After 2 boys killed, children's aid warns Waterloo region to be on high alert

After two boys died suddenly within the span of two weeks, the head of children’s aid in Waterloo region is urging people to get help early and to reach out to others.

Deaths of 8-month-old and 2-year-old being investigated as separate homicides

In the wake of two boys who died by homicide in the last two weeks, the head of Family and Children's Services of Waterloo Region is urging people to reach out early if they need help or see someone struggling. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

After two young boys died by homicide in less than two weeks, the head of children's aid in Waterloo region is urging people to get help early and to reach out if they notice a parent or child struggling.

"This is the time to be on high alert, be paying attention to people that are in your circle and to not be afraid to ask people if they need help," said Karen Spencer, executive director of Family and Children's Services of the Waterloo Region.

On Sunday, an eight-month-old boy was found dead inside a Kitchener home. His mother, a woman in her 20s, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Police are also investigating the death of a two-year-old boy in Waterloo on August 2. His mother died the next day of what police believe were self-inflicted injuries.

The two-year-old's death is also being treated as a homicide but police say they are not looking for other suspects.

Both investigations are ongoing and further details have not been made available.

Spencer said she was struck by the tragedy of both situations and expressed her condolences to the families of those involved. Homicides involving children are both rare and difficult to predict, she said. 

Spencer said she couldn't comment on the particulars of either situation, but is concerned to hear they happened over a short period of time.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, children's advocates have warned about a possible increase in family violence.

"Social isolation, poverty, instability, are contributing factors and anyone who was struggling before the pandemic certainly is at greater risk now," said Spencer.

Offer a compassionate ear

Spencer urged anyone who notices a friend, neighbour or family member acting strangely should offer a compassionate ear. Simply asking fellow parents how they're doing can go a long way, she said.

"I think we're reluctant sometimes to reach out and ask people if they need help, but I think often people really appreciate it," she said.

Family and Children's Services is available to help anyone who needs it, she said. 

Spencer said it's normal for people to need help with parenting or mental health from time to time. It doesn't mean they have failed as a parent. It's rare, she said, for children's aid workers to remove kids from their family.

"It's so important to remember these tragedies are rare, but also to recognize it's really important to get people the help they need and early on as much as possible," she said.

A sudden change in behaviour can be a sign that someone isn't doing well. Someone who suddenly isolates themselves or stops returning calls could also be struggling, she said.

Noticing changes or signs of fear among children can also be a signal that something is wrong at home. 

Anyone who needs help should be sure to ask for it, as soon as possible, said Spencer.