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Alberta Foster Secrecy Loosened
July 25, 2014 permalink
The province of Alberta has proclaimed a new law allowing parents of dead foster children to identify themselves and their lost children. The Edmonton Journal has profiles of one child, Phoenix Majestic Omeasoo, who died in foster care on January 17, 2010. In another enclosed article, the CBC has named Kyleigh Tiara Crier and Nevaeh Michaud (misspelled by CBC), who died of a drug overdose on January 5, 2014.
Province lifts ban on naming children who die in foster care
Names, faces of children who die in care can now be made public
EDMONTON - Four years after her baby suffocated to death in a collapsed bassinet while in foster care, Toni Omeasoo is free to publicly speak her daughter’s name for the first time.
Phoenix Majestic Omeasoo.
She can show you a photograph of her daughter’s sweet baby mohawk, her chubby cheeks, her pretty brown eyes.
She can do this because the Alberta government has quashed the publication ban that made it illegal to name or share photographs of children who have died inside the province’s foster care system.
“I want people to know what happened to her, I want her to be remembered,” Omeasoo said through tears Wednesday. “She is not forgotten, and there are people who care about what happened to my family.
“Maybe it will change something for another mother.”
At a meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Progressive Conservative cabinet proclaimed a new law that allows families and caregivers to speak publicly about the death of a child whenever they choose to do so.
Media outlets are now free to publish the names, photographs and stories of the children’s’ lives, unless a judge grants a publication ban in an individual case.
The new law comes into effect eight months after a joint Edmonton Journal-Calgary Herald investigation revealed the province dramatically under-reported the number of children who have died in care and failed to monitor implementation of recommendations to prevent similar deaths.
The series examined the province’s publication ban, which was passed in 2004 with little legislative debate. The government said it protected the privacy of families grieving after the loss of a child; critics said it protected the child welfare system from meaningful scrutiny of its worst failures.
“We’ve taken a very significant step to increase openness and transparency in the child welfare system,” Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar said. “We have freed the system and those involved in the system from the burden of secrecy.”
He said each child matters and the stories of their short lives and tragic deaths “must be told.”
“We all need to learn from their stories, we need to make our system better and make our society better as a result of their stories,” Bhullar said.
“It is the right thing to do.”
It remains illegal in Alberta to publish identifying information about a living child who is receiving child welfare services from the province.
Families of children who have died in care still have the right to request a publication ban, but it is no longer automatic and they must go to court to ask a judge to put the publication ban in place.
NDP critic Rachel Notley said she is still concerned the ministry will use a section of the new law to place publication bans on the name of every child, recreating the effect of the old law. She also said the government has “disrespected” the committee process by proclaiming the law before regulations are in place.
“Overall, though, I do believe that if the government were to come to the table sincerely to resolve those two problems, the overall impact of lifting the publication ban will increase accountability and transparency,” Notley said.
“That’s a very good thing.”
Source: Edmonton Journal
Parents can now name Alberta children who died in care
Bill 11 approved, lifting automatic publication ban on children who died in provincial care
Kyleigh Tiara Crier hanged herself in the closet of her Edmonton group home in April after changing her Facebook cover page to a black and white image of a casket.
“Now, everyone loves me,” the caption read.
CBC News reported on the death of the 15-year-old but could not give her name or publish her picture under Alberta law, despite the wishes of her mother, Crystal.
“There’s a lot of kids who died in care and nobody knows about” it, Crystal Crier said.
Now, for the first time, CBC News can show the picture and reveal the name of the teen who struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts and addictions.
Publication ban lifted
On Wednesday, the Alberta cabinet approved Bill 11, which lifts the automatic publication ban on children “who have come to the attention” of the director of children services.
It means that any of these children can now be identified with the consent of their parents.
"When a child in our province dies and that family says, 'I want to scream at the top of the roof top about an injustice that has happened', they have that right," Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar told CBC News. "I want our children in care to have that same right."
Under the old Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, parents had to go to court for the right to speak about their children who died in foster or government care.
They can still keep their children’s name confidential but they have to ask a judge for a publication ban.
"Our intention in this is to empower families and those closest to children," Bhullar said.
'Stand behind a face, and not a shadow'
Navaeh Michaud was eight-years-old when she died of a drug overdose while in provincial care. An autopsy report said the young girl's medication was not locked in a drug cabinet as it was supposed to be and concluded she died of a drug overdose.
Her mother, Desiree Michaud, has been fighting to have her name and her daughter Navaeh's published. Having both names made public is a moment she has long been waiting for.
"You have no idea what a relief that is," she said. "To know that people can now stand behind a face, and not a shadow.
"I've heard that a lot of families have gone through what I've gone through. I hope that fighting as hard as I have so far has given them strength to come forward themselves about their little ones who have maybe been abused, beaten or had a suspicious death."
Crier's mother Crystal called the approval of Bill 11 a "burden off my shoulders."
"I cried happy tears," she said. "I didn't cry because I was sad. I was happy."
