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The death of Serenity is the line in the sand folks.
We realize no matter who we hire nothing will change in the GOA or public bodies.
We have to be the change that is required.
We need to join up and change the political party every single election until we get change in the culture of government which is where the problem is.
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  • My comments
    No child should have to go through what serenity went through. An innocent baby....
    Change, the rights of children, the rights of families, children being abused and no justice for them or their families. WE NEED CHANGE
    Children depend on all of us and if we don't speak out we are just as guilty
    I have grandchiildren NO child should ever ever have to go thriugh what this tiny bb did
    Justice for this sweet angel Serenity. Bless her little soul. LOVE AND PEACE ❤
    The perpetrators who molested and killed Serenity need to be jailed. The social workers who failed to protect Serity need to be publicly identified and fired.
    cause we need justice
    From: Velvet Martin
    Date: January 18, 2017 at 9:36:25 AM MST
    Subject: 3rd attempt. Follow-up Proposal for Premier Notley regarding Human Services

    A member of the Public shared the following letter with me below.:

    I am reminded of the Previous Government's handling of circumstances. Opposition Leaders publicly recommended my inclusion in the Child Welfare Roundtable and were ignored. A renown paediatrician offered expert input as an individual in contact with many children attached to the System, but was excluded. What changes have we seen stemming from the Roundtable? Our youth continue to die! And, they will continue to perish until there is concerted efforts to add public voices and ensure ALL individuals are held equal before the law.

    Why is this Minister not listening?

    Velvet Martin

    (The recommendations I made over a month ago and request for inclusion are also attached.)

    "Dear Honourable Irfan Sabir:

    I read this article today in the paper. I am quite concerned about the panel because in my opinion it's missing the most important experts, namely: 

    - Adult Children of the System (a survivor of abuse in foster care)
    - Bio parents who have lost a child in the system
    - Foster parent that is caring for children at risk. 

    Text book experts are great and I agree they are needed, but only experience can truly tell the story of the magnitude of suffering that occurs as a result of government decisions. It's the recommendations of those that have suffered of the system that most need to be addressed and heard. It is after all those in the system that we are supposed to be serving and those in the system that deserve answers. I hope this government will be blatantly honest about the problems that have occured. That instead of sweeping issues under the rug to save face, that our government has the courage to tell the truth. Only in the truth will the problems be solved. 

    I kindly request as a citizen of Alberta that your panel invite those that have suffered in the system to be active in the creation of solutions to the problem. Thank you."

    January 11, 2017

    Dear Premier Rachel Notley and Politicians previously included in correspondence; as well, the Office of the Child Advocate:

    I am following up with recommendations submitted mid-December 2016 to determine when discussion will occur?

    I am tenacious and will achieve goals with or without support of current Ministry. Respectfully and sincerely, it is more productive to work with me.

    In addition, I wish to raise an issue regarding missing youth and make recommendations. The bulk of disappearing youth are from the foster care system. A Manitoba article cites 4/5 children as those missing from care. 

    Here in Alberta we have (at least, last tally) 795 confirmed child deaths tied to the foster system, yet how many MORE might there be amongst those who are missing? 

    Are statistics maintained for missing children and youth in care? If not, why? 

    At the Fatality Inquiry for Kyleigh Crier, the young troubled girl was awol from her group home. Staff failed to report her missing. Kyleigh's lifeless body was discovered only by chance 12 hours after being last seen. What efforts will arise from this tragic event to ensure punctual reporting of missing children? 

    How many murdered and missing Aboriginal persons are, in fact, children/youth from the foster care system? We can do better.


    Velvet Martin,

    Founder of Samantha's Law
    Spokesperson for Protecting Canadian Children 

    copywrite@Velvet Martin2017

    December 15, 2016
    Honourable Premier Notley,

    As you may be aware, I was approached by a division of Human Services recently to garner input into training of social-workers; particularly those serving clients with special needs. I have attached a copy of the recommendations presented to Roxanne Gerbrandt, Executive Director of Disabilities and Kim St. Jean, Provincial Training and Workforce Development. The scope, however, only remotely touches upon issues which need to be examined. Nonetheless, all efforts can be considered positive so I look forward to further conversation and working with both individuals in the New Year. In addition, I provided supportive documentation of theories and legal perspective which was given to me reflecting the 50+ recommendations I bring forward for consideration.

    I openly copy correspondence to several differing Legislative Party members: Heather Workman, Marie Renaud, Greg Clark, Dr. David Swann, and Nathan Cooper as I have had opportunities to meet with each of these individuals on various occasions throughout the years and respect their opinions, beliefs and intent. I do not mince words; you will also notice that I exclude members of the PC team as I do not share those same positive sentiments towards the Party. The Conservatives of Alberta served families for a span of 4 decades and while doing so, hid 685 child fatalities from the public until forced to disclose statistics when journalists divulged the truth. Any bodies which attempt to promote an air of concern for children to support an agenda geared towards crushing current Government does not warrant either trust nor respect.

    Today I am writing to you to request a meeting in person to discuss recommendations. It is well-documented that the public is quite distressed by the amount of children whom have died in care of the Child Welfare System. I feel it is imperative for leaders to converge amongst parents, caregivers and other authorities to address issues. I have worked strenuously and studiously to develop feasible solutions. I base insight dedicated listening efforts, years of research and participation with families. I have done so without the benefit of funding nor compensation for time. Previous Government disallowed families from partaking in conversation which is entirely disconcerting and unrealistic. Obviously, dedication to preserving lives was not a priority. Here, I must interject and amend sentiments because I do feel Manmeet Bhullar was an exception, an individual who truly cared. Unfortunately, we lost a good advocate far too early alongside others including, Weslyn Mather.

