Thursday, March 05, 2009

Canada: Bad News from Alberta Foster Care

The Edmonton Sun reports that a child in foster care was suspected to have inflicted head injuries, and the prognosis is not good.

The story includes on an exchange of views in the provincial legislature about the safety of the province's foster care program. It's probably not a good sign that the person in charge seems to consider this as a matter of routine: "Whenever we have a serious incident like this we always do a special case review...”

Hopefully, the inquiry will look into the circumstances that led to the injury and make some recommendations for change. One obvious question to ask is whether foster caregivers who care for infants have received training about the causes, consequences and prevention of SBS in young children and how they can cope...

It's not the first time this has happened in foster care, but effective recommendations for prevention training could be the beginning of the end.

Alberta has some excellent SBS education resources (Health in Action coordinates the Alberta SBS Prevention Campaign) , but they won't help if the caregivers don't get some effective training.

Alberta baby seriously injured in government care
NDP says foster home over-crowded

EDMONTON — Police are investigating after a baby in foster care was seriously injured Monday in a quiet community just east of Calgary.
Children’s Services Minister Janice Tarchuk confirmed in the legislature Thursday that the 14-month-old boy was gravely injured while in the province’s care.
“We do have a small boy that is in our care that has been taken to hospital with serious injuries,” Tarchuk later told reporters.

However, New Democrat Rachel Notley got a tip and told the legislature Thursday that she’d heard the baby’s injuries were life-threatening.
She also said a reliable source said the boy was in an over-crowded foster home.
“Will the minister admit that this very recent tragedy occurred in a government-approved foster home that had been allowed to exceed the maximum number of children in care?” Notley asked Tarchuk in assembly.
The minister would not confirm the overcrowding. But Tarchuk said this incident will be reviewed.
Whenever we have a serious incident like this we always do a special case review,” she said. “I think at this point, we’ll let the police proceed with their investigation.”
Notley said her “third-hand” source told her the baby had been shaken to the point of being seriously injured and at one point the infant had been placed in life support.
Notley said this incident raises serious questions about the state of foster care in Alberta given that a young boy died just two years ago after being abused while in care.
In early 2007, a three-year-old Edmonton boy died while in foster care and the foster mom was later convicted of manslaughter.
“And we knew it was because there were too many kids in that foster home,” said Notley, who challenged the minister on a government review into the toddler’s death.
“The recommendations were made a year ago and they should have acted on them by now,” said Notley. “It’s unforgivable.”
“They’re studying while people are dying and that’s all we’ll ever get from this minister,” she said. “That’s why we need a public inquiry run by someone who doesn’t answer to this minister.”
Tarchuk said she could not speak about any of the specific details of the case. But she said the province’s review of foster care was very extensive and found the system in good shape.
The recommended changes, which will be fully implement by summer, include six-month interim licences for new foster parents and tighter controls on how many children are allowed in each home, she said.
But Notley slammed the review, saying it appeared to have been orchestrated by the government as a public relations exercise.
“We’ve had nothing but smoke-and-mirror type reviews that were staffed by hand-picked, government-friendly officials,” she said. “It is time for us to look into how we are treating our children in care and to get it right.”
“We can’t afford to have kids who are in our care dying and being injured. It’s outrageous.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's probably not a good sign that the person in charge seems to consider this as a matter of routine: "Whenever we have a serious incident like this we always do a special case review...”

The truth in that simple statement, is frightening in its clarity!