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Death of Jaylene Star Redhead

May 26, 2014 permalink

The death of Jaylene Star Redhead is the kind of failure that social services wants everybody to know about. The Awasis agency of Child and Family Services (Manitoba) returned her to her mother Nicole Redhead. Nicole suffocated the baby.

What they want you to believe: If social services just had more money and power, more children could be kept in their benevolent care, and harm could be avoided. Recommendations by the judge investigating the case will result in exactly that.

Since the level of abuse in foster care is ten times that in parental care, every implementation of recommendations in this kind of case makes the situation of children even worse.

A news article and editorial are enclosed.



Shelter blamed in baby's killing

Supervision lax at facility where mom killed girl: judge

The judge presiding over the inquest into Nicole Redhead's killing of her daughter, Jaylene, says he was surprised by the lack of supervision at the Native Women's Transition Centre.

Nicole Redhead

The judge presiding over the inquest into Nicole Redhead's killing of her daughter, Jaylene, says he was surprised by the lack of supervision at the Native Women's Transition Centre.

A lack of supervision at a Winnipeg transitional shelter helped lead to the death of a baby girl who was killed by her mother, a provincial judge has found.

Nicole Redhead suffocated her daughter, Jaylene, at the Native Women's Transition Centre, where alcohol and recreational drugs were used liberally.

The Awasis agency of Child and Family Services, which had returned the baby to Redhead even though they knew the mother had a history of severe crack addiction, had a mistaken belief about the level of supervision at NWTC, Judge Larry Allen found.

He cited a major communication gap between staff at CFS and staff at NWTC, which led to a faulty perception of the actual risk Redhead posed to her infant.

Allen's wide-reaching inquest report examining the death of baby Jaylene on June 29, 2009, was publicly released Friday.

The report's findings have prompted pledges from the province to improve aspects of the child-welfare system, including fostering greater collaboration between its various players.

Redhead is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for manslaughter.

She admitted to killing Jaylene by suffocating her. The little girl also suffered physical abuse.

Redhead was nine months pregnant with another child at the time.

A mother to two prior children who had been seized by CFS, Redhead also saw Jaylene apprehended at birth in October 2007 because of a severe crack-cocaine addiction.

Redhead's personal background was marred by extreme trauma, abuse and addictions issues -- factors known to CFS.

She came to live at NWTC by January 2008 and by December was living in a more independent tier of housing there.

It was the fourth time Redhead had stayed at NWTC. She had chosen to leave on the prior occasions.

She regained custody of Jaylene under the provisions of a CFS "temporary supervision order."

A month later, she was back to using crack cocaine regularly.

The inquest was heard over 41 days between August 2012 and December 2013.

In addition to social workers, NWTC staffers and experts, it heard from past NWTC clients.

They described widespread and unchecked use of alcohol and drugs at the CFS-endorsed shelter around the time Redhead was living there.

Allen said a CFS requirement that Redhead undergo random drug testing was dropped "at some point" because it was felt she was staying at a "safe house."

A clinical psychologist who once assessed Redhead's capacity to parent called this development "a major miss."

CFS didn't know that not only was Redhead becoming intoxicated at NWTC but she was also taking weekend leaves, often leaving Jaylene with a relative to go "partying," the inquest heard.

In the months before Jaylene's killing, Redhead's CFS file was handed off to interim workers. Agency caseloads were consistently high and the social work suffered, the inquest heard.

One worker admitted not knowing why Redhead was living at NWTC or that she was considered a "high-risk" client with serious issues, Allen's report states.

The worker also believed NWTC to be a "secure facility," Allen wrote.

Her risk assessment was downgraded from high to low. Mere months later, Jaylene was killed.

This perception by CFS workers of NWTC as a "safe house" wasn't accurate, Allen suggests.

There was also an "inadequate understanding" between the two entities about which was responsible for what services for Redhead, Allen said.

"This misapprehension of just what NWTC was is one of the reasons for the tragedy of Jaylene Redhead's death," Allen states. "While it may be that the Awasis agency should have known more about where Nicole and Jaylene were going when away from the centre, they cannot be faulted for believing that NWTC was a safer environment than it actually was.

