Mother demands answers for baby's death in foster care Canada

Mother demands answers for baby's death in foster care Canada

By Jodie Sinnema, Edmonton JournalJune 2, 2011

A mother from Warburg wants to know why her four-month-old baby died six days after being put into foster care.

Larry McConnell, the mother's Whitecourt lawyer, said the baby shouldn't have been taken away from her mother. Two social workers and an RCMP officer arrived at her door April 5 to apprehend two of her roommate's children. While there, one of the social workers determined the baby of McConnell's client also needed to be removed from the home because the mother "appears to suffer from an alcohol addiction," says an affidavit.

The affidavit was signed April 7 by the social worker, two days after the child was apprehended in Warburg, 60 kilometres west of Leduc.

"The infant has been subjected to disharmony in the home and the child is left with inexperienced babysitters," reads the affidavit. A health inspector needs to look at the home, the document says. An assessment also should be done to "determine the existence of any mental health disorder which may impact (the mother's) ability to parent." The social worker applied for a six-month guardianship order for the infant.

"The child(ren) needs intervention," the affidavit says in a more general statement. "To protect the child(ren)'s survival, security or development, the child(ren) cannot remain with the guardian."

McConnell said the mother is not an alcoholic. "I saw pictures taken of this child just before she was taken away from mom and she's a beautiful little girl, totally healthy, cheeks glowing. Anybody looking at her would know that she's being welllooked after."

He said the mother had a one-hour visit with the child April 8, during which she noticed her daughter had diarrhea and dried feces on her bottom. She suspected dehydration. The mother was no longer breastfeeding. When she asked the foster worker to take the child to hospital, the foster worker said she would do so if the baby wasn't better by Monday. That Monday, April 11, the baby was taken to University Hospital and died around 4 p.m., the lawyer said.

The medical examiner's office has performed an autopsy, mandatory on any child who dies while in government custody. Results from genetic tests and blood or tissue samples take five to six months to help determine the cause and manner of death, the office said.

McConnell said he plans to file a lawsuit within 30 days against the social worker, the RCMP, the foster home and the province.

"You can't do what they did," Mc-Connell said. "Otherwise, out of safety concerns, every child in the province could be seized. What happened here is a total disaster. It should never have happened."

Rachel Notley, NDP critic for child and youth services, said she is "deeply concerned" Yvonne Fritz, minister of child services, didn't publicly report this child's death, nor that of another child in March 2011. Fritz's office sent Notley a list of five children who died in care from March 2010 to March 2011, including the March 2011 one which was listed as a homicide under investigation. Notley said police are waiting for results from the medical examiner.

"It's not always the case that there's wrongdoing," Notley said. "It could well be that it's an unavoidable accident, but we still need to know."

Alberta Liberal MLA Harry Chase said there needs to be a public review on the method of screening for foster placements. He also said more in-home support for families is needed so that quick apprehensions don't always have to be done.

jsinnema@edmontonjournal.com