NEWS ALBERTA Child placed in foster care dies

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 10:01:08 MDT PM

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An Alberta mother is planning to sue the province after her baby was taken from her home and died in foster care less than a week later.

"You just don't walk into somebody's house and take their child away for no reason," says Whitecourt lawyer Larry McConnell, who will represent the family in court.

"I have never heard a story so horrendous. We're talking about a healthy, beautiful baby in a happy home. It was a complete abuse of power by child services."

McConnell says the mother of the child, who cannot be identified under current provincial legislation, claims two social workers showed up at her door on April 5 with an apprehension order for her roommate's children.

He says she was shocked when they announced they'd be taking her daughter as well.

"There was no apprehension order for this child, and no emergency or threat to her," said McConnell. "The child was visibly happy, and healthy, and they took her anyway."

The baby girl was placed in a foster home in southeast Edmonton and McConnell says by April 11, she was dead.

"As soon as she was taken, her mother and grandmother fought to see her and to get her back. They were finally granted a visit with the child, and noticed she had marks on her head, and had diarrhea. They asked the foster mother to take her to the hospital, and the woman refused," he said.

He says he suspects the baby had severe dehydration, but the family won't find out for sure until an autopsy can be completed.

McConnell also claims authorities neglected to inform the mother of her infant's death for several hours.

"From what I know, the child died at 4 p.m., and the mother wasn't notified until 10 p.m.," he said, noting the mother has barely slept since that night. "She went to the morgue and picked up her baby, who was dead, and held her."

In court documents that appeared days after the seizure, it is alleged that the mother appears to suffer from alcohol addiction, said McConnell.

"There was a vague affidavit that appeared after the seizure that claimed there might be an alcohol problem," said McConnell. "This mother is not an alcoholic. That's appalling that someone swore to an affidavit after meeting the mother and being in the home for only 15 minutes to half an hour."

The Whitecourt-based lawyer first plans to secure counselling for his two clients, who he describes as shaken and devastated.

He then hopes to bring them justice in the wake of this tragedy, he said.

"Everyone involved is to blame, except the doctors. Even RCMP are culpable, and the foster mother is to blame as well," said McConnell.

"There will be a lawsuit and the best outcome would be to have those people who are to blame get up on the stand and answer to this."

Minister of Children and Youth Services Yvonne Fritz could not be reached for comment.