Social worker gap not accepted, Phoenix Sinclair inquiry told
A five-month gap in social workers' visits to the family of Phoenix Sinclair is not "accepted practice," a former supervisor said at an inquiry into the girl's death.
Angela Balan, a former child and family services (CFS) supervisor in Winnipeg, testified on Wednesday about the time Phoenix was returned to her biological parents, Samantha Kematch and Steve Sinclair, in September 2000.
Phoenix Sinclair inquiry blog
Read the latest entry from the CBC's Katie Nicholson, who is covering the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry:
- Nov. 28: Quality control
The inquiry has heard that the parents had to sign a service agreement with Winnipeg CFS that required regular visits from a social worker, in part because of Kematch's violent background and Sinclair's history of substance abuse.
A social worker saw the family when Phoenix was returned to Kematch and Sinclair, but another social worker who was later assigned to the family's file did not visit them until five months later, in February 2001.
"That period of time of a gap in lack of contact would not be accepted practice or good practice," Balan told the inquiry on Wednesday.
Balan added that it appears the second social worker did know enough about the family.
A family support worker was visiting the home, but Balan said that does not take the place of a social worker.
Had contact with other supports
When inquiry counsel Derek Olson asked Balan for an explanation behind the five-month gap in visits, Balan said the family had contact with other support resources.
"They had contact with the income and assistance department as well, around financing," she said, adding that the parents were also in touch with the Boys and Girls Club.
"There were a number of other people that were in contact with this family on a regular basis and … if concerns would arise, that they would contact the agency."
Balan said she did not know the second social worker, Delores Chief-Abigosis, was going to university full-time while working at Winnipeg CFS.
Chief-Abigosis testified earlier this week that she was taking a full course load at the time, and that was why she did not try to make contact with Phoenix's family on weekends and evenings.
"Had I known that, I would have certainly wanted to take a look at that and consider it," Balan told the inquiry.
The Phoenix Sinclair inquiry is looking at how Manitoba child-welfare officials handled the five-year-old girl's case.
Phoenix spent much of her life in and out of the child welfare system before she died in 2005 — shortly after she was returned to Kematch, who by then was living with common-law husband Karl McKay.
Kematch and McKay were convicted in 2008 of first-degree murder in connection with Phoenix's death. The girl had been neglected, confined and repeatedly abused.
Inquiry hearings resume on Thursday.