Long journey ahead
Michaud said it's still not easy to speak about her daughter in the past tense.
"She was the most warmhearted, kind, loving fun child. She just brought light to everybody's life."
Navaeh's name is heaven spelled backwards, because Michaud said "she was my little piece of heaven."
"I want people to know who this little girl was," Michaud said. "See her face and that beautiful little smile. See what somebody or something decided to take away from this world."
The Edmonton Journal included a list of 28 dead children, 16 of them in foster care. Fixcas previously had articles on:
- Mya Shiningstar Bird, three months, died while in government care. Early reports suggest she may have died of a cardiac arrest. Neither the results of the autopsy nor the results of the RCMP investigation were known when the ministry file was closed. Her parents are suing the province for $1 million.
- Samantha Martin was 13 when she died in December, 2006. Born with a rare genetic disorder, Tetrasomy 18 p, she was surrendered by her parents at birth for special medical foster care. Instead, a fatality inquiry found that the child was denied food by her foster family, that caseworkers consistently failed to visit as scheduled, and that she was not receiving regular medical care. Her parents fought to regain custody. The girl died five months later, in their care.
- Aminat Magomadova, 14, was strangled by her mother with a scarf. Her family had been screened by child welfare authorities three thimes but caseworkers concluded the family was connected with services and the girl's mother was able to protect her. The mother's manslaughter conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal; another court found her too sick for a retrial.
- Kyleigh Crier, 15, hanged herself from a closet bar rod in an Edmonton group home. She was known to be suicidal, but the facility where she was staying did not have break-away closet bar rods – this despite a 2000 fatality inquiry report into a similar death, in which the judge recommended that all homes for children known to be suicidal be equipped with break-away closet bar rods. Before she died, she changed the banner on her Facebook page, posting a photo of a coffin with the words: “Now, everyone loves me.”
- Vanessa Christie, 17, was strangled and tossed in the North Saskatchewan River by her ex-boyfriend, Ronish Sailesh Chandra, 28, who was sentenced to 14 years for the crime. The government never revealed the teen was well known to child welfare authorities: She had been subject to 16 screenings, 12 investigations - including one as a parent, one emergency apprehension, two temporary guardianship orders and secure treatment orders. Her file was closed three months before she died. A review found that “earlier intervention with this family may have helped to increase the impact of child protection services. There were four years of missed opportunity.”
- Aaron Grey, 16, shown here in a photo held by his mother Diane Auger, was found frozen to death outside a house party in Grande Prairie in 2001, after going AWOL from his group home. He had been in care since three months old, and had 32 placements.
- Korvette Crier, 2, was killed by her foster mother in 1999, after being placed in an unlicenced foster home. The foster mother pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
- Delonna Victoria Sullivan was apprehended on Apr. 5, 2011 and died six days later. Hospital and autopsy records show the baby was in an unsafe sleeping environment and that she had been dosed with Tylenol and cough medicine, despite government warnings that cough syrup should not be given to children under six.
- Lloyd Swampy-Stamp, 17, in care since birth, died shortly before his 18th birthday, when he jumped out of a social worker’s vehicle and ran into highway traffic. It was unclear whether this was a suicide or the result of a drug-induced psychosis.
- Hazel-Ann Coombs was born to an 18-year-old mother who had herself been in care since age 11, and who had a history of mental illness and addiction. Two weeks before her death, a caseworker visited and saw no reason to take Hazel from her family. On July 4, 2001, her mother bashed her against a bedroom wall. She was charged with second-degree murder and eventually convicted of manslaughter.
- On Nov. 14, 2011, Meika Dawn Jordan, 6, died from multiple blunt-force trauma along with third-degree burns to her hand and palm, while in the care of her father and stepmother. They were later charged with first-degree murder, and the case remains before the courts.
- Justine Cochrane, 15, was found dead beside a gravel road on the Sunchild First Nation reserve in March 2011. Police initially believed she had frozen to death, but the medical examiner determined she had been killed. Nobody was charged in connection with her death: RCMP believe the man responsible for her death committed suicide shortly thereafter, but the case remains open. No internal review was conducted and no recommendations were made to prevent similar deaths. The girl had been a ward of the state her whole life: She first came into care when she was three months old and became a permanent ward when she was three.
- Caleb Merchant, 1, died from cranial trauma sustained while in the care of his foster parents on Nov. 26, 2005. His foster father, Raymond Douglas Loyer, was charged with second-degree murder and pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Loyer had been convicted of assault causing bodily harm in 1987, but had neglected to mention he was originally charged with attempted murder, and had been tried on charges of manslaughter. A fatality inquiry recommended that a foster parent known to have a violent history be required to consent to the release of the law enforcement investigative file.
- Fourteen-month-old Elizabeth Velasquez died by asphyxiation in 2010 after multiple interventions by Children’s Services, including trips to the hospital where several broken bones were revealed. The child’s grandparents alerted Children’s Services about their concerns in the months before the child died, but the child was never apprehended. The police considered the case a homicide, but nobody was ever charged in connection with the baby’s death. The child’s paternal grandparents took their story public, and the ministry convened an unprecdented, one-of-a-kind panel to look into her death. The panel review resulted in 11 recommendations.