    It is my opinion that previous Government should be investigated and held accountable for the failure of our Province’s youth. Consensus is widespread amongst the public. Online and paper petitions number in the thousands calling for independent investigation of former members. Signatures include Politicians, Chiefs, Lawyers and Well-known Organizational Leaders. Copies have been presented to 2 MLA’s however, the issue remains unaddressed and needs to be visited with Policing Authorities.

    Remaining most prominent the issue - at this time - beyond blame, is the need to stop senseless, tragic deaths of our children. And, when I speak of “our” children, you are aware that amongst the 795 lives lost, this becomes most personal to me as one of those persons was my only daughter, Samantha Martin. Since the 10th anniversary of death on December 3rd, we have witnessed far too many other losses of life; babies, children and youth. Eerily, similar events and circumstances unfold repetitively. For the general public increasingly aware, the fatalities are a glaring reflection of lack of commitment to our children. For a mother who has experienced loss firsthand and sees the same mistakes made over and again, distress at injustice is all-consuming. We must strive now in unity to stop failure once and for all.

    In January 2007, I submitted several recommendations to the Government under Minister Janis Tarchuk. Amongst those implemented by the Ministry were the ones I made, however, the Department failed to acknowledge the work as my own. Media even questioned origin of content so obvious the fact recommendations did not align with the case it promoted as basis of change.:

    Alberta will implement foster care recommendations: minister

    CBC News

    June 10, 2008

    Janis Tarchuk, Alberta's minister of children and youth services, is promising to follow all eight recommendations of a report into foster care in the province that was prompted by the death of a three-year-old foster child.

    None of the recommendations refer directly to the case that led to the review. The department has refused to discuss the details of incident, citing privacy rules.

    In addition, I was directly informed by a member of the Department that CYFA FSCD Policy was thoroughly explored and adjustments made due to Samantha’s case to ensure families tasked with disability and medical concerns without intervention issues would be protected in the future. Section 2-3 of the FSCD Act was revised and made retroactive to December 2006 reflective of Samantha’s date of death; revision is noted in the Manual as indicated. However, no one to date since 2008 has acknowledged the truth that the revision was legitimately attributed to Samantha and need be proclaimed a House Bill, “Samantha’s Law.” Again, thousands of signatures were summoned in support of naming FSCD section 2-3 properly. I cannot put into words strong enough how betrayed I feel.

    The importance in providing a short section name to a Bill is a simple title assists the listener in linking legal terminology and increases awareness of intent. Similarly, I call on this Government to honour: "The Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program to have separate legislation from that of child protection services." Short title, "Samantha's Law" in explanation of "Section 2-3 of Family Supports for Children with Disability (FSCD) of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFA)."
    Due to past failure to legitimatize efforts by previous Government, I have secured my work with a lawyer prior to submitting ideas to Human Services.

    It is sincerely not my intent to garner recognition for myself, however, my child’s life was stolen and I will not permit her legacy to be withheld from her too. I have lost years and wages to assist families, doing the work the Government is responsible for. No one has been held accountable for insurmountable injustices waged upon Samantha and my surviving children. Samantha was a child with significant medical needs due to a rare genetic condition. I proved that she had not been presented to any medical practitioner for 3 years. Neither did Department Representative perform face to face visits for periods up to 14 months. As with Serenity, the child currently discussed widely in media, she similarly was unattended by Ministry for nearly a year. These are not failures of the past, but a continuing pattern betraying the lives of vulnerable children today.

    Let’s put aside our differences and establish true, concrete measures in unity to help the children. There is nothing more pressing than the future of our youth. I guarantee, implementation of core principle - equal application of law amongst System workers - will result in reduction of tragedy. As well, public appreciation and respect for a Governing body who demonstrates that it values families, dignity, safety and justice.


    Velvet Martin

    Recommendations for Policy and Training in Human Services – Consultation with Velvet Martin

    December 1, 2016

    The following recommendations and insights have evolved over years through observation and research.

    Background: I have been with the Family Advisory Council of our Rehabilitation Hospital since its inauguration a decade ago and served as Co-Chair for several of those years.

    For the past 10 years, I’ve worked in rehabilitation with families whose children and youth have medical and developmental diversity. Prior to that I was employed in a child care centre educated as a support aide. I cared for my mother who was afflicted with dementia in the last years of life and have viewed great over-lap in both pediatric and geriatric needs and themes.

    My daughter, Samantha Martin, was born in 1993 with a rare genetic condition, Tetrasomy 18p, causing global developmental delays and physical conditions such as epilepsy.

    The portion of the CYFA, FSCD Section 2-3 Manual Amendments occurred in response to my child’s history and death retroactive to December 2006 reflecting Samantha’s date of passing, December 3, 2006.

    1/ I strongly suggest reinforcement of existing CYFA FSCD Policy. Ministry representatives must refrain from directing families with medical or developmental diversity to relinquish guardianship or incarcerate loved ones as a means of accessing funding for required services.

    Whether it is the parent or a child with disability related issues. *

    Access to supports must be equal amongst natural families, adoptive and kinship homes. 

    Measures must be taken to ensure follow-through of supports are met satisfactorily. 

    No loving family of a child with developmental or medical diversity should be coerced into relinquishing custody neither temporarily nor permanently. 

    Caseworkers must refrain from advising parents to quit their careers. Families must not be forced to choose between employment and maintaining custody of their child.

    Families must not be discouraged from adoption in effort to maintain government funding for required medical, therapeutic and respite services.

