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Better Sorry than Safe

June 2, 2011 permalink

Alberta child protectors showed up at a home to take children from a mother. Without any authority, they took her roommate's baby as well. Six days later the roommate's baby died in foster care. If this case comes up again, it will use the alias baby Warburg. Two articles follow.



Dead foster baby case heading to court

The wheels are in motion for an Alberta mother to sue the province in the death of her baby.

The family alleges, on April 5th, Child Services turned up at the mother's door with an order to take her roommate's children into custody. With no order to do so, they also took her 4-month-old daughter.

When granted a chance to visit, they saw the baby was in distress, and they asked the foster mother to take her to a hospital.

She refused. On April 11th, the little girl died.

The family, which cannot be named, is being represented by Whitecourt lawyer Larry McConnell.

"I want that social worker on the stand answering questions," an outraged McConnel explains. "I want the foster care worker there, and I want the R.C.M.P officer there. I want them all there in court to answer the questions as to why they didn't do what their job tells them to do!"

McConnell says the government has already thrown up what he calls "road blocks" citing the privacy act. He adds the family is happy that at the very least, word of their story is getting out. (ms, scb, ccg)


Lawyer questions death of Warburg baby in foster care

EDMONTON — A mother from Warburg wants to know why her four-month-old baby died six days after being put into foster care.

Larry McConnell, the mother’s Whitecourt lawyer, said the baby shouldn’t have been taken away from her mother. Two social workers and an RCMP officer arrived at her door April 5 to apprehend two of her roommate’s children. While there, one of the social workers determined the baby of McConnell’s client also needed to be removed from the home because the mother “appears to suffer from an alcohol addiction,” says an affidavit.

The affidavit was signed April 7 by the social worker, two days after the child was apprehended from her Warburg home, 60 kilometres west of Leduc.

“The infant has been subjected to disharmony in the home and the child is left with inexperienced babysitters,” reads the affidavit. A health inspector needs to look at the home, the document says. An assessment also should be done to “determine the existence of any mental health disorder which may impact (the mother’s) ability to parent.” The social worker applied for a six-month guardianship order for the infant.

“The child(ren) needs intervention,” the affidavit says in a more general statement. “To protect the child(ren)’s survival, security or development, the child(ren) cannot remain with the guardian.”

McConnell said the “social worker has the power to do that but they are supposed to have good reason. There was no reason.”

McConnell said the mother is not an alcoholic. “I saw pictures taken of this child just before she was taken away from mom and she’s a beautiful little girl, totally healthy, cheeks glowing. Anybody looking at her would know that she’s being well-looked after.”

He said the mother had a one-hour visit with the child April 8, during which she noticed her daughter had diarrhea and dried feces on her bum. She suspected dehydration. The mother was no longer breastfeeding. When she asked the foster worker to take the child to hospital, the foster worker said she would do so if the baby wasn’t better by Monday, McConnell said.

That Monday, April 11, the baby was taken to the University Hospital and died around 4 p.m., the lawyer said.

The medical examiner’s office has performed an autopsy. It is mandated to do so on any child who dies while in government custody. Results from genetic tests and blood or tissue samples take five to six months to help determine the cause and manner of death, the office said.

McConnell said he plans to file a lawsuit within 30 days against the social worker, the RCMP, the foster home and the province.

“You can’t do what they did,” McConnell said. “Otherwise, out of safety concerns, every child in the province could be seized. What happened here is a total disaster. It should never have happened.”

Rachel Notley, NDP critic for child and youth services, said she is “deeply concerned” Yvonne Fritz, minister of child services, didn’t publicly report this child’s death, nor that of another child in March 2011. Fritz’s office sent Notley a list of five children who died in care from March 2010 to March 2011, including the March 2011 one which was listed as a homicide under investigation. Notley said police are waiting for results from the medical examiner.

Another 11 children suffered serious injury that led to overnight hospitalization for such things as bike crashes, drug overdoses, physical altercations and a swallowed coin.

“I’m very concerned we seem to be back into that game of playing ‘Catch me if you can,’” Notley said. “It’s not always the case that there’s wrongdoing. It could well be that it’s an unavoidable accident, but we still need to know.”

Without knowing, Albertans can’t determine if changes to the foster system need to be made, or if the system is properly funded, Notley said.

“We are the parents in lieu, as it were, and we need to know that we’re doing the best job that we can to keep children in Alberta safe.”

Fritz’ office did not comment.

Alberta Liberal MLA Harry Chase said there needs to be a public review on the method of screening for foster placements. He also said more in-home support for families is needed so that quick apprehensions don’t always have to be done.

“In this case, there seems to be a whole series of questionable procedures unaccounted for,” he said. “This seems to me a large roundup circumstance that was not necessarily justified.

“This is the 51st death in 10 years and there doesn’t seem to be any type of learning process in the children and youth ministry.”

Source: Edmonton Journal

Addendum: The mother is defying the law and posting her own story on the internet.



Mother of baby who died in foster care goes public on Internet but may face jail

EDMONTON - The mother of a baby who died in Alberta foster care says she'll defy the law if that's what it takes to get her story heard.

The 28-year-old woman said Tuesday she is posting the family's names and photos on the Internet, despite the possibility she could face charges.

Alberta law prohibits the publishing of the names of children and guardians in child protection cases, but the mother said she is willing to go to jail for her cause.

"I'm really not that concerned," she said. "I couldn't help my daughter out in time. Maybe, if I can help other children.

"Every day that goes by, they're still taking kids out of homes."

The four-month-old girl died April 11 in an Edmonton hospital, six days after she was taken by the province and put in foster care.

The woman's lawyer, Larry McConnell, said social workers were in the home to seize three other children who belonged to the mother's roommate and decided to take the baby as well.

In sworn statements, the workers said they had concerns the mother was an alcoholic, was mentally unstable and the home was a health hazard.

The mother denies the claims.

She said the workers had no right, and no evidence, to take her daughter. The child was happy and healthy when she left home, and she wants the public to see photos showing that.

"Every picture you can tell, she's always got a smile on her face," said the woman.

She said photos and a story written from her daughter's point-of-view will be posted on her Facebook page or another website. The trouble, she admitted, is people will not know how to find it if the media can't also publish their names.

"I think it should be the parent's right. It's my daughter, nobody else's. I should be able to say where her picture goes and where it can't."

McConnell said the purpose of the law is to protect the best interests of the child.

"The child is dead," he said. "And the only other person would be the mother, and the mother wants that out there."

John Tuckwell, a spokesman with Alberta Children and Youth Services, said it's up to justice officials to decide if charges should be laid.

McConnell said he also plans to file a lawsuit in a few weeks against the province and the social workers in order to get more information on the death.

It will be another five months before there is a final autopsy report into why the baby died, he said.

On a supervised visit, the mother noted her baby had diarrhea and red marks on her face and was likely dehydrated. She asked the child be taken to hospital, but the foster caregiver decided to wait a few days to assess the symptoms.

The mother said she was not informed her child was later in the hospital. She said she got a call about six hours after her baby died.

"Nobody phoned me. Nobody let me know. I could have been there."

Source: Yahoo News

Addendum: The deceased child in this story is Delonna Victoria Sullivan, her mother is Jamie Sullivan and her grandmother is Marilyn Koren.