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Secret Alberta Death

April 18, 2014 permalink

A boy identified only as NW died in Alberta foster care on December 29, 2010. The cause of death was sudden infant death syndrome (crib death). A judge has examined the case and issued nine recommendations for avoiding crib death.

While Manmeet Bhullar makes headlines promising openness regarding foster deaths, actual practice is to maintain extreme secrecy. The province hides the name of the dead boy, his date of birth and place of residence. An earlier report made six recommendations, but those are also confidential.

If this case comes up again, we will identify the child with the pseudonym Napping Willie.



Judge makes nine recommendations in fatality report about baby boy who died in foster care

EDMONTON - A provincial court judge has attributed the death of a 15-week-old foster boy to sudden infant death syndrome, making no mention of an internal review that found the baby was neglected and supervision was an issue.

The boy, known only as N.W., died in Dec. 2010 after his foster mother fed him a bottle of milk and placed him on his side for a nap at 3:30 p.m. When the foster mother returned to check on him four hours later, the boy was dead.

Provincial court Judge Fern LeReferend raised no concerns about the four-hour nap, but issued nine recommendations related to the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome, which accounts for one in three foster care deaths in Alberta.

“All infants in foster care experience high levels of toxic stress,” LeReverend wrote in a three-page fatality inquiry report released Wednesday. “High levels of toxic stress cause physical and mental abnormalities, symptoms of which frequently go undiagnosed.”

In part, LeReverend recommended caseworkers obtain extensive medical histories for infants who are brought into care, with a view to better understanding what stressors may be affecting the child. The names of doctors who treat the child should be recorded and caseworkers, foster parents and biological parents should be kept fully apprised of medical concerns.

The province should “require foster parents to keep all medical appointments” and should appoint a physician “to keep abreast of the latest studies and research involving sudden unexpected infant death, and provide that information along with infant care recommendations to all designated physicians and case workers and foster parents,” LeReverend wrote.

He also said caregivers should work to reduce the stress of infants in care.

“Provide a consistent schedule and level of caregiving,” she wrote. “This is particularly important when the infant has several different caregivers.”

Internal records obtained by the Edmonton Journal show the baby was an aboriginal boy in the care of Edmonton and Area Child and Family Service, Region 6.

After his death, the region’s Placement Resource Team (PRAT) investigated his death, in part because the three-month-old baby had been left alone for four hours.

The review determined that allegations of neglect were founded.

“The PRAT assessment determined that the allegation of neglect related to failing to provide a child with the necessities of life was unfounded,” the report said.

“However, supervision was noted to be an ongoing issue. ... Thus, the allegation of neglect, being unwilling to provide the child with adequate care or supervision, was determined to be founded.”

The report said the PRAT assessment addressed the concerns arising from the (internal system) summary, notably the number of screenings and the length of time between checks of the baby.

The report included six recommendations, but the government has not made those recommendations public.

Source: Edmonton Journal

Addendum: In July 2014 the boy's name was revealed as Nicolai Winfield.