The Alberta government has dramatically under-reported the number of child welfare deaths over the past decade, undermining public accountability and thwarting efforts at prevention and reform. A six-month Edmonton Journal-Calgary Herald investigation found 145 foster children have died since 1999, nearly triple the 56 deaths revealed in government annual reports over the same period.
This is what the mother of a dead baby remembers. The police came and said her six-month-old daughter, Angel, had died in her sleep at her foster home. The mother ran into the bathroom and filled her palms with panicked tears. She did not believe it.
Alberta’s tangled system for investigating the deaths of foster children is secretive, redundant and fails to ensure recommendations to prevent similar deaths are acted upon, an Edmonton Journal-Calgary Herald investigation has found. The child death review system is governed by two ministries, three different laws, an internal policy document, unwritten conventions and political whim.
Alberta’s ban on publicizing the names and photos of children who die in provincial care is one of the most restrictive in the country, robbing grieving families of their ability to raise concerns in public about the deaths and sheltering government officials from scrutiny.
In a sudden, sickening instant, Sarah knew they were going to take her baby. She was lying in a hospital bed with her newborn daughter, Amy, just 10 hours old. The baby started fussing and she asked the child protection workers to leave for a moment, so she could breastfeed. They refused.
Over the past six months, the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald produced the province’s first definitive count of child welfare fatalities, based on death records unsealed by the Alberta government after a four-year legal battle.