Alberta's child and youth advocate believes the child welfare system failed a 14-day-old infant who died in 2012.
Del Graff released the results of his investigation into the child he calls “Baby Annie” on Monday.
“Regretfully, in this child’s circumstance, although there were many professionals involved, valuable information was not shared among them," Graff said in a news release.
"The system needs to work better for vulnerable children.”
Family well-known to care workers
The little girl's family was known to Alberta Child Intervention Services. Her four older siblings were wards of the province and the family had a history of domestic violence.
Annie's parents abused drugs and alcohol and had a history of neglecting their children.
Despite this history, the mother was allowed to take Annie home 17 hours after giving birth, without a plan or special supports in place.
Two weeks after her birth, Baby Annie stopped breathing and died. The medical examiner found the cause of death “undetermined.”
However, she had lost weight and had pneumonia. Traces of anti-anxiety drugs were found in her system.
Investigation reveals gaps in system
During his investigation, Graff learned 11 different doctors had prescribed the mother almost 5,000 pills during her pregnancy, including Tylenol 3 and diazepam.
“The ease with which [the mother] was able to refill multiple prescriptions over an extended period of time is of serious concern,” the report states.
Saying the province needs to become more proactive, Graff made five recommendations for improving the care of the province’s vulnerable children, primarily focusing on improving communication between departments responsible for monitoring children like Annie.
“One of the key themes is multiple service providers who aren't talking enough with each other to get a full sense of what's going on in a family – and that's critically important,” said Graff.
He also said both the College of Pharmacists and College of Physicians and Surgeons should do a better job of sharing information to avoid over-prescribing.
However, Wildrose Human Services critic Kerry Towle said the province needs to do more.
“Mr. Graff’s report is truly heartbreaking and exposes some serious gaps in Alberta’s child welfare system as well as ongoing government failures to remedy them,” she said in a statement Monday.
“Current legislation prevented social workers from conducting a safety plan prior to Baby Annie’s birth, even though her family’s history of drug abuse and violence is well documented,” she said.
“In light of Baby’s Annie’s tragic death, the Alberta government needs to step up their efforts to eliminate these gaps in the system and get vulnerable and innocent children the protection they deserve.”
Baby Annie’s parents declined to meet with the child advocate for the investigation.
The report gives no details about where Baby Annie and her parents lived.