Mother of young Alberta girl who died after being in kinship care shares photos of her final days

Serenity. Supplied to Global News

WARNING: The photos in this story are graphic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally indicated Serenity died while in kinship care. However, on Oct. 6, 2017, Alberta’s Ministry of Children’s Services clarified that although it was through the kinship care program that she was put in the care of the man and woman now facing charges, they were later given permanent guardianship, meaning Serenity was no longer in kinship care. It was at some point after this development that Serenity died. 

The mother of a four-year-old girl who died in Alberta is sharing newly recovered pictures of the girl with the public and police.

Serenity died in Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital in September 2014. Her mother, whose name will not be published, took pictures of her daughter on a cellphone camera about four days before she died. She weighed just 18 pounds.

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“It shows my four-and-a-half-year-old in a coma,” Serenity’s mother told Global News on Thursday.

Serenity’s mother said her cellphone suffered water damage and she’s been carrying it around with her for more than two years in hopes she would find someone who could recover the pictures. She was finally able to retrieve them this month.

READ MORE: Mother of 4-year-old Alberta girl who died in kinship care speaks out: ‘They completely ignored me’

Serenity’s mom said she was grateful she was able to recover the photos, but added it was an emotional moment.

“I was pretty sad. It just brought me back to one of the worst times in my life. But at the same time I was grateful because if I wouldn’t have recovered them I wouldn’t be able to give them to you guys or the RCMP.”

Serenity’s mother told Global News in December the girl and her two older siblings were taken away from her after she was assaulted by Serenity’s father. After briefly being in the foster system, the children were left in the care of family members under the kinship care program.

READ MORE: Alberta’s child advocate calls on province to do more to protect kids

News of Serenity’s death emerged in late 2016 when Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate called for better safeguards in kinship placements.

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Serenity died in 2014 after being taken to hospital with a head injury. According to the Edmonton Journal, hospital staff noted she had bruises all over her body, including her pubic and genital area. Global News has not been able to independently verify these claims. A report by Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate also said doctors noted Serenity had bruises at various stages of healing and was “significantly underweight.”

Serenity’s death raised serious questions about how Alberta manages the treatment of children in government care. An all-party committee has since been formed to explore the circumstances around Serenity’s death.

READ MORE: Alberta government setting up all-party committee to examine child’s death in kinship care

“I think it’s a good thing,” Serenity’s mother said of the panel. “I think they really need to take a really good look into it. They need to take a look at social workers, everything. The whole nine yards. They need to take things more serious.

“I’m thankful that something’s being done about it I just kind of wish that it didn’t take my daughter in order to do it. But it’s going to save a bunch of lives I think.”

A criminal investigation into the girl’s death was launched and her mother said Thursday she was told by the RCMP that the investigation is ongoing. She has provided the recovered photos to investigators.

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“I’m just hoping that out of everything the children who need the care get proper care that they need,” she said.

“I’m grateful. I think Serenity has changed a lot and I’m really thankful for that.”

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said Friday she could not comment on the investigation other than to say “the case is with the Crown.”

Ganley said she has seen the pictures of Serenity.

“Those photos are incredibly troubling. I think they’re troubling to all Albertans.”

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