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Sask. children's advocate calls for changes after baby's death
Published Thursday, October 13, 2016 12:05PM CST
Saskatchewan children’s advocate Bob Pringle is recommending changes following an investigation into the death of a baby.
The two-and-a-half-month-old boy, who is referred to by the pseudonym “Aiden” in the report released Thursday, died late last October from bronchopneumonia after contracting a bacterial infection.
According to the report, Aiden and his twin sister were born prematurely in August 2015. He was in the neo-natal intensive care unit for one month after his birth and was released with no medical concerns, apart from being a vulnerable premature newborn.
Aiden and his sister were the youngest of nine children in their family. The report says the family had various involvements with Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services prior to his death for issues related to domestic violence, substance abuse, lack of child supervision and the use of inappropriate caregivers.
The investigation revealed that, on numerous occasions, concerns were raised about the care that Aiden was receiving, his living conditions and the level of supervision in the home.
The report says Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services indicated it had received calls and made inquiries into the safety of Aiden and his siblings. But it says the agency stated that no action was required, other than forwarding the file to support programs in the community.
“In assessing whether this was the proper course of action, we discovered intake and investigation processes that lacked rigour and an inadequate operational framework for the provision of ongoing protection services when children remain in parental care,” reads the report.
The report concludes that the children’s advocate cannot determine with absolute certainty that any additional services could have prevented Aiden’s death, as the illness that claimed his life is unpredictable and can arise suddenly in infants.
“What we can say is that it is clear the family required significant support to recognize Aiden’s unique vulnerabilities and meet his particular medical needs,” the report states.
“Aiden’s birth brought the stress of the unexpected arrival of premature twins to a family who was already struggling in many ways. These circumstances made Aiden inherently vulnerable.”
The report makes five recommendations to the Ministry of Social Services and Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services:
1. That Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services, with the support of the Ministry of Social Services, ensure that, any time risk to children is identified, the following provincial policy and procedures are adhered to:
• Proper assessment of risk using an objective risk tool and to assess risk before any course of action is taken
• Proper documentation of the assessment of risk
• Clear documentation of risk rating with commensurate case planning in cases where risk is substantiated
• Establishment of a structured and ongoing monitoring procedure for reassessment of risk to ensure consistent safety, protection and well-being of children
2. That Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services, with the support of the Ministry of Social Services, develop and implement training that incorporates:
• The use of a risk assessment tool with commensurate structured mentoring to assist staff in application of the tool
• Critical thinking skills and their application when assessing risk
• Examination of the totality of the circumstances related to risk
• Proper file documentation
3. That the Ministry of Social Services work with Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to ensure clarity between the three bodies as it pertains to understanding prevention services in the context of the mandate under the Child and Family Services Act
4. That Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services, with the support of the Ministry of Social Services, operationalize its definition and process of family service delivery to meet the intent of Sections 5 and 14 of the Child and Family Services Act
5. That, under the current framework of the Child and Family Services Act, the Ministry of Social Services increase its knowledge and understanding of the manner in which all First Nations child and family services agencies operationalize their prevention and protection services