    Even where out-of-home placement may be a necessity to secure proper services and maintain safety of the child and other family members, stipulation of custody must not factor. Where no issues of maltreatment exist, families must be regarded as the child’s primary guardian, best advocate and support. There is no basis to forfeit guardianship when achieving medical help.

    Beyond dignity, it is problematic that divulging weaknesses to System workers does not guarantee support. I know of several families in dire need of services who have been denied due to a caseworker’s interpretation of Policy. It appears that when a Supervisor is consulted for guidance, the potential client is dismissed in favour of the Ministry employee without hearing the applicant at all. There needs to be consistent application process instead of random worker acceptance or denial. As well, a method of recourse where disagreement exists. Complaints arising over and again about certain workers are a red flag indicative review is warranted. Attaining support should not be so difficult nor random. 

    2/ Some families are wary of approaching humanities for support for fear of being perceived weak. There is just cause to feel vulnerable when disclosure of struggles can lead to apprehension of one’s child if a caseworker lacks understanding, is indifferent or interprets circumstances wrong. There are families - both parent and offspring - who are going without vital services, medical care and supports for fear of custody being targeted.

    3/ *It is ridiculous to assume increased funding to the System is a viable solution to correct existing problems. Substantial Studies exist to conclude that it is more cost-effective - and humane - to support natural families with services directly. Additional monies do not reach children who are the intended recipients.

    Provision of funds result in increased apprehensions. Rather, existing funds must be better allocated to preventative programs promoting family unity and wellness in the community honouring core values as with Jordan's Principle and Samantha's Law.

    4/ Protective legislation for vulnerable children, our elders and disabled population remains largely archaic and requires continuous upgrading to be both effective and compliant with human rights. 

    5/ Consultation with natural families is a must in regards to medical decisions; particularly surgical intervention and administration of medication.

    6/ Culture must be embraced and diversity respected. We have situations in which the System appears to better support some cultures and religious beliefs over others. For example, translators are generally available to those who speak French, however, non-existent for the Cree Community.

    Catholic Priests are frequently allotted to sick or dying individuals, yet families with other beliefs are denied equal access to Traditional Healers. 

    The cutting of hair to some individuals may appear to be a simple matter of style preference, however, for other families, it denotes wellness and is key to survival. This is not only a culturally sensitive issue, but also one that may be highly significant to a child with special needs where the cutting of hair accentuates microcephaly, thus increasing prejudicial perception of diversity.

    7/ Death is another highly sensitive area that needs to be met with extreme diplomacy. We have children in the System dying and their bodies cremated without consultation or permission of family.

    Children with disability are frequently amongst those individuals who die in care of the System. Deaths are frequently dismissed as natural, not taking into consideration that the child may have missed opportunities for presentation to medical providers who could have preserved life. Having a disability or medical condition does not necessitate a short life-span and should not be perceived as automatic cause of death without supporting medical background.

    8/ Organ donation is permitted amongst children who die in care under current CYFA guidelines. This is a tremendously dangerous area for potential exploitation. Amongst some traditional Aboriginal families, it is highly sacred for the body to return to the earth whole.

    Religious or non-religious values of families must be respected.

    9/ Clear definitions and approval of who will be and who is qualified to administer medications to a child must be addressed.

    This includes any alternate caregivers such as babysitters, nannies, daycare workers, foster parents, respite and kinship placements.

    10/ Electronic recording of medical involvement will better alleviate potential duplication of services. This can also help to flag repeated injuries being unnoticed where a child is presented to various health professionals or hospitals.

    *It may be advisable to create a new position for oversight of medical follow-up. A worker in each Region could be assigned the task of accumulating educational and medical documentation for a child in care and be responsible for careful review of data to ensure safety and consistency. Regular meetings between the worker accumulating information should occur to advise caseworkers of discrepancies within a child’s file.

    11/ Currently, while advisable, it is left to the discretion of a caseworker whether or not they choose to take time to review a child’s full history. Key opportunities are being missed. For example, a caseworker was not aware of the depth of a youth’s mental health considerations which resulted in the individual being failed. The child had a history of self-harm, which included a previous suicide attempt prior to a successful one. Such integral information should be automatically made a priority amongst the Department.

    12/ Permanent maintenance of medical and educational documentation in which the child will have open access to upon adulthood.

    13/ Access to a second medical opinion must be available to families. 

    Intuition is a strong indicator that something is wrong - families generally are keenly aware of what is usual for their child and what is not - therefore, concerns need be taken seriously and medical intervention followed-up.

    14/ Consultation with families regarding education, culture, religion.

    Families should have access to educational reports and equal partners in decisions affecting the child. Reunification should always be primary aim and a parent who is well-informed will be better equip to assist their child in the future.

    15/ All individuals under Ministry Direction must be required to undergo stringent protocols prior to administration of anti-psychotic, stimulant and type medication. Cardiac assessment should include an ECG and ultrasound of the heart to determine whether or not a structural defect or rhythmic disorder exists.

    Children in care comprise a great sum of pediatricians’ caseloads. Many children in the foster care system lack a solid, readily accessible medical history or continuous advocate. It is crucial rule out predisposition of serious health conflict with treatment.

    16/ Statistical data: Does Child & Youth Services maintain annual statistics on frequency of pediatric visits for children under direction of Ministry?

    Word of mouth by foster parent must not be the sole source of communication. It is necessary for caseworkers to follow-up with physicians, therapists and educators directly to ensure treatment is being routinely accessed and whether appropriate for the child. 

    Is data available to determine whether or not physician recommendations are carried out?

    If so, what does data demonstrate? If not, Ministry needs to collect such pertinent information.

    17/ Accountability for all injuries that transpire in care.

    Significant injuries as well as any which are repetitive need be screened by a physician who is well-versed in detecting scenarios of neglect and maltreatment.

