Mother sues B.C. Ministry of Children after baby dies in foster care
Coroner's report says baby Isabella had fractures, bruises, but cause of death unknown
A mother who says she was forced to hand her daughter over to government care is suing the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development after 21-month-old baby Isabella died while in foster care.
The child was found dead in March 2013, and while a coroner's report didn't determine a cause of death, it did find that Isabella had fractures in her left arm and bruises on her arms, legs and face.
Now, her mother, Sara Jane Wiens, is demanding answers and has filed a lawsuit.
Wiens says the ministry took her daughter away when she was two months old, as they ruled she was unfit. (She has a learning disability).
"They're telling me I can't parent and that I'm dangerous and that I will potentially harm my child and … then they take her from me, put her in a home, and she ends up dead," she said.
But when Wiens raised concerns about her daughter's well-being during supervised visits, she says she was ignored.
"I saw bruises and constant diaper rash, and I brought these things up, but they disregarded them," Wiens said.
On March 16, 2013, police and family services showed up at her door early in the morning and told her Isabella had died while in care.
"I ran outside my back door and I screamed bloody murder and I broke down," Wiens said. "When she died a part of me died."
Wiens said she wants the ministry to acknowledge their system did not work for Isabella, and she wants an apology.
"I've not been able to get over this …. I've been stuck in limbo for two years," she said.
"There are flaws in the system, and they seriously need to be fixed. This is so wrong. No one should have to go through this."
Her lawyer Jack Hittrich said it was a struggle for Wiens to get hold of the coroner's report. He also added Wiens wants to know if Isabella's death and the foster parents with whom she was placed were investigated by the ministry.
The very ministry charged with protecting children essentially sentenced this child to death.- Lawyer Jack Hittrich
"The most egregious part here is … the social workers were essentially ignoring this child in care," he said.
"They weren't supervising the care, so what we have is a child protection system where children are placed with great risk with foster parents who are obviously not properly qualified to look after children and there is no monitoring, no proper accountability.
"It's very reprehensible that the very ministry charged with protecting children essentially sentenced this child to death. Ultimately the buck stops with the ministry."
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s representative for children and youth, said she will consider launching her own investigation after the case makes its way through the court.
"We do have a child welfare system for a reason. We do need foster care and we need safety, but we need to make sure the standards are high and that the families are engaged and involved," she said.
Stephanie Cadieux, the minister of Children and Family Development, said she couldn't get into specifics on the case.
"Short of saying any time a child dies it's a tragedy, and I certainly feel for the mother, for her loss, it's incredibly tragic … I can't speak any more about anything that may or may not be related to the ministry in this circumstance."
With files from Tamara Baluja and Meera Bains