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Reminiscence of Foster Care

May 26, 2012 permalink

Baby Shatoya Cheyenne Chatelaine spent the first year of her life in Saskatchewan foster care but died of untreated medical problems after going back to her mother. The news article gives the opinion of the crown prosecutor, the foster mother and her husband, a child protection worker, the defense lawyer and the child's aunt. The mother Charissma McDonald cannot speak because she is bound to silence by the criminal justice system. Since she provided good care for her five other children, she cannot be a monster. Maybe she failed to take the baby to a doctor out of fear of losing her again. Or maybe during the year the baby was away she stopped thinking of her as a member of the family. There is no way to know, but heaping more punishment on the mother diverts attention from the failings of the child protection system in this case.



Neglected Saskatchewan tot abused before her death, court hears

Charissma McDonald
Charissma McDonald heads into Queen's Bench Courthouse in Saskatoon
Photograph by: Richard Marjan, The StarPhoenix

A 16-month-old girl who died from a rampant skin infection, while starved to skin and bone, had been seen by a doctor two weeks before her death, a sentencing judge heard Friday.

Shatoya Cheyenne Chatelaine’s bruised and battered body was found in her crib Dec. 11, 2006.

Her mother, Charissma Deedee McDonald, 30, who has pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death, will find out June 30 if she will go to prison for the crime.

Crown prosecutor Sheryl Fillo is asking Justice Neil Gabrielson to impose three years in a federal institution for the woman who provided proper care for her five other children but neglected the one child with whom she had not bonded.

Shatoya had spent the first year of her life in foster care, after being born addicted to morphine.

Foster mother Gayle Warkentin, provided photographs of the chubby, healthy baby she delivered back to McDonald on May 30, 2006.

An autopsy showed that in the next six months, Shatoya suffered a broken arm, broken ribs, concussions and bruises, all on different occasions and none of which had been treated by a doctor.

Autopsy photographs showed she had lost weight until she was just “skin and bone,” Fillo said.

The child’s face was spotted with impetigo, a common, easily treated skin infection that spread even into her mouth, making eating difficult.

Within three months of going back into her mother’s care, Shatoya had also been hospitalized with second-degree burns from being immersed in a tub of scalding water.

A child protection worker, Shawna Dickhoff, and Saskatoon Tribal Council worker, Pauline Cardinal, had been assigned to the case, but neither of them was aware that McDonald was having difficulty caring for Shatoya after her release from the hospital in August 2006.

McDonald had four children older than Shatoya and a baby who was born in September 2006, three months before Shatoya’s death.

The children’s father had been jail for much of that year and was in custody at the time of the death.

Dickhoff had said McDonald’s home was the cleanest, best-kept home of any of the 44 families in her case file, Fillo said.

On November 27, a doctor made a house call to the apartment where McDonald’s brother, Lonnie McDonald, was babysitting.

The next day on the phone, the doctor told McDonald to take Shatoya to the hospital emergency department because she was very sick with the skin infection.

McDonald never did.

She also refused offers from family members to drive her and Shatoya to the hospital, Fillo said.

In victim impact statements that were read in court, Warkentin, her husband and four children spoke of the pain they suffer thinking of the “gruesome details of Shatoya’s death at the hands of her mother.”

Warkentin said she still fosters children in need but she no longer trusts the words of biological parents or social workers.

“Where were they?” she said.

Defense lawyer Kevin Hill is asking for his client to be allowed to serve an 18 month sentence in the community, saying that as an aboriginal person, McDonald had a fear of the state that affected her decision to hide the baby’s illness from social workers and health care officials.

McDonald’s sister, Tara Lee McDonald, said in a statement Friday her sister loved her child and thinks about her every day.

Tara McDonald noted that all members of Shatoya’s foster family were invited to make victim impact statements for the judge to consider but no one from Shatoya’s biological family was given the same consideration.

“What does that tell you?” she said.

Source: Saskatoon StarPhoenix