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Alberta preliminary hearing begins for 2 accused in Serenity’s death

WATCH ABOVE: The people responsible for the well-being of four-year-old Serenity, who died after being in their care, are in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin Tuesday for two caregivers who have been charged in the death of a four-year-old Alberta girl.

Serenity died in Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital in September 2014 after she was admitted 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.”

READ MORE: Serenity’s caregivers face criminal charges

The man and woman were charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life for Serenity. They cannot be named because it could identify Serenity’s two siblings.

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Serenity was put in the care of the two accused through the government’s kinship care program although they later became permanent guardians before she died.

In 2017, Serenity’s mother told Global News that 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 death pushed Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate to call for better safeguards in kinship replacements. But Serenity’s mother said she is losing hope there will ever be justice.

“I feel like we — me and my daughter and her siblings — have been pushed to the back burner. I feel we are not a priority,” Serenity’s mother said.

“You should feel pretty hopeful and I just don’t. I feel like they’re failing Serenity still. I feel like they’re failing her siblings and me too.”

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Last year, she said given all the reports and the medical findings, the accused should have faced abuse charges as well.

None of the charges against the accused nor the allegations of the mother have been proven in court.

READ MORE: Serenity’s mother vows to fight for change as caregivers’ case goes to court

WATCH BELOW: (From January 2018) Two caregivers charged in the death a four-year-old Alberta girl named Serenity appeared in court 

Caregivers charged in connection with Serenity’s death back in court
Caregivers charged in connection with Serenity’s death back in court

Serenity’s mother and siblings are slated to be witnesses in the case when it proceeds to trial. She said she wants to see changes to protect other children from suffering.

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“I hope this makes a big change for other children,” Serenity’s mother said.

“I hope that what I’m going through, what my children are going through, and what Serenity had to endure — I hope all of this isn’t for nothing. I hope my fight for my children helps other children because they need it.”

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READ MORE: Serenity’s mother at Alberta legislature as UCP reintroduces child welfare bill

Serenity’s mother and other family have also fought for legislative changes they feel would protect children like Serenity.

In December 2017, Serenity’s mom 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.

The bill died on the order paper.

READ MORE: Alberta introduces legislation to better protect children in government care

In October 2018, Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee proposed legislation that would see First Nations notified if social workers were thinking of removing an Indigenous child from a family’s care.

It would ensure that a study would be done of a child’s home and cultural connections before any private guardianship application were approved. There would also be new streamlined guidelines for social workers to follow when deciding whether to place a child in government care.

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— With files from Global News reporter Fletcher Kent and The Canadian Press