    18/ Family members who express concern for a loved one's well-being must result in review of suitability of the placement.

    19/ Where an allegation of wrongdoing within a placement occurs, it is necessary to observe and speak directly with the child without the foster parent present. Frequently, the foster-parent is consulted beforehand providing opportunity for skewed response. Often the child excluded from discussion.

    Review of a foster home that has been brought to the attention of Human Services should be done without alerting the placement.

    20/ Where language is a barrier, a translator need be employed.

    Similarly, if a child has a disability complicating communication, a social-worker skilled in ASL is to be utilized.

    A supervisor with the Ministry stated, “It is not like I can just ask the child what they want.” “Why not?” I inquired. Many individuals with developmental challenges and minimal vocabulary have a stronger capacity to understand. It must not be assumed that a person does not have an opinion nor is unable to participate in decisions due to verbal limitation. If we make efforts to communicate by offering augmentative devices and take time to listen to persons with disability, it is evident that response is possible. Excluding children with disability from conversation is a prejudicial stance that must not be tolerated.

    In a similar vein: We must ensure that caseworkers granted authority are trained adequately to form qualified observations and be capable of good decision-making. A couple - parents of a newborn - were approached by workers because both mother and father have Cerebral Palsy and there were concerns about the family’s physical ability to parent. The assigned caseworker was out of touch with medical issues and inquired whether she, herself, might “catch" CP or whether the baby would "develop" the condition.

    Any life-changing decisions must be performed with great caution by diligent, experienced, competent authorities.

    21/ Clear definition must exist regarding who will provide care to a child, including respite.

    Policy surrounding respite care must be improved. It was disclosed during a fatality inquiry for an infant that the foster home had 9 children within at the time of death; 2 of which were babies. Discussed was the fact that it is only advisable, but not necessary for foster home and respite foster home to both consult with their foster care support workers prior to children being placed in respite care.

    Nor is there any set length of time metered for respite care. Where a foster placement is licensed for a certain number of children, that cap needs to be adhered to.

    All persons interacting with a child alone should undergo stringent screening and be qualified for emergency situations. Criminal and Child Welfare clearances, First Aid, CPR, Medicine Administration and any other courses individually required - for instance, violence intervention - to ensure standards are met.

    Kinship homes must be prioritized and compensation on par with established foster care rates.

    Currently, some grandparents providing kinship care are doing so without the benefit of financial support; causing hardship. These individuals are well-aware of tactics that have been used to deter families from requesting compensation, fearing their loved one will be removed and placed with a stranger.

    22/ I, myself, was approached by Ministry to care for 2 children with special needs for “a couple of days.” The family was in crisis so we opened our home and hearts. Since I had been employed with the children previously as their community aide and a respite worker, the Government deemed me a “kinship placement” - which I feel was inappropriate - and I feel it was done as a cost-effective measure because both I and the children’s financial entitlement was reduced to reflect a kinship placement rather than foster home. The children stayed with us for 3 and 6 months and when I contested reduced pay and support services, was told that the Department could simply move the children into a foster home.

    The children had previously received intervention supports for psychiatry which were denied to us. A caseworker actually told me that all children require is a stable, loving home and basically stated, psychology is bunk science.

    One child required surgery which had a 90% chance of recovering hearing according to audiologist, and the parent supported the procedure, but the Department refused. I was informed that once the parent resumed custody, they could seek medical attention and incur any costs. I cannot express how strongly I feel the child was cheated. In the long-run, the expenses related to education of a deaf child pales in comparison to early intervention that could spare a central sense.

    The children were a sibling group of 5 and their caseworker promised visits. None transpired unless I took initiative to meet with the family members.

    No visual inspection of my home was performed, simply a verbal check-list of questions relating to safety practise.

    I found the experience both frustrating and enlightening. Declarations by previous Ministry to the Public insisted out-of-home care for children is exceptional and stringent. I saw from both sides - as a service recipient and provider - how and why children fall through cracks and have the potential to come to harm within placements not adequately monitored.

    Imagine, our infant girl was removed from our care in effort to achieve funding for necessary medical care otherwise denied us, a natural family. And, then were presented with 2 children with medical needs, lauded for parenting skills and paid to provide care. Mind-boggling.

    23/ Housekeepers/nannies within a foster home must undergo screening prior to placement and must not provide duties of care to children with disabilities unless fully accredited with equal level of training as that of the primary foster-parent(s).

    Some families are resorting to social media applications to locate staff. Another disconcerting, possibly dangerous practice.

    Coaches, drivers, babysitters, tutors, etcetera, all should be screened. 

    24/ Timely access to Supervisors and Managers. Specified lengths of time for response written into Policy and readily communicated to the Public.

    Where disagreement with a caseworker exists, the Worker should be obligated to the family to inform of steps to resolve issues. For example, how to reach a Supervisor and who that individual is, Management, and so on. Sadly, not all workers are equal, nor willing to be helpful. I was personally told, “You’re smart, Velvet, google the information and figure it out.” Families are not educated in Policy nor Law and require guidance and direction to make positive, informed decisions.

    25/ The Program, “Wednesday’s Child” geared towards finding “forever homes” for “difficult to place children” breaches CYFA Policy. The Manual clearly indicates that no child receiving Government services shall be publicly identified. The Penalty for infraction is a $10 K fine or 6 months imprisonment.

    Ban on publication

    126.2(1) No person shall publish the name or a photograph of a

    child or of the child’s parent or guardian in a manner that reveals

    that the child is receiving or has received intervention services.

