Alberta faces renewed questions on safety of kids in government care

A four-year old girl named Serenity was living in the home as a ward of the government when she died in 2014. File photo

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. 

Opposition leaders say Alberta’s children’s services minister should resign over reports that biological children are still living in a home under investigation in the death of a child in kinship care.

Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee says no children under government care are in the home.

Ongoing monitoring of the biological children has shown they are safe and are not being mistreated, she says.

“If there had been any identification of safety concerns, (the biological children) would have been removed,” Larivee said Tuesday.

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

A suggestion that having children in a home where the adults are being investigated puts the kids at risk prompted Larivee to reply that a criminal investigation is still ongoing. For now, she said, she must rely on reports that the biological children are not in harm’s way.

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The case involves a four-year-old girl named Serenity. Her death has elicited criticism and concern of the provincial child welfare under Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP and the Progressive Conservative government before that.

Serenity died in 2014 after being taken to hospital with a head injury. Since details of her case became public late last year, the minister in charge has been shuffled out of the portfolio, a new Children’s Services Ministry was created and Notley struck an all-party panel to come up with how to improve the system.

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

Ric McIver, who leads the Progressive Conservatives in the house, said no children should be in the home – biological or otherwise.

“What could possibly have been more important that you couldn’t be bothered to ensure (the safety of) kids in the same place where the brutal end to Serenity’s young life took place?” McIver asked Larivee during question period.

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Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean echoed McIver’s remarks.

“We need some answers … and we want to make sure that Alberta does whatever it possibly can to take these children that might be in harm’s way out of harm,” Jean said outside the legislature.

Both said the minister should resign.

READ MORE: Wildrose calls for emergency debate on ‘secrecy’ surrounding death of child in care

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark told reporters: “There’s absolutely no way that there should be kids in that home.”

Serenity, born to First Nations parents, died despite previous concerns from her birth mother that the child was being abused.

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.”

In the two years following her death, there have been delays and secrecy over her autopsy as well as about police and government investigations.

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No one has been charged.

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