More interest in harmed dogs than in abused / dead kids and seniors.
Edmonton Journal article prompts debate on four-year-old Serenity's in-care death
Published on: November 22, 2016 | Last Updated: January 12, 2017 4:54 PM MST
Serenity, in a photo taken in February 2014, seven months before her death. By then, her arms were already skeletal, and she had cuts and bruises on her face. SUPPLIED
A report by the Alberta medical examiner into the death of a child in care wasn’t completed until nearly two years after her death, then delayed six days before being given to the RCMP, who asked that it not be released.
It wasn’t until Sept. 9, 2016, that the medical examiner’s office completed the report into the death of the four-year-old, whom the Journal learned last week was named Serenity. She died on Sept. 27, 2014, while in kinship care, being looked after by family members.
A “highly complex” case was blamed for the delay by Alberta Justice spokesman Dan Laville. The medical examiner had to consult with outside experts, who often have other requests to deal with, and worked closely with the RCMP during its investigation, he said.
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said the government was complying with the wishes of the RCMP in not releasing the report to the public or to provincial Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff.
“They are the experts in investigations and in what they need to prove a case and what could potentially be detrimental and we are going to respect that expertise,” said Ganley.
Medical records obtained by the Journal show the severely underweight and malnourished Serenity was suffering hypothermia and had multiple bruises, including around her genitals, when she arrived at hospital. Her hymen was gone. The woman who took her to hospital said she fell off a swing.
This information was not included in a report last week by Graff because they could not be confirmed by the medical examiner, who has yet to release a cause of death, officials said.
The new details about Serenity’s death, reported Saturday in the Journal, sent a shockwave through the Alberta legislature. Several MLAs said Monday they felt physically ill when they read the story.
The Wildrose Party called for an emergency debate, which was granted. MLAs dropped other business to discuss what led to the girl’s death. Several MLAs shed tears and voices cracked with emotion.
“She was a victim of a broken system,” said Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who at one point paused in mid-sentence to gather himself.
Premier Rachel Notley said “there is not a soul who could read that story and not be moved,” but stood by the decision not to release the medical examiner’s report.
In his report earlier this month, Graff cited the litte girl’s case and called for more thorough home assessments in kinship care, mandatory orientation training for caregivers, and better appraisals of risks to the child’s emotional and physical well-being prior to placement.
On Monday, Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir said the government accepted the recommendations.
Ganley said she’s willing to look at better safeguards for kinship care, but that it must be balanced with concerns from indigenous communities about children going to families outside of their community.
Serenity’s death remains under police investigation.
One of the dogs, an eight-month-old that appears to be a mixed-breed husky, suffered skull fractures and lost an eye as a result of the beating while the other dog required care for less serious injuries.