Rosemary Mulligan (R-Des Plaines) said the Illinois House committee that oversees the Department of Children and Family Services might consider tough legislation outlawing dangerous dogs in foster homes.

“If you want to be a foster parent, forgoing a dog could be it,’’ Mulligan said. “The primary thing you want to do is err on the side of protection of the child.”

DCFS officials were awaiting results of an independent inquiry by a Child Death Review Team before deciding to make any changes.

Agency spokesman Kendall Marlowe said the teams review all serious injuries and deaths to children, even those not in foster care.

“We look to their recommendations for any changes that can effectively prevent these tragedies,’’ he said.

Alex Angulo died Sunday afternoon at his foster family’s Southwest Side home after he let himself out of the house and was attacked by one or both of the Rottweilers owned by the family.

The dogs were kept outside. An adult living in the house was using a snowblower in the back at the time of the attack, police said.

Alex was in the care of a 77-year-old woman in the home. But he was scheduled to move this week into the home of another family who planned to adopt him, according to court records. Alex had been in several foster homes since a week after he was born.

DCFS caseworkers were aware the animals were in the house and had recently told the family to have the dogs’ shots -- which were good through last Oct. 31 -- updated, Marlowe said. The caseworker also had been assured that the dogs were kept outside and that the child would not be unsupervised.

The Cook County Public Guardian also on Tuesday called for more stringent controls over how foster families with animals keep a child safe, saying it’s too easy for small children to accidentally provoke animals.

“There should be a whole protocol for issues of pets in general,’’ Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris said.

Source: Southtown Star

RCMP charge Manitoba foster father in child's death

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | 11:02 AM CT, CBC News

The foster father of a 13-month-old boy who died while in the care of a native-run social services agency has been charged with second-degree murder, RCMP said Wednesday.

Cameron Ouskan arrived at Gillam Hospital on Nov. 12, 2008, in life-threatening condition. The child was later airlifted to Thompson General Hospital but died of his injuries the following day. Police said an autopsy determined that Ouskan’s death was a homicide.

The boy was in the care of Awasis, an aboriginal child and family services agency that serves 12 First Nations. He was from Fox Lake, a small First Nation of about 125 people about 50 kilometres from Gillam, a town of 1,200 about 1,000 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

Ouskan was in foster care in Gillam for 10 months before his death.

The RCMP said their serious crime unit is looking into a separate incident that sent Ouskan to hospital in August 2008.

Roderick Tobie Blacksmith, 29, was arrested near Cross Lake on Tuesday. Police said he has been charged with second-degree murder and was to make a court appearance in Thompson.

Awasis spokeswoman Marie Lands said the agency followed up the earlier incident in August.

"We can advise that in the earlier incident there was both an agency assessment and an RCMP investigation that were done," she said. "All necessary checks were complete and on file for this foster family."

Since 1997, according to Manitoba Child and Family Services, 48 children who received care through the child welfare system have died as a result of homicide.

The death of Cameron Ouskan occurred following a major review of Manitoba's child welfare system prompted by the 2005 death of Phoenix Sinclair, 5.

Her parents were convicted of first-degree murder in December.

Source: CBC

Addendum: Years later, the courts exonerated the foster father of Cameron Ouskan.



Winnipeg man cleared in foster son's death

WINNIPEG - A Manitoba man has been cleared of wrongdoing in the death of his 13-month-old foster son after a judge ruled there was no evidence to convict him.

Roderick Blacksmith, 34, stood trial charged with second-degree murder in the Nov. 13, 2008 death of Cameron Ouskan.

Defence lawyer Saul Simmonds filed a motion arguing the Crown had proffered no evidence pointing to Blacksmith as the person responsible for Cameron's death.

Justice Deborah McCawley agreed and on Friday dismissed the murder charge against Blacksmith.

McCawley said she will outline the reasons for her decision at a hearing next week and in a rarely seen move, signalled she is considering an order that the Crown pay Blacksmith's court costs.

Blacksmith testified he checked on Cameron in bed and found him unresponsive with vomit in his mouth.

Blacksmith said he attempted to clear the child's airway and performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation before the boy was rushed to hospital. He died a day later.

Prosecutors argued Cameron suffered prior head injuries consistent with a finding of murder.

Simmonds said the medical evidence supported no such finding.

Last week, Blacksmith's wife Brenda testified she was in family court in 2009 when she learned of a Child and Family Services psychiatrist's report in which two other children admitted to roughhousing with Cameron.

A babysitter was arrested in the killing but never charged. The woman told court Wednesday she was bathing Cameron Nov. 10, 2008 when he fell backward and knocked his head on the tub.

The woman said she didn't tell Brenda or Rod Blacksmith of the incident as Cameron didn't cry and appeared unharmed.

Source: Sun News Network