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Blaming the Bassinet
November 7, 2014 permalink
Phoenix Majestic Omeasoo died in Alberta foster care on July 17, 2010 when her bassinet collapsed. Now judge John Henderson has released a report recommending improvements to bassinets. Just to be sure, Henderson exonerated the girl's social worker. Official reports, including this one, never suggest leaving children with parents as a safer form of care.
Report into Edmonton foster girl’s death makes bassinet recommendations
A judge’s fatality inquiry report into the death of a baby girl who died in an Edmonton foster home found her bassinet was not properly assembled and instructions on its use were not followed.
A crib had been purchased for Phoenix Majestic Omeasso, but a new custom-made mattress to fit the crib had not yet arrived when the bassinet collapsed on Jan. 17, 2010.
Province Court Judge John Henderson made just two recommendations — both about bassinet use — but declined to make any far-reaching recommendations about the supervision of foster children in a report released Wednesday.
Her foster mother found the girl unresponsive in a collapsed bassinet following a nap. Phoenix was a day shy of six months old.
Myrna Hayes, 64, and her husband, Richard Hayes, 55, cared for eight children in their home, including four adopted children (ages 16, 12, and twin eight-year-olds) and four foster children (ages seven, two, two, and five-month-old Phoenix).
Phoenix was placed in the home because her sibling, a two-year-old girl, was also a foster child there.
The eight children “presented special challenges” for the couple, wrote Henderson, and all suffered from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
One girl, 7, suffered from “very severe medical conditions” and required “virtually full-time attention,” and the oldest child, 16, was suicidal.
At the time of Phoenix’s death, Richard Hayes was at the hospital with the seven-year-old girl and his wife was in the home with the other seven children and a visiting child.
The judge wrote that the couple were “very devoted and loving foster parents,” who were “professional, skilled, dedicated and committed.”
He found that the number of high-needs children in the home “stretched the capacity” of the couple, but was not a factor that contributed to Phoenix’s death.
In 1988, another foster child in the couple’s care — a 3-1/2-year-old girl — died by drowning in a backyard swimming pool, but Henderson wrote that incident “is simply not relevant to this inquiry.”
The bassinet’s basket was not properly attached to the metal frame, which allowed the basket to be pulled forward on the frame without being restrained in any way, Henderson said.
He concluded Phoenix died by asphyxiation after her two-year-old sister pulled the foot portion of the bassinet basket and dislodged it from the stand.
That caused the head portion of the basket to fall, leading Phoenix to slide into a position that prevented normal breathing.
Henderson recommended a policy be developed by Alberta Human Services advising foster parents to use bassinets only in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions, and that foster care workers should be required to ensure bassinets are assembled properly.
He also recommended Human Services continue to research the use of bassinets by foster parents and prepare policies informing case workers of best practices.
The report noted the department banned bassinets for sleeping in 2011, but it was amended in 2012 after feedback from foster parents.
The case worker supervising the Hayes home also supervised 22 other homes, many of which had special needs children with a variety of medical issues.
The inquiry heard the normal case load for foster care case workers in Alberta may be as high as 33 homes, while a case load of 15 to 18 families — the number proposed by the Child Welfare League of America — would be “reasonable.”
But Henderson wrote a lack of supervision by the foster care case worker was not a factor in the death.
Source: Edmonton Journal