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June 5, 2011 permalink
By Brian Caldwell, Record staff Thu, 02 Jun 2011 9 Recommend
Agency admits to mistakes before shaking death of baby
CAMBRIDGE — The head of the local child-welfare agency admits it should have done more to protect an infant who was shaken to death by her teenage father.
Kayleigh Ingram-Summers died of devastating head injuries after she was left alone with the stressed, unemployed 19-year-old in his tiny rented bedroom in Cambridge last July.
A social worker for Family and Children's Services of Waterloo Region had been involved with the family of the four-month-old girl for about a month before the death.
I think we take some responsibility for this given what we knew at the time, said Alison Scott, executive director of the agency.
Everyone who was involved in that little girl's life didn't understand the significance and the seriousness of the events that were rolling out in front of them. That was the tragedy.
Sean Summers, now 20, pleaded guilty this week to manslaughter and was sentenced to the equivalent of eight years in prison.
According to an agreed statement of facts outlined in Kitchener court, he was suspected of earlier abuse after bruises were found on the infant.
Summers admitted to an agency caseworker that he caused the bruises — though not through actual abuse — and told her he didn't want to be left alone with his daughter.
The result was a voluntary plan stipulating Summers only have visits with the child while watched by his estranged girlfriend, Kaitlyn Ingram.
Ingram, 18, had primary care of the baby and lived with her supportive parents, Keith and Karen, who had voiced concerns about Summers and attended a meeting where the plan was drawn up by the agency.
Scott said the voluntary agreement — which also called for counselling and other supports — clearly wasn't strict enough as the relationship between the young couple deteriorated in the two weeks leading up to the death.
We didn't see it quickly enough, she said.
Summers grew angry and jealous because he thought Ingram had cheated on him.
They were fighting, they were young and their relationship was under a lot of stress, Scott said.
Telephone messages were left for the agency by members of the Ingram family expressing ongoing concerns, though Scott said direct contact was never made.
Despite those concerns, the squabbling and a pattern of suspicious bruising, the young parents eventually arranged for Summers to care alone for the baby during the day for three consecutive days.
After the first day, they argued about a text message from a man that Summers had found on Ingram's cellphone.
The morning of the second day, he told her he didn't want to take the child because it was raining and they would be cooped up in his bare basement room.
Nevertheless, according to the agreed facts, Ingram got her father to drive her over to his place to drop the baby off. Summers was upset, in part because Ingram was going to spend time with friends.
That clearly violated the plan that was in place, which said (Summers) was not to be left alone with this baby, Scott said.
She said the agency wasn't told about it at the time and still doesn't know why it happened.
Members of the Ingram family declined to comment — as did police, Crown and defence lawyers, and a pediatrician who admitted the infant to hospital as a safety precaution after bruises were first detected.
Within an hour of being left with Kayleigh against his wishes, Summers was texting Ingram to ask when she was going to pick her up.
Throughout the day, he left profane messages accusing her of being a bad mother.
Summers also left a voicemail message for the agency social worker assigned to the case.
At some point, he violently shook Kayleigh. The reason wasn't specified in the agreed facts, although the prosecutor suggested he took his anger at Ingram out on their daughter.
When Ingram and her father returned to pick Kayleigh up that night, she was pale, unresponsive and having difficulty breathing.
They immediately took her to Cambridge Memorial Hospital. While they were there, Summers sent more messages basically admitting responsibility.
I never meant for any of this to happen, he said in one. It's all my fault.
Transferred to Hamilton for emergency surgery, Kayleigh was later taken off life support and died July 12.
In hindsight, Scott said, the agency made a mistake by leaving only a voluntary supervision plan in place.
She said it should have apprehended the child, or at least required visits by Summers to be supervised by agency staff.
Based on what we knew then, I think it was insufficient to have the mother alone supervising that access, Scott said.
Even with what we knew in the first couple of weeks, it was probably unreasonable to put that burden of responsibility on that young mom's shoulders.
With the criminal case completed, the circumstances of the death — as with the deaths of all children under five — will automatically be reviewed by a provincial committee of professionals in the field.
Dr. Jack Stanborough, the regional coroner, said it could then be referred to a second committee for recommendations on ways to prevent similar deaths in future.
He will consider the results of that process very closely to determine if it would also be useful to hold an inquest.
If society has recognized that a child is in a compromised position and that is brought to the attention of children's aid and then the child dies anyway, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to say "we've got to look at this," Stanborough said.
When children die with children's aid involvement . . . we cannot do our job right without looking at that in detail.
Source: The Record