An emergency debate occurred in the Alberta legislature after a four-year-old died in an Edmonton hospital, emaciated and injured horrifically.
The case has raised some serious questions about the Alberta child welfare system, as the girl was in a kinship placement with relatives on a central Alberta reserve.
Four-year-old Serenity weighed just 18 pounds when she died of what was reported by the Edmonton Journal as “a severe and horrific brain injury” in September of 2014.
Wildrose opposition leader Brian Jean called for an emergency debate and answers from Premier Rachel Notley Monday, criticizing what he called a “system that operates in secrecy” after a newspaper report found the Alberta government withheld key details about the death of a child in kinship care.
“This goes beyond partisanship,” Jean said. “We need to make sure we get to the bottom of it so something like this cannot happen.”
The NDP said it supported the motion for an emergency debate and the speaker of the house acknowledged there was unanimous consent to proceed.
The Edmonton Journal obtained autopsy reports on the 2014 death of a four-year-old girl named Serenity. The medical records showed signs of physical and sexual abuse and that she suffered a massive brain injury.
Last week, Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff released a report into the death. It called for, among other things, more comprehensive home assessments and training for caregivers. However, the autopsy details were not included in the report.
“Where was the report from the medical examiner?” Jean asked in question period. “Where was the report from the justice department? And why didn’t the Child and Youth Advocate present the full picture of Serenity’s life in care?”
Notley said the details were withheld in order to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation by police. A cause of death has not been released in Serenity’s report. Notley also said that while nobody who read about Serenity could help but to be “moved and deeply troubled” by the girl’s story, her government was addressing concerns about children in government care.
“We are continuing to do the work that we think is necessary to improve the role of the provincial government in protecting all young people in the province,” she said. “A lot of work has already happened since that particular tragedy took place but it doesn’t mean that it’s done. It’s not done. It’s ongoing and we all have to work together to bring about success.”
Kinship care involves children being taken from parents and placed in the home of other family members.
“Serenity was not taken care of,” Jean said in the legislature. “Serenity was physically and sexually abused by those who were supposed to take care of her.” (KLM, with files from Global News)