Alberta tot's drowning in homebrew prompts child advocate to call for better support networks
Report says province should help frontline workers set up support networks for children living with addicts
A report on the death of a 10-month-old child who drowned in a container of homemade alcohol urges the province to set up better support networks for children living with alcoholic parents.
Child and youth advocate Del Graff said Alberta Human Services should help frontline workers set up support networks for children and people in those networks should be made aware of what to do when the child is in danger.
"(The girl's) environment was not predictable," Graff wrote in the report released Monday. "Her parents' drinking and lack of stable housing were problems that were not easily solved.
"Family and community members tried to create a safety network, but did not have the resources they needed, nor does it appear that they knew what to do when the risk increased."
Prior to her death in May of 2013, the child was learning to walk, was active and curious and surrounded by a large extended family on a remote First Nation community in northern Alberta, the report states.
However, both parents were alcoholics, her father often violent while drinking, leaving the care of the couple's children to extended family.
Child Intervention Services met with the family on several occasions over concerns the parents' drinking was endangering the well-being of the children.
In one incident a week before the child's death that went unreported to social workers, a fire broke out at a home where the child's mother was drinking.
The mother had passed out. Only the efforts of a family member who ran into the home to rescue the girl and her mother saved them from the fire.
On the day of the girl's death, her mother was drinking at home and, again, had passed out.
When the girl's brother came home from school, he discovered her body in a container of homemade alcohol.
The report said when sober, the parents were attentive and caring.
"Their addiction was one factor that interfered in their ability to adequately care for (the girl) and her siblings."
Child Intervention Services is helping caseworkers to create support networks that use family strengths and resources to reduce risk for children of parents with addiction, the report says.
"Although there were conversations between Child Intervention Services and (the girl's) extended family, further work was needed with family members to help them develop a comprehensive understanding of how they could increase the children's safety," Graff wrote.
Alberta Minister of Human Services Irfan Sabir said Monday his office accepts the recommendations in the report and will meet with Graff to discuss how to implement them.
The girl's mother pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death in 2014.