Edmonton

Bereaved Alberta mother fights for resurrection of Serenity's Law

The mother of Serenity, a four-year-old girl who died of horrific injuries after being placed in kinship care on a central Alberta reserve, hopes her daughter's death ushers in new protections for vulnerable children.

'I'm hopeful, but I've been let down before, and so have my children,' says Serenity's mother

Serenity was four years old when she died of severe head trauma in an Edmonton hospital. (Supplied)

The mother of Serenity, a four-year-old girl who died of horrific injuries after being placed in kinship care on a central Alberta reserve, hopes her daughter's death ushers in new protections for vulnerable children.

On Tuesday, the woman was in the gallery of the Alberta legislature as Calgary MLA Mike Ellis attempted to resurrect Bill 216, also known as Serenity's Law. She cannot be identified under provincial child welfare legislation so as not to identify her other children.

Bill 216 would require adults to report to police any child who needs intervention, under the threat of six months in jail or a $10,000 fine. It will be introduced into the legislature after question period on Tuesday afternoon, Ellis confirmed.

Also on Tuesday, Serenity's mother met with Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee.

"It didn't go great at all," the woman said after her meeting with Larivee. "Every time I asked her if she supported Serenity's law, and the children in Alberta, she refused to say yes every time. She basically made up excuses every time."

The law would have helped save her daughter's life, she said. 

"I'm really, really hoping and crossing my fingers that it goes for the best and that this law comes out, because children deserve a chance in life," Serenity's mother said earlier, in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

​The private member's bill, which would alter the Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act, was first tabled by Ellis last December.

The bill never came up for debate.

Even though it was stonewalled last year, Serenity's mother said she remains hopeful the bill will be passed into law.

"It took three years just to get my daughter's autopsy done so I don't think whoever is in charge is too interested in passing this law and it just makes me feel like they don't care about the children here in Alberta, and they should," she said.

"I'm hopeful, but I've been let down before, and so have my children."

This photo of Serenity, taken by her mother, shows how thin the 4-year-old had become. She died several days after this photo was taken in September 2014. (Supplied)

Serenity lived with relatives in a kinship care placement on a central Alberta reserve. Despite repeated reports of abuse, full legal guardianship of Serenity and her two siblings had been awarded to her kinship caregivers, before she was admitted to hospital in September 2014.

The girl was suffering from catastrophic injuries, including a fractured skull and starvation.

She was hypothermic. There were signs of sexual abuse. She died four days later, on Sept. 27, 2014. 

Her mother gained custody of her other two children after Serenity's death.

'I'm not satisfied'

Serenity's caregivers said at the time she had fallen from a tire swing. But a forensic pediatrician determined her injuries were inconsistent with a fall.

Serenity's guardians, a man and a woman, each face one count of failing to provide the necessaries of life to the girl between May 3, 2013 and Sept. 18, 2014. They have not been charged directly in the little girl's death.

The charges were laid Oct. 5, and the case has begun winding it's way through the court system.

Serenity's mother is asking her surviving children, a young son and daughter who also lived in the kinship care home with Serenity, to provide new statements to police.

She said she hopes new evidence in the case would lead to additional charges against the accused. She wants someone to face justice in her daughter's death, and the alleged abuse against her surviving children.

I basically sit around in limbo, waiting for the next phone call.- Serenity's mother

"I'm not satisfied, because my two older children were abused. My two older ones are survivors," she said.

"It's just hard to see my older kids every day, talk to me about things, tell me things. And I'm thinking, 'Why does the law let that happen?' I basically sit around in limbo, waiting for the next phone call, in the hopes that it turns out for the better."

With files from Michelle Bellefontaine