    Children are being aired on CTV television and internet on the Government of Alberta website much the same as rescue animals. The practice is highly improper and dangerous. Advertisement of vulnerable individuals online allows anyone - including pedophiles - with access to media, opportunity to view images and video footage; ability to select a child under Government care by gender and age. It is a breach of privacy and only a matter of time before a child will be stalked and come to harm. Subsequently, a law suit will erupt in which the Government will be responsible.

    26/ Increased partnership authority and decision-making amongst agencies supporting children to assure a transparent, impartial platform of intervention is accessible. The Office of the Child Advocate, Ombudsman, Métis Child & Family Services, Creating Hope Society, Law Society of Alberta, Justices, Physicians, Educators and Families should be consulted and due merit attributed to recommendations. Independent reporters aside from Government workers must have the ability to make weighted recommendations to the Legislature and the Public directly.

    Very little headway can be made where neighbouring consultants’ recommendations are unheeded.

    Similarly, recommendations stemming from Fatality Inquiries are frequently repetitive of Policy that exists, but continues to be unenforced. True recommendations that will be more effective will include deterrents and consequences for negligent practice.

    *27/The Child Advocate is reviewing court decisions following Fatality Inquiries. However, this is insufficient. The Advocate needs to be attending all child fatality inquiries in person. If that is not possible, a new position must be created to ensure recurrent themes are caught and dealt with to prevent future tragedies.

    28/ Should a Child under Ministry Direction in the Province die, Investigation by the Office of the Child Advocate need continue until issues surrounding death are resolved.

    In neighbouring Provinces, the Advocate continues its investigation of circumstances. The same is not true in Alberta where once a child dies, investigation ends and internal review is the sole mechanism for response to issues.

    The Child Advocate or a designate of the Office should attend all Child Fatality Hearings. The overlap in cases becomes quite mind-boggling as one begins to see repeated themes arise.

    29/ A mandatory Service Plan for the child must exist and be reviewed consistently.

    30/ FACE to FACE visits with a child are a must.

    Increased frequency of visits should occur amongst young children and those with complex health needs. 

    A vigil for a young child in the Province recently occurred. It was discovered that her kinship placement had not been attended by a caseworker in 11 months. The child was underweight and had sustained shocking abuses.

    *It is important that we not attribute blame to the practice of kinship placements. Generally, extended family is the best next option for a child when the parents are unable. However, we must not allow any individual caring for a child, special treatment. As invasive as home studies and routine visits may appear, they are a necessary component of maintaining safety and prioritizing security for the child.

    Again, lack of follow-through with visits by authorities is a repeated theme; although Policy clearly outlines visitation schedules and recommendations are repeated by Judges in Fatality Inquiry Reports, these conditions continue to be unmet and consequences for negligence evaded.

    My own daughter, had not had a face-to-face visit with her caseworker for periods extending up to 14-months. Record-keeping was described as “skeletal.” Neither had Samantha presented to a physician despite having a rare chromosomal duplication syndrome demanding frequent medical attention. I was assured that routine medical care was transpiring and visits were regular. Concerns for my child’s health were both belittled and unheeded. My daughter weighed but 49 pounds at the age of 13 and although her school was reporting similar worries, no follow-up occurred.

    I later learned through social-media that the caseworker and foster woman are online friends. I feel that familiarity distracted from the worker’s performance of duty which subsequently lead to the destruction of Samantha’s health. Samantha was identified throughout her life by various professionals as an individual experiencing seizure activity. The foster woman denied the condition existed. The caseworker was made aware and investigation for treatment was recommended, but she failed to follow-through, nor disclose the condition to us, the family, legal guardians. Samantha suddenly became ill, fell into cardiac arrest and succumbed on December 3, 2006. The Medical Examiner remarked it probable that heart failure was the result of a seizure event.

    The child’s interests came last in favour of a relationship between System workers. This was a preventable tragedy that must never be permitted to happen to any other vulnerable person.

    31/ Random visits to foster-placement and should be encouraged. These need not be invasive. The purpose is not to dissect a possibly untidy home, but to visualize the child and ensure their health is solid.

    32/ Reunification with natural family should be supported wherever applicable. 

    Kinship placements must be prioritized and correct supports put in place to manage the child's needs equal to that provided to a foster placement. Several cases involving child fatalities hinged upon a kinship home being granted approval. Ironically, for at least 3 families, approval reports came too late and the children succumbed in care to events of negligence and trauma amongst strangers.

    CYFA and Criminal Record Checks are not lengthy processes and should not take several weeks to complete. There needs to be improvement in the processing of kinship homes with emphasis on priority.

    33/ Natural families must have consistent access to allow siblings, grandparents and other relatives opportunity to benefit from interaction.

    34/ Dignity and respect for the natural family must always be stressed.

    Some families have additional burdens to overcome, including generational challenges that may involve poverty, substance abuse and other dire conditions, but it must always be stressed that authorities are expected to be professional, considerate and respectful.

    35/ Zero tolerance for bullying, intimidation or limiting natural family access to a child.

    Penalty should be in place for abuse of authority. Foster placements who are not supportive of the child should be educated and subsequent infraction, culminate in removal of the child and closure of the placement with subsequent complaint of parental alienation.

    Caseworkers must not threaten removal of a child as a means of pressuring kin from requesting supports.

    36/ Founded endangerment of a child in foster care should result in closure of a placement.

    Where concerning reports stemming from random individuals exist, but cannot be definitively proven, the home should be red-flagged and monitored closely. Where various, independent reports are continuous - whether definitive proof is available - workers should consult with children in the home, error on the side of caution and close the placement.

    37/ Falsification of a placement's capacity should result in penalty and any subsequent event, closure.

