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Dead or Alive
March 12, 2015 permalink
Social workers check on children on their watch at least once a month to ensure their well-being. It is a vital control to protect against fosters collecting reimbursements for neglected children. In Alberta a child under social services supervision died, but the death did not become known for two months.
'Deeply, deeply disturbing': Baby's death went unreported for two months
EDMONTON - The death of a six-month-old baby girl went unreported for nearly two months even though child welfare authorities were purportedly overseeing her care.
The baby girl was known to be at risk and was supposed to be receiving intervention services when she died on Jan. 4, but the Ministry of Human Services did not learn of her death until March 2.
Her death was publicly reported two days later, along with four additional child welfare fatalities in February, bringing the annual total to 26 and setting a record for the highest number of deaths recorded since the province started keeping track in 2008.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the situation is “deeply, deeply disturbing” and called on the government to launch a full inquiry into the girl’s death.
“Clearly, if it took two months for someone to notice the child had died, she wasn’t getting the kind of support she needed,” Notley said.
“Here was a family that was identified as one that required assistance and support to maintain a safe home, and it’s obvious that at least two months went by without them receiving anything.”
Notley said front-line workers are “stretched well beyond capacity” and criticized the government for cutting funding for child death investigators even as the number of child welfare fatalities hits record highs.
“We’ve got 26 kids dying under the watch of this government and this premier’s reaction is to cut funding to the Children’s Advocate,” she said, referring to the Prentice government’s decision last month to uphold a $275,000 cut to the budget of Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate, which is responsible for independently investigating the deaths of children in care.
“Where are their priorities?” Notley asked.
Human Services Minister Heather Klimchuk said she remains committed to publicly reporting every child welfare death in a timely manner, and the delay in this case was “not acceptable.”
She said it is not yet clear whether the delay was the result of a paperwork error, or whether the front-line caseworker didn’t call or visit the family until two months after the baby’s death.
“For me as minister, it concerns me greatly that this has happened,” she said. “I can’t comment on whether the caseworker knew about (the death).”
She said the girl’s death “appears to be medically related,” a term used by child welfare officials to refer to anything from untreatable terminal illnesses to preventable deaths like that of toddler Kiara Boysis Nepoose, who died in 2009 from untreated pneumonia. The medical examiner has not completed an autopsy in the death of the six-month-old, Klimchuk said, but no criminal investigation is underway.
“I’ve asked for the internal review to take place within the department, No. 1. The next steps would be the Child and Youth Advocate, and of course the Council for Quality Assurance.”
She did not commit to making the internal review public and dismissed concerns about the impact of cuts to the advocate’s office.
“I’m totally sure that the advocate has money to dedicate to investigate children who pass away in care, from his $12-million budget,” Klimchuk said.
It is not yet known whether a fatality inquiry will be held.
The other four children who died while receiving ministry services in February include a seven-month-old boy (Feb. 16), a 13-year-old girl (Feb. 24), a 22-month-old boy (Feb. 26) and a 17-month-old boy (Feb. 27).
The government releases no additional information about their deaths.
Source: Edmonton Journal