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April 9, 2012 permalink
Jamie Sullivan and Marilyn Koren, mother and grandmother of the late Delonna Victoria Sullivan, are marching in Edmonton to draw attention to the failings of Alberta child protection.
Foster death rally planned
One year after her four-month-old baby died in foster care, an Alberta mother is calling on the province to re-examine its Child and Family Services' laws.
On Wednesday, Jamie Sullivan, along with dozens of supporters, will march on the Alberta Legislature in a bid to raise awareness about what she calls a 'lack of accountability' within the province's foster-care system.
"The message is social services needs to be looked at very closely," said Sullivan's mother, Marilyn Koren, who's been making signs and printing posters for the event.
"We need our government to wake up and pay attention to our children who are under their protection in foster care."
Sullivan's infant daughter Delonna died April 11, just six days after she was taken from her home by two social workers and an RCMP officer.
The trio of officials were executing an apprehension order for children of an unrelated person staying at the house and seized Delonna as well, eventually placing her in an Edmonton foster home.
"I was begging them to just let me take her home with me," said Koren. "They took her without an apprehension order, and 100% if she was left at home, she'd still be alive today."
Sullivan has been telling her story every since, and last year she successfully won a court order to lift a publication ban on her daughter's identity.
Edmonton Justice M.D. Gates ruled that the baby girl's name was "a matter of public interest".
"The community and citizens of Edmonton and Alberta have substantial interest in the welfare of all children in this province," he said in a statement at the time.
According to Koren, Delonna was seized because social workers at the home believed Sullivan may have had an alcohol problem -- a problem her mother says does not exist.
"They just started accusing Jamie, there was no proof," she said. "Delonna was happy and beautiful and healthy and they just took her away."
Koren says she, and her daughter still don't know what led to her child's mysterious death.
"The autopsy was 'inconclusive' and they called it an 'unexplained death'," said Koren through tears Saturday. "We could never know, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to stop it from repeating."
The two women have organized Wednesday's rally in Delonna's memory and Koren is hoping the peaceful march, slated for 11 a.m. will urge officials to start making changes to certain policies."We're encouraging everyone to come out and support our children in the foster system," urged Koren. "And especially anyone who has faced issues with the system or been through a similar situation."
Friends of Delonna Sullivan -- a Facebook tribute page in honour of the infant -- has already amassed 350 'likes' and drawn supporters from all over Canada.
"We're expecting a good turnout," said Koren, adding several members of the group Protecting Canadian Children are traveling to Edmonton from as far as New Brunswick to attend the rally. "We want to make it clear social services should work for the families, not against them."
Officials with Alberta's minister of Children and Youth Services, could not be reached for comment over the weekend.
Source: Edmonton Sun
A news report of the actual rally. One of the photos with the article showed Delonna's father, not previously mentioned in the press.
Go public when children die in care, say protesters
EDMONTON - A group of parents protesting secrecy and lack of oversight at Child and Family Services launched a chapter of the Children’s Army in Alberta Wednesday.
“We believe in accountability and we believe in truth. We want the deaths of children to end,” said Velvet Martin, whose daughter Samantha died at age 13 after spending most of her life in foster care. A report from a fatality inquiry into the teen’s death is expected any day.
The local chapter of the small national organization wants the provincial government to publicly state how many children die in care each year, and to lift the ban preventing parents from publicly naming children after they’ve died in care.
The provincial government also needs to do better investigations before children are taken from their parents, and respond faster if anyone has concerns about the child’s health or safety while they are in foster homes, said Jamie Sullivan, whose four-month-old daughter Delonna died in care one year ago Wednesday.
Both Martin and Sullivan fought in court for the right to publicly name and share pictures of their children. They believe they are the only two parents of foster children in Alberta with the right to do so.
Sullivan said her daughter was happy and healthy before two social workers and an RCMP officer came with court orders to apprehend her roommate’s children last April.
Sullivan says they had no legal right to apprehend her daughter.
Martin said her daughter seemed sick and had diarrhea when she held her on a supervised visit three days later. She said she asked the social worker to take the child to the hospital, but that wasn’t done until the next Monday, three days later. She said the child died about two hours after reaching the hospital.
“I knew my daughter was sick but they took away all my rights to protect my child,” said Sullivan, adding that she is working with a lawyer to file a lawsuit.
“I’ve never felt so helpless in my life,” said Sullivan’s mother, Marilyn Koren. “We want all parties charged. Our government needs to get up and address these issues. I’d like to see one of these parties put it on their platform.”
Roxanne Dube Coelho, spokeswoman for Alberta Human Services, said department officials would not comment on individual cases.
She said it is legal for social workers to apprehend a child without a court order if they believe the child is in immediate danger. Such a case must go to a judge within 10 days.