    For instance, an adult in a foster home - such as a grown natural child - may be designated an additional caregiver to provide respite services. However, little follow-up is attributed to whether the individual is actually present in the home - or - it is actually the primary foster parent who is caring for more children than licensed to on their own.

    To reiterate: At present, while foster homes are designated by Levels of experience which dictate number of children may reside in the placement, there are no concrete regulations surrounding respite. There are also loose restrictions regarding the amount of time a foster family can provide respite to children. This is neither safe nor fair to children who require affection and attention.

    38/ Monies and belongings must accompany the child upon leaving a placement.

    Unaccounted for items should be the responsibility of the placement and anything not recovered should be compensated by Human Services. 

    39/ Special equipment such as a Disability Placard, wheelchair, incontinence supplies, etcetera, are to accompany the individual when moving from a placement.

    By law, items, such as Government-Appointed Disability Placards for travel are NOT the property of either a foster placement, nor Child & Youth Services, but the individual whom it was issued. The individual has a right to use their property and not have it withheld from them.

    It has been my experience that Social-workers and Managers do not all adhere to Policy nor interpret it equally. Some Authorities favour a foster placement's stance on belongings above the needs of the child to avoid confrontation. However, withholding a child's right to safe travel is illegal and cannot be tolerated.

    In addition, responsibility for return of equipment rests with the individual who was entrusted it on behalf of the vulnerable individual. Thus, alleviating the person – to whom equipment has been assigned – from being wrongfully penalized.

    40/ Currently, AADL designates equipment to an individual in need. However, it is understandable that an individual who requires such apparatus as a wheelchair likely does not have the means to return property themselves. If a foster placement chooses not to return equipment, the person who requires it is not permitted any other. This is a troubling reality that further plagues vulnerable persons who have no recourse. This is a Practice that requires review and new Policy to protect the rights of all vulnerable persons, including our increasing population of elders.

    41/ Upon the death of a child under Ministry Direction, the surviving family should not be denied access to medical records. To state that guardianship ceases to exist upon death is a cruel, inaccurate estimation of the child-parent bond.

    Under current FOIP Policy, family can be denied access to documents citing invasion of the child’s right to privacy even where the child has died due to the actions or negligence of a third party. FOIP Legislation must not prohibit the failed child from achieving judicial accountability. Nor should kin be prevented the right to historical documentation and locate closure.

    42/ Increased communication between Ministries must transpire.

    Ministries must work collaboratively and be aware of circumstances affecting its employees in surrounding divisions. Example: If a fostering parent is being reviewed or under investigation within Human Services, those issues should be resolved prior to entrusting the same individuals to significant Funding Grants provided by, for example, the Ministry of Education. 

    43/ Continued efforts to support families whose children are transitioning into adulthood are necessary. The process is rocky and disjointed and although individuals tend to require similar supports, availability is lacking.

    The move to reduce FSCD supports at age 16 in anticipation of transition is largely unproductive and detracts from potential learning opportunities leading to decreased chances of more successful outcomes in adulthood.

    Foundational purposes often function contrary to reality.

    44/ Protection of persons from retribution who – in the absence of malice - allege abuse or neglect of a child.

    Whistleblowers in the humanities - Human Services, Education, Health - must be free to report without threat of loss of employment by Administrators.

    45/ Penalty in place for Representatives of the Ministry who fail to focus on the Child, causing a child to become a victim – or potential victim - of harm through negligence.

    Where more than a single offense occurs, removal of title and position.

    My daughter’s caseworker received no consequences for failure to maintain records, visit and ensure medical care was achieved. Lorna Huff, ironically, now functions in the role as inter-provincial criminal record check personnel; monitoring and tracking the actions of members of the Public who work with vulnerable persons.

    46/ Should a child suffer harm, including loss of life while under Ministry Direction, the Government should issue a formal apology to surviving family to acknowledge pain and suffering.

    47/ A child who dies under Ministry Direction must be provided a service and memorial marker to commemorate importance of life. The financial responsibility lay with Government.

    *ACHIEVED in July 2014: 

    48/ Review of Legislative Practice to allow surviving families to choose whether or not to submit to a Publication Ban surrounding the death of a child in care.

    A child should not suffer death and be robbed of identity as well.

    Nor should the Public be denied opportunity to celebrate life and mourn loss. Particularly, where it is in the Public's best interest to learn from circumstances surrounding death to prevent recurrence. Education cannot be gained when processes remain opaque.

    *49/ Repeatedly, I have been informed that there is no forum in which to address conduct infractions of Ministry employees. The sole mechanism in place that remotely touches upon issues which culminate in the death children is a Public Fatality Inquiry.

    Contrary to assumption, Public Fatalities do not necessarily automatically occur. This was a platform that I battled to achieve and from which, discussion of violations raised did not result in ramifications despite proven wrongs.

    I believe the System has an obligation to children to address judicial deficit and recommend channels be created to reflect the impact of negligent acts against victims.

    50/ Paid counsel for survivors of government malfunction is a beginning suggestion. Currently, foster placements who have allegations of wrongdoing against them are provided council free of charge through AFFA. The Department has a team of lawyers to represent its interest. However, children who have been failed in life - the focus of Inquiry - are not appointed professional legal representation. **

    51/ Duplicity in application of Law: Failure to Provide the Necessaries of Life. *(Note distinction between failure to provide necessaries of life from failure to provide the necessities of life.)

    Precise wording of section 215 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada:

    Every one is under a legal duty
    (a) as a parent, foster parent, guardian or head of a family, to provide necessaries of life for a child under the age of sixteen years;
    (b) to provide necessaries of life to their spouse or common-law partner; and
    (c) to provide necessaries of life to a person under his charge if that person
    (i) is unable, by reason of detention, age, illness, mental disorder or other cause, to withdraw himself from that charge, and
    (ii) is unable to provide himself with necessaries of life.

