Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.
Saskatchewan Foster Death
July 21, 2012 permalink
Allen Charles Davidson has been sentenced for killing 13-month-old foster child Genesis Vandell Parenteau-Dillon in Saskatchewan last November. When this story first broke the Lloydminster Meridian Booster withheld the child's name because of a publication ban.
Man gets 10 years in baby's death
Child died in 2011
A man who killed a 13-month-old foster child in his care has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter.
Allen Charles Davidson, 38, was the only adult present when the victim, Genesis Vandell Parenteau-Dillon, suffered numerous blunt force trauma to the head and torso at a home in Paradise Hill on Nov. 1, 2011, according to facts presented at Battleford Court of Queen's Bench Friday.
Davidson's long criminal record and addiction to narcotics surprised Avaline Parenteau, the mother of the victim and has raised questions about why a child protection agency placed Genesis and another toddler in the home.
"The government bodies that are responsible for placing the child in that home still need to be accountable," said lawyer Tracy Buffalo, who represented Parenteau when she was fighting to regain custody of the infant.
"If the Onion Lake Child and Family Services and the Ministry of Social Services are going to be apprehending children and placing them in their care then they have a duty to protect those children. "There needs to be a public inquiry into child protection in Saskatchewan, both in aboriginal and nonaboriginal agencies. Both systems are flawed."
Davidson had been living common law with the foster mother, Cheryl McLellan, for about six months when the fatal assault occurred.
McLellan was at a foster parent training program at Onion Lake First Nation at the time, Crown prosecutor William Burge told Justice Dan Konkin.
Text messages from their cellphones showed Davidson sent McLellan a message at 1: 41 p.m. informing her Genesis had hit his head on the TV stand and had a "goosebump."
At 4: 06 p.m. Davidson texted that the baby was not looking good. McLellan told him to seek help from the neighbours.
Teacher Robert Stewart lived next door and is a trained first responder for the health region.
He found the baby lying in the middle of the kitchen floor and performed CPR until the ambulance arrived.
The child was taken to hospital in Lloydminster and then flown to Saskatoon, but died the next day.
An autopsy found blunt force trauma on five separate regions of the skull, with eight to 10 "impacts," Burge said.
Such injuries have significant effect and cause the brain to start swelling almost immediately, the report said.
"It's an extremely perilous state right from the beginning. The pressure on the brain stem causes breathing to be compromised almost immediately," Burge said, referring to the autopsy report.
Bruises around the child's eyes were described as "raccoon eyes," his lip was torn inside and there were severe contusions on his upper and lower back, left buttock, left forearm and right forearm.
Davidson was charged with seconddegree murder, but pleaded guilty to the lesser included offence of manslaughter, after hearing the Crown's evidence at a preliminary hearing in Lloydminster in May.
He was questioned by police more than once and gave differing accounts in which he denied responsibility.
Davidson stood in court Friday and apologized and said he takes responsibility for his actions, but as he walked to an RCMP vehicle outside court, he still refused to say anything about the circumstances of the crime.
Davidson was on probation at the time, related to a conviction for break and enter and assault, for which he had been sentenced to 18 months in jail and 12 months on probation.
His criminal record included 85 prior convictions, including a 2002 conviction for assault and unlawful confinement and two arson convictions.
"He has spent a significant part of his life in custody," Burge said.
Defence lawyer Peter Abrametz said Davidson has a long-standing addiction to narcotics and was using morphine and Dilaudid the day of the incident.
"He passed out or napped periodically during the day," Abrametz said.
Drug addiction is behind many of the mainly property related crimes on Davidson's criminal record, Abrametz said.
In her victim impact statement, Parenteau said Genesis was "the most beautiful, happiest baby."
"Some days I wake up and think it was all a bad dream," she said.
"I want the pain to go away to the point I want to take my own life," she said, but added that she never would because she has other children to care for.
"You left a scar on our hearts for the rest of our lives."
Parenteau's attempt to have Genesis returned to her care was to be heard in family court on Nov. 12.
Parenteau has always said Genesis was not in need of care and was fighting to get him back.
Outside court, Parenteau said, "I hope people who have kids in care do a check and make sure their kids are in a safe home. Nobody should ever have to go through a thing like this.
"They don't give biological parents those types of rights. They make us feel like we're the bad person.
"When this happened they sure made me feel like it was my fault."
Buffalo said that when agencies place a child in a home with an individual with 85 prior convictions "there's something wrong with the system."
Source: Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
Addendum: The child Genesis Vandell Parenteau-Dillon was not removed from her mother as the result of legal action ("paperwork" in the article). According to his grandmother he was "scooped up" by a social worker during a routine visit to the reserve's clinic. The family ignored advice on our help page: "Never take your children to a place where CAS workers are present, unless required to by court order. They may use some trick to distract you, while they hustle the children away to a new custodian." As justifications for the removal of Genesis the CBC says mother Avalene Parenteau had a history of drinking and addiction, and that she grew up in foster care herself. The press does not say how much social services contributed to these problems. Having seven children removed by social workers would drive anyone to drink.
