Children’s advocate highlights concerns over Saskatoon Tribal Council family services after baby dies

23/11/2018 Posted by admin

The Saskatchewan Advocate for Youth and Children is calling for increased co-operation between a First Nation and provincial children services after a baby died while under the protection of Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) Health and Family Services.

Bob Pringle, Saskatchewan’s children’s advocate, released a report on Thursday that highlighted the death of Aiden, whose name has been changed.

Aiden and his twin sister were the youngest of nine children. They were born prematurely in August 2015.

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    Aiden was kept in the neonatal intensive care unit for approximately one month and then discharged to his family. He died 10 weeks later on Oct. 25, 2015 at home.

    Pringle notes that Aiden’s parents, who had at times faced issues of substance abuse and domestic violence, had repeated contacts with family services since the birth of their first child in 2003.

    The report shows the baby missed six scheduled medical appointments, four of which the agency knew about, but the report said the STC Health and Family Services failed to act on.

    Felix Thomas, STC Tribal Chief says he has read the report and finds it somewhat misleading.

    “An instance they said was that they missed a medical appointment, well the parents ran out of gas while going to the appointment. So there’s a lot of back story that’s missing from the report,” Thomas said.

    When STC was advised that Aiden had missed another medical appointment, an agent visited the home and found one and a half month old Aiden, his twin sister and multiple other siblings home alone, with the eldest who was 10-years-old at the time.

    “This was the second time in four months that this worker had witnessed young children home alone,” the report claims.

    When asked why the children were not apprehended by Child Protective Services at this point, Thomas said the information stated in the report is also misleading.

    “There were numerous calls and every time, they weren’t founded to be.. at one point I think [STC] said that [ The Ministry of Social Services] were called in along with the RCMP. By the time everybody got there they weren’t alone so you can’t apprehend,” Thomas said.

    In the report, Pringle said the advocate’s investigation could not determine with absolute certainty whether additional services could have prevented Aiden’s death.

    “However, it did reveal that serious concerns were raised on numerous occasions about the care Aiden was receiving, his living conditions and the level of supervision in the home,” Pringle said in the report.

    Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services confirmed it received calls and made inquiries related to the safety of Aiden and his siblings.

    READ MORE: Saskatoon Tribal Council denies province child welfare files

    Referrals were made to support programs in the community but “assessed that no further action was required and did not monitor or evaluate further risk.”

    During the investigation, the advocate found the Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services did not provide ongoing family services when required and instead continually referred Aiden’s family to community programs without the legislated mandate to address, monitor and assess the risks identified as impacting the children.

    Pringle’s report also found that a month before Aiden’s death, two child protection reports related to his medical care were received but there was either no response from the Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services or an insufficient response documented.

    The report made a series of recommendations, including that the Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services do more detailed assessments when risks to children are identified and have training for staff on risk assessment.

    The report also said the recommendations highlight the importance of the Ministry of Social Services and the Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services understand each other’s prevention and protection services.

    Over the summer, the Court of Queen’s Bench ordered the Saskatoon Tribal Council to provide documents being sought by the province and to give government officials access to inspect the documents.

    READ MORE: Judge rules for Saskatchewan government in dispute with Saskatoon Tribal Council

    Judge Lian Schwann declared the tribal council “is prohibited from interfering with Saskatchewan’s exercise of its statutory mandate under the Child and Family Services Act on the Indian reserves of the defendant First Nations.”

    “First Nations certainly have jurisdiction. We have in the past agreed to co-share that jurisdiction with the province until we find a way forward and that is something that we are still willing to do,” Thomas added.

    “I certainly hope that we continue to receive the cooperation from STC. Working with the seven bands has been on the ground, very good and very positive. The communities have been working very closely with the ministry and it has been a good working relationship,” Natalie Huber, Child and Family Programs Executive Director with the Ministry of Social Services, said.

    First Nations agencies are required to document and keep track of children children in care on reserve. Report are must then be sent to the ministry. But the province said it had to step in because the tribal council wasn’t sharing their information. Including basic information such as who or how many children are in their care.

    “The advocate and the ministry may not agree with our techniques but the fact remains that STC is amongst the lowest in apprehensions but more importantly, in this case, applying and following the ministry’s procedures would not have changed the outcome,” Thomas added.

    With files from

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