    In recent times, a surge in charges for failure to provide the necessaries of life has been trending. However, what is most disconcerting is the fact that these criminal charges are only being applied to natural families. Whereas, Government employees - foster parents/group homes - found to commit similar or worse activity are excluded from culpability although contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada.


    Jefferson Curran was a 7-year-old boy with special needs under a TGO. The mother, Wendy Curran, did not learn of her child's death until a week later. "Jefferson had already been cremated without her knowledge or permission."

    On July 31, 2012 Jefferson Curran and two other children were taken to the O'Leary Leisure Centre pool by a group-home worker. The adult caregiver left Curran to fend for himself while taking the youngest child to a wading pool. 

    "He entered the pool in water over his head," said inquiry lawyer Mona Duckett. "He was unsupervised and he was not noticed by patrons or guards during the period he drowned."

    Criminal charges have not been filed. The Government, acting as the parent, owes a duty of care to the child to pursue criminal charges against the group home.

    Conversely, an Edmonton Crime Report dated June 30: 

    A 2-year-old girl, Jade MacDonald, drowned in a storm water pond in Morinville last summer. Her parents, Trevor MacDonald, and Robin MacDonald have been jointly charged with one count of failing to provide the necessaries of life. 

    It was on July 25 last year, during a family outing, that the toddler wandered away while playing with her siblings. A short time later, Mounties found her lying face down in the pond.

    - and -

    Ezekiel Stephan,

    Three more Alberta cases of failing to provide necessaries of life 

    In the Ezekiel Stephan case, the 18-month-old child was ill for a period of 2-1/2 weeks. The parents attempted to treat him at home with natural remedies. The child appeared to be healing, but suddenly collapsed. An ambulance was dispatched, however, it did not have suitable equipment available. The result was the child was without oxygen for an extended period leading to eventual death.

    Yet, Samantha Martin, 13 years - a disabled child with known medical conditions whose sole purpose of being under an Agreement with Ministry was to achieve access to funding for extraordinary medical care - was not presented to any physician for 3 years by her foster parents, Richard and Joanie Himschoot. Despite professional medical instruction for investigative follow-up, both foster placement and social-worker did not comply.

    The caseworker, Lorna Huff, a representative legal guardian of the child did not visit as per CYFA Policy for durations up to 14 months. Clearly there is a disparity in application of law where similar events transpire although authorities handled the cases of Samantha Martin and Ezekiel Stephan glaring disproportionate to the guidelines under Criminal Law surrounding Necessaries of Life. In contrast, the parents of Ezekiel Stephan, appear to have acted diligently, benignly nursing their ill child over a short span of time and sought medical intervention when it suddenly became evident that conditions warranted urgent attention. Tragically the boy succumbed to medical misadventure. 

    The main difference: One child was residing at home with natural parents, while the other child was accessing supports for extraordinary medical needs under Direction of Government care.

    52/ An Investigative Representative with Edmonton Region 6, declared to me directly that the Department is unwilling to take action against its own, considering foster parents employees. However, affiliation or title is not an excusable exception to lawful practice. A prudent parent is expected to attend medical appointments; particularly when a child has extraordinary medical needs and where directed by professionals. The expectation should not differ due to Government affiliation.

    53/ I strongly recommend closure of any foster home found to have caused fatal harm to a child through abuse or negligence. 

    A home that is known to have several children die within its care or those who succumb shortly following have been in its care should be considered extremely suspect and undergo stringent investigation with interviews of children in the home past and present.

    In instances where significant harm or death of a child occur, I strongly suggest that a worker who fails to protect a child’s interests through negligence in adhering to Policy, be dismissed from title and duty.

    Blind devotion to employees of the ministry - where friendship exists amongst foster parents or group home staff - must not allow a Caseworker, Supervisor or Manager's personal feelings to render them incapable of performing duties effectively and without bias.

    Instead of securing medical documentation and pursuing discussion with other observers in the child’s circle of care, a caseworker may dangerously rely upon the foster-placement for critical data and the consequences can and have been disastrous.

    Negligence maintaining Department Policy contributes to key themes in the deterioration of a child’s well-being. 

    Lack of respect and non-adherence to the premise of family unity makes for a poor candidate in the role of social-work.

    54/ The FSCD (Family Support for Children with Disabilities) Act was amended retroactive to Samantha Martin's death for December 2006.

    However, since cases of misdirection by workers and the Court are still developing, it is clear that Legislation is not being adhered to.

    In turn, this means there is either a lack of awareness that needs to be addressed by Supervisors - or - some Caseworkers are choosing to ignore Policy. In either circumstance, continued ignorance must not be tolerated. Families and children remain at risk of alienation and destruction if efforts to prevent over-lap between children with disabilities and the child intervention model is not honoured.

    55/ It is crucial that official establishment of the short-title, "Samantha's Law" come to fruition. Obviously, I am pleased that the Alberta Family Support for Children with Disabilities Act under Section 2-3, Manual Amendments: Policy and Procedures in Family-Centred Supports and Services now exists. "The Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program to have separate legislation from that of child protection services." 

    However, still lacking:

    a/ Rightful attribution of Legislation to the Child whom Amendment originates, Samantha Lauren Martin, June 4, 1993 - December 3, 2006.

    b/ A recognizable title for ease of identification and reference in explanation of FSCD's Manual Amendment of Section 2-3.

    I call upon this government to honour the premise of family-centered care: "The Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program to have separate legislation from that of child protection services." Short title, "Samantha's Law" in explanation of "Section 2-3 of Family Supports for Children with Disability (FSCD) of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFA)."

