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Boy Dies Without a Name
August 12, 2009 permalink
A three-year-old crown ward has died in the custody of Hamilton CAS. The reporter provides a litany of negative information about the natural parents but unlike the American press, Canada protects the dead boy from emotional harm by concealing his name. And in contrast to natural parents Ashiqur Rahman and Jane Elizabeth Gomes, police did not immediately jail Dominic Verticchio or the boy's foster parents.
Toddler born addicted to cocaine dies in his crib before he could be adopted
August 12, 2009, Susan Clairmont, The Hamilton Spectator
It was to be the toddler's second chance at a good life.
And he was so close.
Arrangements were being made for the thriving little boy to meet the family who hoped to adopt him. The family who wanted to love him. And his baby sister.
But it wasn't to be.
On Sunday night, as the sky cracked with lightning, the child was placed in his crib by the only mother and father he has ever known -- the foster parents who have nurtured him since he was two weeks old. They are a warm, soft-spoken couple who have opened their home to children in need of protection for nearly 45 years.
On Monday morning, they went to his crib. And he was dead. One month shy of his third birthday.
There is nothing suspicious. No foul play or accident. Homicide investigators were called, as is always the case when small children die unexpectedly. An autopsy has been done, although it will be months before all the lab tests are complete.
Just last week, the boy, who I cannot name because he was a Crown ward, had a checkup with his doctor. Everything was fine. Better than fine. He was happy and healthy and meeting all his milestones, according to Dominic Verticchio, executive director of the Children's Aid Society of Hamilton. That was wonderfully good news because the boy did not start out as a healthy baby.
He was born addicted to cocaine.
For the first two weeks of his existence, the boy was kept in hospital to undergo detox treatment.
When he was released, it was into the care of the foster parents.
So the exposure to cocaine in utero is one reason why the boy was seized by the CAS. But there are many other reasons. Reasons the boy's own birth parents listed for me yesterday.
Let's start with dad.
"I wasn't exactly a good person when I was young," he says. He begins to rhyme off his criminal record that began when he was a youth: gun charges, torture, unlawful confinement, assaults, uttering death threats ...
He fathered two boys more than a decade ago. Both were seized and became Crown wards.
He worked as a roofer and a welder for a while. But industrial noise caused hearing loss in one ear, he says, and now he is on disability.
He used to do cocaine. But says he is off it now.
Four years ago, he met the mother of the son he has just lost.
"I delivered him at home on the couch," he says. He named the boy in memory of his own father. The boy died seven years to the day after the grandfather he never met.
Now the mother.
She was born a conjoined twin. The other twin did not survive.
She has epilepsy and suffers grand mal seizures. She self-medicates with marijuana, she says. She used to do cocaine, but insists she is clean now.
She, too, had two sons from a previous relationship. Got pregnant with the first one when she was 18. Both were seized and put up for adoption.
The cocaine use continued well into her pregnancy with her deceased son. She lost him to CAS immediately.
Then she got pregnant again. Her daughter -- who shares the same father as the boy -- will turn one in October. She, too, was seized at birth and has always lived with the foster family.
In February, the children were made Crown wards with no access. The birth parents -- she is 23, he turns 32 today -- had no further contact with their son and daughter or the CAS until yesterday, when homicide detectives tracked them down to deliver the terrible news.
Tracking them down was a challenge. The couple live out of their truck.
"A healthy boy just mysteriously died," the father says. "It kind of hurts when you hear it."
Their son would have been better off if they'd been allowed to keep him, he says.
"They apprehended them from the hospital based on bull... grounds. They didn't give us a fair shake ... They make us look like idiots."
The mother wants her daughter back from the foster home. She figures she'll be safer that way.
"My son died in a place where they said he'd be safest. I think I could be an excellent mother. We're not bad people. We're just misunderstood."
Though the CAS is under no legal obligation to do so, it is arranging for the mother and father to have a private visitation with their son.
"We have a moral and ethical responsibility," says Verticchio.
And then there are the devastated foster parents. The ones with a lifetime of commitment to helping children. The ones with the empty crib.
Susan Clairmont's commentary appears regularly in the Spectator. firstname.lastname@example.org 905-526-3539
Source: Hamilton Spectator
Addendum: A parent comments: CAS is being human. They are letting parents visit with dead child, even though they don't have to LEGALLY. WOW, MIGHTY BIG OF EM!!! An alternative view is that with this move Hamilton CAS saves on burial expenses. Still another reader points out that the family that has been fostering for 45 years must be pushing 70, an age that usually disqualifies kinship care.