- Shylee Kasokeo was 21 months old when she died in the care of her foster mother, who was charged with manslaughter but acquitted at trial. Initial reports suggest the toddler died from shaken baby syndrome, but conflicting expert testimony at the trial failed to identify precisely how the toddler died.
- Kerry Crowchild’s first documented suicide attempt was at nine years old, and while he had multiple risk factors for suicide - including the recent suicide of a close friend - he was never given preventive services. He had just become a father when, on June 13, 2005, he had an argument with his girlfriend and hanged himself. He was 16.
- From left, Caleb and Gabriel Cardinal were six and three when their father injected them with morphine and then strangled them to death on Dec. 19, 2010. He told police he couldn’t bear to lose custody. Cardinal pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years. Their mother, Andrea Badger, has sued the province for more than $1 million.
- Nina-Louise Courtepatte, 13, was lured from West Edmonton Mall to a golf course where she was sexually assaulted and murdered by a group of people, five of whom were charged and convicted in connection with her death. Internal ministry records show her family was subject to multiple child welfare investigations, all of which were closed, in part because caseworkers made mistakes in assessing risk. Nina was subject to a psychological evaluation before she died, but her file was closed before the results were known. Ministry records say “if the results of the assessment had been considered in evaluating the family’s needs for services, it would have been difficult not to consider (Nina) a child in need of intervention.”
- Jordan D. Quinney , 4, died in 1998 of a “violent, prolonged assault”. His mother’s boyfriend was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years in prison. The boyfriend had previously been convicted of assaulting Jordan, who was removed from his mother’s custody but later returned.
- At 15, Alexandra Jacko Peche was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning on Nov. 20, 2003. Her body was found in a car that was parked in a garage; she was found with a 51-year-old man and a crack pipe. She had battled addictions for much of her life and had recently called a case worker for help: She weighed 91 pounds, had been diagnosed with STDs, a bleeding ulcer, anemia and dehydration. She had secured a space at treatment centre and was waiting to get in when she ran away again. She was found dead one month later.
- Toni Omeasoo snuggles her daughter, Phoenix, shortly before the baby died in a collapsed bassinet on Jan. 17, 2010, aged 6 months. The foster home had no crib, contrary to child welfare policy.
- Kiara Jade Boysis-Nepoose was 13 months old when she died from untreated pneumonia in her foster home. A request for a bed was denied, so she was sleeping on the floor. Kiara’s mother had previously sent a letter to the foster mother asking her to take the baby to the hospital because she was sick, but the child never saw a doctor. A fatality inquiry report found that “an ordinary reasonable caregiver with average education would have sought medical intervention for a child with symptoms of pneumonia serious enough to cause her death.”
- Eight-year-old Nevaeh died in her sleep at her group home on Jan. 5 2014, with a fatal concentration of prescription sleep aid in her system. An autopsy report concluded Nevaeh’s death could have been caused by “a medication dispensing error with excess medication possibly administered.” Edmonton police are investigating the death as suspicious.
- Seventeen-year-old Bradley Michael Welton, diagnosed with schizophrenia, and homeless, died in Cagary, after having been robbed, beaten and stabbed. He had been in and out of the care of his father and foster homes since age 13.
- Carla Firingstoney, 16, died by suicide on March 11, 2006. She hanged herself in the same home where her brother had hanged himself two years earlier; she found his body. She had been in and out of provincial care since birth, and her mother died when she was 10. The internal review of her death found she “should have been considered at high risk of suicide; however, discussion on this and precautions with her caregiver were not documented on the file.”
- Emilia Elizebeth Matwiy, four months, died in 2007 of shaken baby syndrome on July 31, 2007. Her mother’s boyfriend was convicted of manslaughter in 2012. An internal review revealed the young family had come to the attention of child welfare authorities weeks earlier when the baby was rushed to hospital having nearly drowned in a bathing accident. The file was marked a priority, but casworkers neither visited the family nor spoke with the doctor. They called the baby’s mother, but she declined assistance and the file was closed.
- At 10 months old, Jarius Cabry drowned in a bathtub in his foster home in Hobbema. After Jarius’ death, his siblings were returned to his family for the funeral and elected officials refused to return them to the foster family because it was non-aboriginal - even though the biological parents were not confident in their ability to care for the children.
- Alex Fekete, 3, and his mother Blagica, were murdered in Red Deer in 2003 by Alex’s father, Josif Fekete, who then shot and killed himself. The family had repeatedly come to the attention of child welfare authorities and the day before the killings, Blagica called a caseworker and pleaded for help, saying the boy’s father was threatening to kill them and the police wouldn’t help. Caseworkers have had the power to apply for restraining orders since 1999, but the review revealed neither the caseworker nor her supervisors knew how.
Source: Edmonton Journal
Addendum: Here is a video tribute to Kyleigh Crier (mp4).