    56/ All interactions between Child Welfare Agencies would be best recorded for clarity; to prevent discrepancies or misuse of authority. As with Police who conduct interviews under camera, Child Welfare Authorities need adapt similar mechanisms to better enhance practice and avoid misinterpretation.


    58/ Issues discussed are widespread and universal. Across the Nation, struggles to eradicate prejudice and ensure all persons are honoured as equals continues. As per AACL, 70% of children in care are comprised of those with special needs. Of this population, 40% of the children are Aboriginal. More than 1 in 4 children in care miss medical appointments according to Government statistics.

    Although I have spent hours that have accumulated into years benignly providing insight, at no time have I received either recognition for Policy changes that were adapted from my work, formal apology, nor offer of compensation. I have incurred lost time from paid work and family life, expenses in attending court sessions and courses, supporting projects and families, drafting legislation, educating, travelling to vigils and conferences as a speaker; all in effort to propose feasible solutions that can begin to correct deficits and better protect both human rights and lives.

    The recommendations have been accumulated through several years of documented personal experiences, voluntary efforts, research, listening and observation. These are factual and candid. I look forward in contributing as a consultant to the Ministry in implementing strategies to ensure Policy is up-to-date and adhered to. Continuous training of workers who are invested in positive outcomes for children and families can and will ensure positive results.


    Velvet Martin,

    Founder of Samantha's Law

    Spokesperson for Protecting Canadian Children

    A professional legal opinion in response to my recommendations:

    In my opinion, #28 & 29 are particularly important.
    The CYFA used to require the preparation of service plans and filing in court. First they removed the need for filing in Court, then they removed the need for even making a service plan.

    I think that a good recommendation would be that a service plan must be made within a certain time frame, the service plan must be filed somewhere, such as in Court and the service plan must be accessible by the public, the family and the Children's Advocate, especially if there is a death or serious injury. This is important to ensure that the person was receiving the services that they wee supposed to receive. For Samantha, she was supposed to be having medical check ups and she did not. that should have been in the service plan and when she died it should have been clear to everyone that the worker breached the service plan.

    Another important recommendation would be that whenever a child dies in care or suffers a serious injury, that a lawyer chosen by the child's family be paid by the Government to assist the family with a fatality inquiry or to investigate if a lawsuit is appropriate. It should be done fairly, so the lawyer should be paid the same amount as the lawyer for Child Welfare. In Samantha's case, there was a Fatality prosecutor and Child Welfare had their own lawyer. Samantha (you) should have had a lawyer too. 

    In my opinion, the biggest problem that exists is not something that can be fixed by any law or regulation. The problem is the attitude of the system from workers to managers to the Minister to the Judges. The attitude is to protect the government and not to make the children's well being the priority. I do not know how you can change attitudes. It's like Robin Camp, the judge who made biased sexual assault comments. How many Judges have biased views about the ability of child welfare to protect children.

    I would make one more recommendation.

    Every child who has been ordered into the care of the system ought to write a letter to the Judge when that child leaves the system. Telling the Judge how the Judges decision affected that child's life. One big problem is that Judges have no idea how the system harms children. They have this paternalistic view that they are helping children when they remove them and put them into the care of the Government. WE know that is a wrong view in many instances.

    Attachments and Links supporting information provided:

    1/ Section 2-3 of Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program, under authority of Section 106 of the Child Welfare Act.

    2/ Manual Amendments to FSCD

    3/ Submission to the NSW General Purpose Standing Committee No. 2 inquiry into the role of the Department of Family and Community Services in relation to child protection - Brian Cooper, Project Officer with A Canadian Perspective written by Velvet Martin page 3 - 9

    4/ DCF Routinely Takes Custody of Kids With “Specialized Needs” : Data

    5/ From Protection to Inclusion by Bruce Uditsky and Anne Hughson

    6/ Letter from Premier Rachel Notley July 28, 2015

    7/ Ontario Ombudsman: Nowhere to Turn - Facts and Highlights

    8/ “Where’s Ontario’s humanity” mom asks

    9/ An Open Letter to the Police From An Autism Dad (And A Cop)

    10/ Quit job or put son in foster care; Kaleden father’s difficult decision

    11/ Parents with disabilities want support, not stigma



    In 2012, a single parent suffering with progressive MS approached Human Services for physical assistance to help care for her two young children. She was given the option of adoption so she pursued advocacy through media. Outrage erupted and services were provided. Further headlines did not follow, however, I kept pace and the outcome was ugly: Once articles discontinued, Government Representatives informed the parent supports would not continue. The mother fled the Province to avoid having her children adopted to strangers. This is a sad and shameful statement about how we treat ignore human rights amongst individuals with medical diversity and disability.

    12/ More Than One In Four Foster Kids Miss Required Checkups

    13/ Social Media demonstrates personal relationship between social-worker and foster woman

    14/ Samantha Martin - Samantha’s Law

    15/ Petition

    16/ Children who die with connections to the Department must be appointed professional legal representation in a Fatality Inquiry.

    ** Rachel Notley and Kent Hehr both kindly submitted letters supportive of the initiative prior to Samantha Martin’s Fatality Inquiry and this theme needs to be revisited for success in the future.

    Im signing this cause I understand what the pain feels like with having your child takin away for no good reason and FCS NOT HELPING THE FAMILY STAY TOGETHER...MY DAUGHTER'S NAME IS SERENITY AND SHE IS 15 IN CARE....SO I WILL SUPPORT THIS AND AS WELL AS BE A VOICE!!!!!
    I know the family very well and what has happened wasn't deserved and could have been prevented. #justiceforserentity