Edmonton mom seeks justice after toddler dies in government care

A grieving Edmonton mother is fearful that child welfare workers will not be held accountable for placing her toddler in an unsafe kinship-care home where he died earlier this month.

Police responded to a call on Dec. 6 about a two-year-old in medical distress. The boy was transported to hospital, where he died.

His mother said she received a call that afternoon notifying her of Brian’s death. She is not being identified because she has two other children in government care.

On Wednesday, just over two weeks after her son died, the mother tried not to cry during a scheduled visit with her other two kids at a children’s services office in southeast Edmonton.

She gave the little ones gifts — a drumming set for her four-year-old son and a Peppa Pig ABC speller for her one-year-old daughter — and they played together for a few hours.

Dressed in a flowery pink jacket, her daughter wore Brian’s grey boots, which she refused to take off.

The visit over, their mom helped them into the car of a government worker with no idea where they would be taken. After they drove off, she collapsed into the arms of two friends there to support her.

“They told me they’re making my kids safe,” the mother, weeping, told CBC News. “No, my kids aren’t safe in there. My kid got murdered.”

Brian’s sister, 1, and his brother, 4, are also in government care where their mother fears for their safety. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Her son’s name was Brian but they all called him Babe. The curious, chubby-cheeked boy was born Feb. 13, 2017.

Homicide detectives have not said how Brian died, citing investigative reasons.

Brian’s mother said she doesn’t know where her other children were moved following her son’s death. 

‘My son is dead because of them, they don’t care where they place my kids, obviously, that’s why my son’s not here,” she said. 

“It’s just another way of them putting Aboriginal kids into foster care, like residential school.”

My son is dead because of them– Brian’s mother

Brian’s mother said she and her son were inseparable, and often took selfies together.

She was working to regain custody, which she lost about a year ago, she said, due to domestic issues with the children’s father. She said she felt hopeful, having secured a place to live, about an upcoming court date next month.

In the months leading up to Brian’s death, the mother said, case workers dismissed fears she raised multiple times that her children were being abused. She took photos of the bruises on her daughter’s forehead. The last time she saw Brian alive was Nov. 18.

“My son didn’t want to leave me and he’s like, ‘Mom, I don’t want to go,” she recalled.

“And I was like, ‘Baby, you’ve got to because I can’t say if you can’t come with me or if you can, because it’s not mommy’s choice.’ And he started crying and I broke down.”

Delay disclosing death

According to the province, 24 youth died in government care between April 1 and Nov. 30, 2020.

The province is legally obligated to disclose all deaths, but as of Tuesday the boy’s death had not been listed. It was added after an inquiry from CBC.

“The update was missed due to human error,” a spokesperson said on Tuesday. “It’s happened before and we’ve changed the process to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Rebecca Schultz, Minister of Children’s Services, said her heart goes out to the child’s family and loved ones.

“I cannot imagine what they are going through right now, and the ministry has offered supports to the child’s family,” she said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

“I have instructed my officials in the Ministry of Children’s Services to assist law enforcement in its investigation in any way possible.”

The province said Brian’s death will be reviewed.

His mother said she has a court date set for Jan. 7, where she will ask a judge to grant her custody of her other two children.

“I want my kids home where I know that they’re going to be safe,” she said. “They took my baby from me, and now they really took him. And now he’s just an angel watching over me.”

Brian’s mom hopes to regain custody of his siblings next month. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

 

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