Dube Coelho said the provincial government will, for the first time, publish the number of children who died in care in their annual report this summer. Until now, they have only been publishing the number of children who die from injuries, not illness.
The provincial government also established the external Council for Quality Assurance last year, which got investigative powers April 1. Their reports on serious incidents will also be public, said Dube Coelho.
Source: Edmonton Journal
The groups organizing the Edmonton rally addressed some suggestions to the provincial government:
The Honourable Alison Redford
Premier of Alberta
307 Legislative Building
10800 - 97 Ave.
Edmonton, Alberta T2K 2B7
Dear Premier Redford:
Our organizations are writing to you with recommendations that we believe will save Child and Family Services Ministry a large amount of money and make the system more efficient and family oriented. We believe the family unit is the backbone of our province and must be kept intact. Enactment of the recommendations, listed below, are in the best interest of keeping children and their families together.
- Change the way child services are funded. Direct funding away from apprehension and foster care, and direct funding towards helping families and utilizing the extended family.
ADVANTAGE: Extended family could care for children for nothing or much less money than foster parents. A possibility of 60% savings
- Openness and accountability. Stop publication bans. All cases of death and abuse to be made public. Automatic Police investigations of all deaths and abuse of children in care. Charges laid against the worker of the offending foster parent if negligence showed.
ADVANTAGE: Improved trust of the system by the general public.
- Criminal activity or behavior of workers and foster parents to be made public and appropriate charges laid. Inform the public when criminal or civil actions are or have been taken against any employee of Child Services. This includes foster parents.
ADVANTAGE: Public trust that the system is not corrupt and self-serving.
- Workers to follow the Act and not make their own interpretations of same based on their standards or beliefs.
ADVANTAGE: Public trust that the act is geared towards keeping the family together.
- All interviews with children to be videotaped.
ADVANTAGE: Stops accusation that the worker is committing perjury by lying about what the child has said. It will ensure exactly what the child and worker said. It ensures that accurate testimony is given while making the system transparent and accountable.
- Child Advocate being independent of Child Services.
ADVANTAGE: Assures the public that the Child Advocate is not a bias department of Child and Family Services. A transparent honest system.
- Children 9 and older must testify in a child friendly court.
ADVANTAGE: Assures the child’s voice is heard by the courts, and stops accusations workers are “twisting” what children say. This ensures accurate testimony.
- All children 9 and older to be given a written copy of their rights and their lawyers must explain these rights to the children.
ADVANTAGE: Assures the public that children are not being denied their rights, and the system puts the children first.
- Child Services to be overseen by a voluntary independent council of ordinary citizens. All complaints against Child Services investigated by this council and their decisions enacted as law.
ADVANTAGE: Takes the burden of the system to police itself and stops accusations of unfair or prejudice practices. Assures the public that complaints are heard and acted upon fairly. Saves money as the council will be made up of volunteers.
- Remove Preponderance of Evidence as the method judges use to decide cases and Enact Burden of Proof i.e. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt into Family Law. The onus of proof is on the director and their legal counsel. Families should not be destroyed on the pretense that allegation might have or possibly happened.
ADVANTAGE: Assures the public that Family Court is a fair and just court and ends the stigma of it being called a Kangaroo Court. This would cut the court cost of long drawn out trials that are based on false allegations.
- TGO's to be for 30 days and then the director has to go back to court and prove (Burden of Proof) the child(ren) needs to be in care. PGO's to be only 2 years long and then another hearing held to determine need of PGO. The onus of proof, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, again is on the director and their legal counsel.
ADVANTAGE: Assures the best interest of the child and the family is met. This assures the public that the child and the family are the priority and will reduce the cost of Foster Care, Family Court costs and Appeal Court costs.
- No secret witnesses. All witnesses to appear in court and testify. This includes all complainants, including anyone who made past allegations that are used against you in court. The onus of proof, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, is again on the director.
ADANTAGE: Would save money spent on the court system for frivolous allegations. It would stop those who would lie and use the system as a way to cause problems for someone they do not care for or to get revenge for a real or perceived problem.
- An Independent Physiatrist to determine mental health of child(ren), and Parental Alienation Disorder, by spouse or others family members, to be recognized.
ADVANTAGE: Substantial savings in the cost of mental health care for children in the system and for these children when they become adults and leave the system.
- When a criminal trial has or is taking place at the same time as a PGO trial, all evidence in the criminal trial must be accepted and considered as evidence in the Family Court Trial.
ADVANTAGE: Assures evidence is not contradictory from one court to the other.
Thank you for your time and consideration of these recommendation and their advantages.
Source: Facebook, Canadian Child and Family First
The letter was signed on behalf of two organizing groups by Barb Wiebe and Terence Webb