Legally, the appearance wasn’t incredibly significant, but it was very important for the group of people sitting in the back of the courtroom, one of whom clutched a picture of a four-year-old Alberta girl who died three years ago after being in kinship care.
Lawyers for the two people charged following the 2014 death of Serenity told a Wetaskiwin court on Thursday that they’re still trying to sort out some disclosure issues.
Serenity’s mother, the girl’s paternal grandmother and several other family and friends watched the brief proceeding and afterwards, told Global News they’re frustrated.
“I just don’t know what to expect. I come here hoping for a good outcome but it keeps getting put over. I just don’t know what to expect,” Serenity’s mother said.
Neither Serenity’s mother nor the accused can be named. The accused were also guardians of Serenity’s two siblings and in order to protect the children’s identities, no names can be published.
A 55-year-old man and a 56-year-old woman have been jointly charged with one count of failing to provide the necessaries of life. She died in Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital in September 2014 after she was admitted with a head injury. A report later described her as malnourished, bruised and severely underweight at the time of her death. She was put in the care of the two accused through the government’s kinship care program although they later became her permanent guardians before she died.
READ MORE: Serenity’s caregivers face criminal charges
The child’s death became public last year after Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate called for better safeguards in kinship placements. Last year, Serenity’s mother told Global News Serenity and her two older siblings were taken away from her after she was assaulted by Serenity’s father. After spending a brief time in the foster system, the children were left in the care of family members under the kinship care program.
Serenity’s mother now lives in B.C. but has returned for both of the accused’s appearances.
“It’s hard coming back here and seeing multiple delays because my kids matter to me,” she said after court. “It’s hard coming back here in general, seeing where everything took place.”
Serenity’s mother is also disappointed with how the justice system has handled her daughter’s file.
She feels that given all the reports and the medical findings, the accused should face abuse charges.
The mother added that her two other children have told her they were victims.
“They still talk to me about the abuse here and there, and no charges have been laid with their abuse, and I think it’s totally unfair because they were completely malnourished.”
At the time charges were laid, RCMP said the evidence they have supports a joint charge of failing to provide the necessaries of life. No other charges are pending.
Serenity’s mother and other family are also fighting for legislative changes they feel would protect children like Serenity.
Last month, she was in the legislative gallery as a UCP MLA introduced a private member’s bill that would make it mandatory for any adult to tell police if he or she suspects a child is in need of intervention.
Watch below: On Dec. 5, 2017, Tom Vernon filed this report about the mother of a young girl who died after being placed in kinship care demanding the government take action to prevent similar deaths from occurring.
That bill died on the order paper.
Serenity’s mother says she’ll keep fighting for legislative changes as she continues to come to these court appearances, as difficult as that may be for her.
The next court appearance for the two accused is scheduled for Jan. 23.