Foster baby death under review

After much suffering and torment, I was resurrected large, and pure,  and immaculate.-- Unknown

The mother of a baby who was killed by a man intoxicated on morphine while he was in foster care calls for changes in Saskatchewan's child services system.

A “child death review” launched after a drug addict with a long criminal record viciously assaulted a baby boy in a foster home where they both lived is almost finished, officials say.

The victim’s mother hopes it will result in the closure of Onion Lake Child and Family Services, which was responsible for the child’s protection.

“That’s my biggest dream right now,” said Avaline Parenteau, whose son, Genesis Vandell Parenteau-Dillon, died at the hands of Allen Charles Davidson.

“They’ve done people so wrong. They’re not thinking of what they’re doing to the families,” she said.

Davidson, 38, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the November 1, 2011, fatal beating at Paradise Hill, 160 kilometres northeast of Lloydminster.

Davidson was on probation at the time related to a conviction for break, enter and assault, for which he had been sentenced to 18 months in jail and 12 months on probation.

He had been living with foster mother Cheryl McLellan about four months before the baby was placed in her home. He was the only adult present when Genesis suffered eight to 10 blunt force injuries to his head and numerous severe contusions to his body.

McLellan, who also had custody of a two-year-old girl at the time, no longer has foster children in her care.

Davidson’s criminal record included 85 prior convictions, including a 2002 conviction for assault and unlawful confinement and two for arson.

Davidson has spent a significant part of his life in custody, Justice Dan Konkin heard at Battleford Court of Queen’s Bench.

Davidson was using morphine and Dilaudid on the day of the fatal assault. That addiction was behind the many property crimes on his record, court heard.

“There needs to be a public inquiry into child protection in Saskatchewan, both in aboriginal and non-aboriginal agencies. Both systems are flawed,” said Tracy Buffalo, Parenteau’s lawyer.

The report of the joint investigation by the Ministry of Social Services and the Onion Lake Child and Family Services agency will not be made public, but will be given to the Children’s Advocate Office, which will decide whether to conduct its own review, said Andrea Brittin, acting assistant deputy minister of child and family services.

The ministry’s child death review will try to establish what went wrong and whether policy changes can prevent future tragedies.

The provincial government has the power to close an agency that regularly breaks the rules, Britton said.

“It’s never happened,” but “we would have the ability to do that,” she said.

Child protection agencies are required to do criminal record checks of all foster parents, Brittin said.

Foster parents are supposed to notify the agency of any other adult living in the home. The agency is required to ensure that a criminal record check is completed on that adult, Brittin said.

Local agencies aren’t alone in keeping children safe.

“It’s the ministry’s responsibility to provide oversight to ensure that that is happening,” Brittin said.

A child death review seeks to determine where the system failed, she said.

It will consider the responsibility and practises of individual staff members, the agency involved and the ministry itself to see if changes are needed, she said.

McLellan was at a foster parent training session at Onion Lake First Nation the day Genesis died, she testified at a preliminary hearing in Lloydminster in May.

She said she had been fostering children aged five and younger for six years and sometimes had as many as five children in her care, the preliminary hearing transcripts show.

“When he came he was dirty and whining all the time and crying. He always had to have a bottle attached to his mouth,” McLellan said.

At a doctor visit on Oct. 18, Genesis was found to be normal, she said, but in the week before his death, he wasn’t eating, she said.

On the day of the fatal assault, McLellan received a text message from Davidson at 1:41 p.m. in which he said the baby had hit his head on the TV stand and had a “goosebump” on his head.

“I didn’t think it was that bad,” she said, the transcript shows.

At 4:06 p.m. Davidson texted that the baby was not looking good. McLellan told him to seek help from the neighbours.

The next door neighbour was a trained first responder for the health region. He found the baby on the kitchen floor and performed CPR until the ambulance arrived.

Genesis was taken to hospital but was declared brain-dead the next day.

McLellan attended Davidson’s sentencing hearing, where she sat near the prisoner’s box and draped her arm affectionately over his shoulder as she spoke to him during a break in the proceedings.