An Edmonton foster motherhas beencharged with second-degree murder following the death of a three-year-old boy in her care, touching off several provincial investigations.

The child died late Saturday night after being rushed into the Stollery Children's Hospital from a west-end home early Friday morning.

A 32-year-old woman whowas the boy's foster motherwas also charged with assault causing bodily harm andfailure to provide the necessities of life.

The foster mother is being held in custody until a court appearance on Feb. 5. An autopsy of the boy is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

'Absolutely a tragedy'

Children's Services Minister Janis Tarchuk said she hasordered a special probe into the boy's death that will involve external experts.The province will alsohold a fatality inquiry, which is done when a child dies while in the province's care.

"This is absolutely a tragedy. It's a very sad day for Albertans," said Tarchuk. "My heart goes out to the family and friends of this young boy."

NDP Leader Brian Mason said Monday he wants Tarchuk to go even further and examine the shortage of foster parents and social workers.

"We do not have enough social workers working for the department to provide support for the foster parents and to provide protection for the children. And I think that the cuts that the government has made over the years has very likely contributed to this situation."

Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services, the agency responsible for the foster-care system in the city, will also hold a review.Edmonton family services is responsible for some 1,600 children in foster homes.

Spokeswoman Cheryl Oxford would not comment on the boy's death, except to say other children from the home weresafe. The association will be providing "any supports necessary" to the victim's family, she said.

Oxford said the screening process for foster parents is rigorous in both the application process and during the time that someone is a foster parent.

With files from the Canadian Press