Thursday, November 15
Their daughter was in CFS care, but there was a plan. Winnipeg CFS laid it out for them: if Samantha Kematch and Steve Sinclair attended parenting classes and regular supervised visits with Phoenix, they could regain custody. And there was one other point they had to satisfy: Samantha Kematch had to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
As we learned today, parenting classes and visits were no problem. But there was an issue getting an assessment of Kematch's mental state.
Kerri-Lynn Greeley was the social worker tasked with helping Kematch and Sinclair get their daughter back. For three months, it popped up again and again in her case notes: "Kematch still needs assessment."
One note entry read like a concerned haiku: "Hesitant to return child without the assessment. Not know what is going on with her. Need sense of what return child to."
On Sept. 1, 2000, Kematch and Sinclair moved into a larger apartment on Magnus Avenue to make way for Phoenix's arrival. Even though Kematch had not yet undergone a psychiatric assessment, Greeley decided Phoenix could return to her parents ... but she had some misgivings.
Greeley drew up a service contract between Winnipeg CFS and the young parents, outlining six expectations:
1. Parents to work with public health nurse on issues facing small children.
2. Parents to work with CFS agency to get Phoenix a pediatrician.
3. Parents to meet with CFS workers on a regular basis.
4. Parents to attend and participate in child development parenting classes.
5. Kematch to meet with a Dr. Altman to assess her emotional stability.
6. Parents to co-operate with agency home support worker.
Service contracts, Greeley testified, were used "when there were still issues of concern related to the parents and their ability to take care of their child."
The day the parents signed the contract, on Sept. 5, 2000, Phoenix was returned to them.
On Sept. 13, 2000, Kematch finally got that psychiatric assessment. Dr. Gary Altman met with Kematch and Steve Sinclair at a CFS office. Phoenix was also present.
There is some question as to whether Dr. Altman was given clear instructions from Greeley on what it was she wanted him to look for during this assessment. By Greeley's own admission, there is no record outlining her expectations of the assessment or what she might need to determine whether Kematch was fit to parent.
Altman's own notes indicate he was aware of previous workers' concerns that Kematch might have suffered from depression or mental illness.
According to CFS records of Altman's assessment, Kematch did not appear depressed. Altman did note that she was a "closed book." He indicated that Kematch's "flat affect" was just her style and method of communication.
He believed Kematch may have been sexually abused and expressed concerns about a doctor touching her inappropriately. But Altman felt both parents appeared ready for the responsibility of raising a child.
Kematch and Sinclair, Altman observed, appeared to have a decent relationship.
Following the psychiatric assessment, Greeley wrote a summary. Two weeks later, on Oct. 2, 2000, she left Winnipeg CFS. Records indicate that after Phoenix was returned to her parents, the agency's contact with the young family was practically non-existent.
On Monday, Nov. 19, Dr. Altman will take the stand. He is not expected to dispute many of the points in the CFS summary, but he may challenge some of the nuances.
It will be interesting to see whether he had any reservations about Kematch not reflected in the CFS summary.
With CBC's Katie Nicholson where an inquiry is trying to figure out how a little girl fell through the cracks.