Thursday, February 18, 2010

Alberta Mom Turned Foster Safety Advocate

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The following is from the Calgary Sun's Michael Platt

Seven broken bones and years of untreated seizures, seizures which possibly proved fatal. If anyone has a reason to question the safety of foster homes, it’s the mother of the 13-year-old Alberta girl, whose 2006 death is the subject of an upcoming fatality inquiry. “I can’t do anything for my daughter, but if I can save anyone else, then it’ll be worthwhile,” says the 45-year-old mom turned foster safety advocate.

Jane’s daughter died six months after returning to her family, following more than a decade in foster care, where it’s alleged she suffered through abuse, neglect and hunger.

The exact cause of death is unknown, but Jane says she has documented evidence of seizures going untreated since the age of three, seizures that may have led to her daughter’s death in hospital.

Jane, who must use an assumed name due to privacy laws, blames a lack of safety checks for failing to guard her daughter’s welfare.

She’s made it her mission to ensure foster children are better protected.

Learning that a Calgary foster parent has recently been accused of sexual abuse was another kick in the gut.

“I get really irate — especially when they call these isolated events,” said Jane.

In 2007, a three-year-old foster boy in Edmonton died of severe head trauma, after which the province said changes would be made to improve foster safeguards.

Then on Feb. 4, Calgary police charged a former ‘Foster Parent of the Year’ with trying to obtain sex from three kids in his custody.

The charges against Garry Prokopishin, 51, have raised new questions about the social safety net which protects foster children, a safety net that Jane says is full of holes.

Jane’s daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder, and Alberta social services recommended entering their physically and mentally challenged daughter in foster care, where the government could pay for treatment.

“They told us her best chance at life was to live somewhere else,” said Jane.

It meant their daughter lived with a foster family where special care was available.

“They said we were lucky to find someone willing to take her,” said Jane.

As her daughter grew older, signs of abuse started to appear: Bruises that were explained away as accidents, and seven broken bones blamed on brittle limbs, though it’s now known the girl had normal bones.

With boxes of paperwork and medical statements ready for the inquiry, Jane has a report of her daughter vomiting at school, and then being shaken and shouted at by her angry foster mom when she was forced to pick the child up.

The same school reports, shown to the Sun, document odd bruises, scratches and marks over a number of weeks, as well as the child being sent to school in soiled pants, and with a mouldy lunch.

And then there’s the hospital assessment at the age of three, when it was recommended the foster parents have suspected seizures treated.

It never happened.

“She’d been having seizures since her third birthday, and they went untreated — we wondered what kind of stupid pediatrician wouldn’t act on this. He told us foster parents never told him,” said Jane.

In 2006, Jane and her husband, with four healthy sons, discovered they could legally bring their daughter home, something they’d been told was impossible by her case workers.

She blossomed with her family, speaking for the first time in her life and gaining 10 pounds.

But then her health suddenly failed, and the 13-year-old died.

Now Jane and her husband await their day in front of a board of inquiry, hoping their daughter’s story might finally convince someone in government to take action.

In a twist of irony, as Jane waits for the hearing she hopes will change the system, she’s become part of it.

Jane’s job is working with disabled children — as a result, in August 2009, she was asked to provide temporary care for two special-needs foster children.

The children arrived, but Jane says the government case worker didn’t appear for weeks, and even then, she only sat in the kitchen, asking a few questions.

“We didn’t see her for weeks — if we were Charles Manson, who knows what could have happened to those kids,” said Jane.

“Nobody is actually checking to see what goes on in a home. And now I have both perspectives.”


1 comment:

  1. Checks on homes are inadequate at best.Even when a report of possible abuse occurring within a home--it is basically hidden under the rug--children's aids societies will spend more time figuring out how to cover abuse in order to limit liability than actually caring about the abuse and the victim.
    We hear time and time again of horrendous abuse that has occured and continues to occur within our agencies.
    I was raped,beaten,and almost killed while in care.This did not happen within the confines of one place--it happened in several places.I did have good homes along the way but unfortunately I was quickly transferred from those and they never lasted long(another problem--frequent transfers of children from home to home)The Children's Aid has been full with cases of abuse while in care ever since it's beginning.How is it that they can continue to get away with this.It's high time that the government starts protecting children,and holds all accountable for allegations of abuse.John.I hope that your ride for accountability gains much momentum and that all former and current victims of this system stand up and demand to be heard--Enough is enough--we can't change the past--but we deserve to be counted and we deserve accountability--let there be care--now there is only scare!