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Child Killed in Foster Care
June 12, 2009 permalink
After mom hit dad, how did British Columbia keep the peace? They charged mom with a crime and sent their toddler Jor-el Macnamara to a foster home, where he was killed.
Mourners traumatized by sight of dead toddler's bruised face
Vancouver — From Friday's Globe and Mail, Thursday, Jun. 11, 2009 11:06PM EDT
The mourners cannot forget what they saw. Toddler Jor-el Macnamara had an open-casket funeral earlier this week. His pudgy cheeks and big lips were overshadowed by the huge bruises on his face.
“Those bruises all over his face tell their own story. It's heart-breaking,” Allison Wale, a close relative of Jor-el who said she was familiar with the events in the child's short life, said Thursday in an interview from New Hazelton, 1,400 kilometres north of Vancouver.
“I'm sick to my stomach. I could not even sleep last night after I saw him,” Ms. Wale said, adding that she was frazzled at the moment. “You are not supposed to see a child like that. I would not wish that on anybody, even my worst enemy.”
The memory of the bruised face was “eating me from the inside out,” she added. “I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old. I feel bad if I even raise my voice at them. I cannot imagine the amount of abuse that [Jor-el suffered during] his 21 months on this earth.”
The boy, the middle of three children, died on June 3. He had been removed from his parents' care weeks before and placed in the home of an aunt, who was raising her own teenage son. Jor-el's mother, who is 20, is currently facing a charge of aggravated assault against his father.
The young boy's death has drawn attention to care of children at risk, especially in first nations communities that share responsibility for child protection with the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development.
The death comes seven years after the death of Sherry Charlie, a 19-month-old battered child who was removed from her home and placed in one where her uncle killed her. A government review found that child-care staff had not completed criminal and family checks before putting the little girl in her uncle's home.
Police have announced they are investigating Jor-el's death as a homicide but have declined to confirm any reports about the cause of his death that are circulating in the community of about 800 people. Police have also refused to comment on contact they had with family members before the death.
Ms. Wale said she was outraged when she saw “his little, tiny, beaten body” in the coffin. But she was not surprised to hear that the little boy died as a result of injuries.
Several people had told child-care workers after he was taken out of his home that Jor-el was in danger, Ms. Wale said. The RCMP, the children's ministry and the band office knew the history of those involved in Jor-el's life, she said. “The reason I'm talking to you is I'm sick of this,” she said. “Everything should be brought to the public's attention. It does not need to be swept under the rug any more.”
Dale Bulley, a youth advocate in Smithers who worked with the child's father and mother, said Thursday the ministry's handling of the case should not be overlooked. Mr. Bulley released correspondence yesterday showing that he had notified ministry staff on April 2 about problems with the little boy's care. “Like Sherry Charlie, they [the ministry staff] are not doing proper safety checks of where the kids are going,” he said.
Jor-el's placement with his aunt was a joint decision of staff from the ministry and the band office, a band official has said. However, neither the ministry nor band administrators were available for an interview Thursday.
“We are not at liberty to comment on this case because this matter is the focus of a police investigation,” ministry spokesman Kelly Gleason stated in an e-mail response to a request for an interview. “The ministry is also unable to confirm what involvement – if any – the ministry may have had with the family in question, as a result of privacy legislation,” he stated.
Source: Globe and Mail