The boy's grandmother Nellie Harper was willing to care for the child, and was already a qualified foster mother who had cared for several of her own grandchildren. But social workers ignored the rule requiring preference for relative placement. Instead they placed the boy with stranger Cheryl McClellan, a woman related to one of the reserve's social workers. McClellan's boyfriend was a drug-addict with 38 prior convictions who had spent a substantial part of his life behind bars. He battered the boy to death.
As usual in foster death cases, the foster parents are named and accused. The social workers who threw the boy to the lions are not named or even mentioned as wrongdoers in the case.
Mother calling for changes to reserve foster care
Avalene Parenteau's 13-month-old son was brutally beaten and killed while in a foster home.
The mother of a baby killed in a foster home last year wants her reserve's child welfare agency shut down after she says officials failed to protect the child.
Avalene Parenteau told CBC News that Onion Lake Cree Nation's child welfare officials didn't do their job when selecting a home for her baby boy.
Genesis Parenteau-Dillon was killed last November, two months after being removed from Parenteau's custody.
The 13-month-old suffered severe brain damage and died, after his foster mother asked her live-in boyfriend to babysit him.
Allen Charles Davidson has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter.
"I started picturing it," said Parenteau. "What he must have done to him and all I could think of is 'why?' I just, I just wanted to know why."
Parenteau's family blames the reserve's child welfare agency. They said Genesis should never have been placed in the care of Cheryl McClellan, his foster mother.
The family said that if the agency ran a criminal record check on the people living in the foster home, they would have found that Davidson was a drug addict with 85 prior convictions.
What went wrong in Genesis' case
Genesis's grandmother, Nellie Harper, said she's a qualified foster parent and has looked after several of her grandsons.
Harper said she would have been happy to take care of Genesis. Provincial policy states family should be the first people asked before putting a child in care.
But in this case, Harper said her offer to care for Genesis was ignored.
She said social workers did not prepare required paperwork before apprehending Genesis.
Harper said he was "scooped up" by a social worker during a routine visit to the reserve's clinic.
From there, he was left in the care of McClellan. She lives in Paradise Hill, more than 50 km from the reserve.
CBC News has learned the infant may have been placed in McClellan's care because she is related to one of the reserve's social workers.
The foster mom didn't tell anyone Davidson had a drug problem and a long list of previous convictions.
On the day Davidson was babysitting Genesis, McLellan was at a course. By late in the afternoon, Davidson called the next-door neighbour for help.
That neighbour discovered the infant unconscious, face down on the living room floor.
Autopsy results show the baby died of brain haemorrhaging — blunt force trauma on five parts of his skull and bruises all over his body.
"I know for damn sure if he was in my care he would never look like this,” said Parenteau. “Nothing like this would ever happen to him."
Davidson was charged with second degree murder and pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Facts presented in court showed Genesis did not trip and fall, but was badly beaten. Davidson was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the death.
Onion Lake Child and Family Services, an agency with problems
In most of the province, the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association does background checks.
They happen when someone new moves in, or there's a major change in the dynamics of the foster home. However, its jurisdiction does not stretch to foster placements by reserve agencies.
In this case it was up to the Onion Lake Family Services to run these types of checks.
No one from the agency wanted to comment on the case. Its lawyer, Marilyn Adsit told CBC News there was no check done on Davidson "because he wasn't the foster parent."
A number of Onion Lake Cree Nation's residents said they have serious concerns about the people running Indian Child and Family Services.
CBC News has learned the agency has gone through six directors in the last 10 years. Within two months of Genesis's death, almost every person who worked for the agency had either quit or had been fired.
"Yes, it's probably time now to find the right management and supervisors," said Onion Lake Cree Nation Chief, Wallace Fox. "That's part of this whole internal review we're doing."
"With all the resources and training they have, they're doing what they can. There's always room for improvement in any organization."
But Fox also wants answers.
"I will not tolerate this to continue,” he said. “Unfortunately it took an incident such as this to wake everybody up.”
Fox said there are currently 84 children in foster care on the reserve.
Onion Lake Child and Family Services has a budget of $5.5 million dollars in 2012. Three million of that goes directly to foster families.
Next steps for Parenteau and Onion Lake Family Services
Genesis was the youngest of seven children for Parenteau. Her other six children are still in the reserve's foster care system.
Parenteau knows what it's like to live in a foster home. She grew up in one herself.
Despite her history of drinking and addiction she managed to hold on to Genesis the longest.
She told CBC she's trying to clean up her act and intends to enter a six-week rehabilitation program offered on the Onion Lake Cree Nation.
Parenteau and her family want to see agency shut down, a public inquiry and an apology.
"At least admit that they did something wrong," said Parenteau. "They can at least learn from their mistakes. I know people make mistakes."
Parenteau and her lawyer said the reserve and the province need to make big changes in the way they operate child welfare agencies.
Currently the Onion Lake Child and Family Services and the Ministry of Social Services are doing a joint review of what went wrong in Genesis' case.
The review will not be made public, but will be handed to the office of the Children's Advocate who may decide to investigate further based on the findings.
Staff at the office of the Children's Advocate say there may be no need for a public inquiry.
A report was released in 2010 by the Saskatchewan Child Welfare Review Panel highlighting 12 recommendations for changes to the way foster care and other child protection services are provided in the province.
Some of the reforms recommended that resources be focussed on prevention services and family supports.