SOR #2 (HSC social worker)
Monday, November 19
Dr. Gary Altman spent between 45 minutes and an hour with Samantha Kematch and Steve Sinclair one September day in 2000.
The psychiatrist testified today that he was only asked to determine whether Kematch suffered from depression.
At the time, Altman was doing some consulting work for Winnipeg Child and Family Services (CFS). He would periodically meet with foster parents and other clients referred to him by the agency.
Unlike when he would see a medical consult, Altman was not asked to file a written report to the CFS agency after each session.
Rather, he was just expected to have a verbal debrief with a social worker and share his impressions of the client in question. The CFS worker would then incorporate his views into a summary -- often weeks after the fact.
With a system like that in place, it isn't surprising that the doctor did not wholly agree with the CFS account of his assessment of Kematch.
Altman carefully chose his words today, taking some long pauses and
reluctantly agreeing that maybe he didn't have all the facts he needed.
But as was pointed out numerous times during his time on the stand, Altman wasn't there to assess whether Kematch was fit to parent. He was just asked to figure out whether she was depressed.
Altman did take exception to the CFS record that stated he didn't think Kematch needed any further assessments. He said he did not remember saying that.
Altman also expressed concerns that Kematch and Sinclair's relationship might be troubled. He was worried that their sex life, commitment level and ability to parent as a unit might be compromised.
Those points never made it into the CFS report of his assessment.
We also heard Altman didn't exactly have a wealth of knowledge upon which to base his assessment. He did not have access to CFS files that explained why Kematch's first child was taken into care.
He also had not read Kematch's own child in care files, which reveal that at 14 years old, the troubled girl had an eating disorder, would hoard food, and was possibly depressed.
It was also revealed at today's hearing that around the same time Phoenix had been returned to her parents, they were drinking heavily and smoking a lot of dope.
No one -- not their CFS workers, nor the psychiatrist -- knew that Phoenix was already in troubled waters.
With CBC's Katie Nicholson where an inquiry is trying to figure out how a little girl fell through the cracks.