Anew foster mother nowcharged with second-degree murder in the death of a toddler had six children in her home last December, CBC News has learned.

Two were her biological children and four were foster children, despite the fact that she had only been a foster parent for a few months. New foster parents are normally licensed to care for no more than two foster children.

Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services spokeswoman Cheryl Oxford would not comment specifically on the case. She said exceptions can be made for new foster parents to care for as many as four foster children, especially if it means keeping a sibling group together.

"The policy for foster care children in the home is two for a new foster parent and four for a more experienced foster parent. The only exception that can be made is [for] a sibling group."

Child died Saturday, foster mom in court Tuesday

Athree-year-old boy in the 32-year-old woman's care was taken to Stollery Children's Hospital from a west-end home early Friday, and died Saturday of head injuries.

Court documents filed by the Edmonton Police allege the foster mother assaulted the boycausing bodily harmbeginning onDec. 5 — the day she began to care for him — until Friday.

She is also charged with unlawfully abandoning or exposing the child to danger. She can't be named under Alberta's Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

The foster mother appeared in court Tuesday morning wearing leg shackles and handcuffs and showed no emotion.

"She's coping as well as she can, but she's having a very hard time," said her lawyer, Shannon Prithipaul. "Her family is backing her 100 per cent,and she has friends in the community and they're all very concerned about her."

Prithipaul also asked the public to be patient and not judge the accused too quickly, saying there is another side to the story that will eventually come out in court.

Six children in the home after Christmas

Between Christmas and New Year's Day, the foster mother was asked to take in another three foster children, sources tell CBC News.They were siblings, two teenagers and a nine-year-old.She agreed to take them in for just one night, but they stayed longer.

Sources say it was too much forthe woman, whotold officials she couldn't handle having so many children in her house.However, theytold her there was nowhere else to send the children, say the sources.

One teenager stayed for a few days andthe other teenfor a week and a half.The nine-year-old remained in the woman's family until last Friday, the day the three-year-old was rushed to hospital with critical injuries.

All the children inside the home have since been apprehended by Children's Services.

Maureen Braun, chair of Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Local 006, which represents child-care, family and social workers, told CBC News earlier this week that there are simply too few foster parents for too many foster children, and social workers are left scrambling to try to hold the system together.

Children's Services Minister Janis Tarchuk has called the tragic death an isolated incident, but she has also ordered a special probe into the boy's death that will involve external experts.