"Many of the (lawyers) involved in this matter and the court itself have been familiar with 'safe houses,' and NWTC in particular, for many years and I believe all of us were very much taken aback with the revelations as to drug use, lax enforcement of rules and lack of security at the facility," Allen wrote.

"The relationship between Awasis and NWTC appears to reveal poor communication of information and accordingly, poor information. Unfortunately, the reliance on this information was high. High reliance on poor information creates situations fraught with risk," Allen stated.

The death prompted an audit of NWTC by Manitoba's Child Protection Branch.

The centre's management has since undertaken extensive procedural and other changes, including adding after-hours staff and performing room checks for drugs and alcohol.

"The centre itself has gone a long way to rectifying perceived problems," Allen wrote. "The Awasis agency understandably appears to have misunderstood how NWTC was being run. It should never be the case again that the rules and practices of that facility are left as nebulous as they were preceding Jaylene Redhead's death," Allen said.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press

Kids in care are still in danger

An inquest report on the death of a 20-month-old girl returned to her drug-addicted mother goes through a litany of numerous critical details where a child-welfare agency failed in its duty to keep her safe. The stunning lack of attention to the risk posed to the child by her mother, ignorance of the mother's drug use, the return of the child to the woman without evidence it was safe to do so.

This reads like a story of many children who died while in the "care" of Child and Family Services agencies before fundamental reforms were triggered after the 2005 murder of five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair.

Yet, Jaylene Star Redhead was smothered by her drug-addled mother in mid-2009, while they were living at the Native Women's Transition Centre in Winnipeg. This, after stacks of investigations and inquiries and reports have piled up and regulations and rules written to prevent all that went wrong in this case.

Nicole Redhead, subsequently convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison for 12 years, suffocated her daughter to stop her from crying -- the toddler was found to carry numerous bruises from repeat abuse and beatings, including to her vagina.

Awasis, the agency in control of this case, employed workers at salaries $7,000 below counterparts elsewhere and loaded them with work. Some front-line staff juggled as many as 50 cases -- despite repeat recommendations from past inquiries compelling the province to address such conditions.

Documentation and filing, as a result, were not priorities, and so the risk Nicole posed to her child was obscured. The worker who agreed Nicole could live at the Native Women's Transition Centre in late 2007 had reviewed only a pamphlet on the centre and assumed it was a secure residence.

It wasn't. Doors were open, and residents regularly used drugs.

Nicole was abusing substances throughout her stay there, was leaving to party on the weekends and receiving no counselling adequate to her needs.

Awasis, relying on the uninformed reports from the transition centre, accepted that Nicole, who had lost her two younger sons due to drug abuse, was making progress and ready to live with her toddler, despite the fact the woman was again pregnant (for a second time while at the centre; she aborted the first).

Testimony at the inquest showed numerous flaws in supervision, assessment of risk, demands for documented proof of counselling -- there was no set agreement between the agency and the centre on a plan for Nicole.

Evidence showed Jaylene was almost fated to fall back into her mother's hands: Awasis's primary mission was to return children to parents as long as parents wanted to work toward that goal. The transition centre's focus, meanwhile, was to get abused or addicted women back on their feet.

It's clear no one had Jaylene as their primary concern. This despite the fact the safety of the child is the primary concern in the Child and Family Services Act.

Provincial court Judge Lawrence Allen made repeat recommendations in his inquest report, released Friday, flowing from the specifics of this specific death. They focus on adequate training, documentation, agreements for service and case-load management.

Much of this has been regulated previously.

Equally worrisome was his finding that the investigation report prepared by the Office of the Children's Advocate was all but unreliable -- due to the lack of time and money, people central to the tragedy were not interviewed. Further, there is an abiding distrust and finger-pointing between all the agencies involved.

Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross has been led to believe, in the wake of the recent inquiry into Phoenix Sinclair's death, that child-welfare agencies are getting in better shape to keep children safe. This inquest reveals is blissful ignorance.

Ms. Irvin-Ross needs to do an audit of case files to ferret out agencies and workers that continue to put the interests of dangerous parents ahead of the need to protect vulnerable children. The death of Jaylene Redhead shows huge holes still exist, and children are falling into them.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press