A year after daughter's death, family awaits answers
Parents of 3-year-old girl feel shut out by government officials in quest for more information
The parents of a three-year-old girl who died while under the care of the province say they are still not getting all the answers they deserve about her death.
Chancey Miller was in the care of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services when she died last September.
After a year of asking questions, the Millers still don't know exactly what happened to their little girl.
"She can never come back home," Maryann Miller, Chancey’s mother, told CBC News.
"They took away my last days with my daughter. Even if it was her last days. I just don't know. Would she have been fine with me? I don't know."
Chancey was born with a heart problem. When she was just two months old, she travelled with her father to Halifax to get a pacemaker to help her heart beat properly.
Last year, provincial officials decided to take Chancey into temporary care. The family acknowledges there were problems, but they were hopeful of getting her back.
The child was put in a group home in August. Around the same time, tests showed further problems with her heart.
"They really didn't give me any answers," Maryann Miller said.
"They did all kinds of blood work, then they said she had to go to Toronto to get another pacemaker, and we'd be up there for six weeks and then I'd come back home with her."
But that didn't happen. Two weeks after surgery, doctors said Chancey was well enough to be discharged but not well enough to go home with her mother.
Chancey was placed in a foster home outside of Toronto and Maryann says she was told she had to go home without her daughter.
"Her last words [were], ‘Mom, I'll be so happy when I see you again,’ " Miller said.
But, Maryann never did see her little girl again.
"Two workers came [to] my house and brought me a box of tissues and they told me Chancey died, actually, from an infection from an operation," she said.
For Maryann, that didn't make sense. She had weekly calls with the hospital. There was no mention of an infection.
"They were saying she was fine," Miller said.
But she wasn't fine. Documents obtained by CBC News show that the day before Chancey died, the foster mother rushed her to the hospital. She was having abdominal cramps and throwing up.
The doctors said she'd be OK, and sent her back to the foster home.
Around 7:20 a.m. the next morning, the foster mother found Chancey dead in her crib.
Search for answers
Now the Millers want answers.
They want to know why Chancey was released from the hospital given her heart problems.
They want to know why they weren't told their daughter had been brought to the hospital.
And they want to know why they weren't given the opportunity to be with their little girl when she took her last breath.
"They won't give me the information on a child that does not need protection anymore," father Bill Miller said.
"She is dead. She don't need no protection anymore. She don't need protection from anybody. Not me, not her, not you, not anybody. But yet, I can't get the information about her. Why she died, how she died."
Brian Wentzell is the family's lawyer. He's helping them find the answers they're searching for.
"There should be an automatic, at the cost of Child, Youth and Family Services, the complete disclosure to the family of all medical files related to this child or any child in a situation such as this," Wentzell said.
The lawyer says all files in the department should be disclosed to the family. They should then be given an opportunity to ask questions — and get answers.
The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services declined CBC News interview requests, saying it is policy not to comment on individual cases.
In an e-mail to CBC News late Tuesday afternoon, Family Services Minister Charlene Johnson said no children have died because they were in care since the department was created in 2009.
She indicated that two children who were in care did die as a result of health and/or medical issues.
In general, Johnson said, if departmental officials identify the possibility that something they did or didn’t do led directly to the harm of a child, further steps would be taken to investigate the situation.
If the department then determines it should have acted differently, the minister noted, the parent or parents would be notified.
Serious health condition
Chancey had a serious health condition and, according to the coroner's report, that's ultimately what killed her.
But Wentzell says an inquiry is the only way to make sure, if something was done wrong, it doesn't happen again.
Maryann Miller knows getting answers won't bring her daughter back, but it will help her deal with the loss of losing her child and the guilt of not being there to say goodbye.
"I love her," she said. "I'll be so happy when I see her."
With files from Amy Stoodley