Family services manager resigns post, days after Turner review
A senior manager in the family services system in St. John's has resigned, one week after the release of a death review that was sharply critical of how the office operated in the Shirley Turner case.
Betty Day has stepped down as the director of the St. John's regional office of the child, youth and family services program.
The Eastern Health regional authority, which manages the program, is not commenting on Day's resignation.
The office came in for strong criticism in an investigation released last week into the death of Zachary Turner. The report's author, Peter Markesteyn, a Winnipeg-based coroner, said social workers assigned to the office were far more concerned about the welfare of fugitive Shirley Turner than her son, Zachary Turner.
Turner drowned herself and her 13-month-old son in August 2003, while battling an extradition order to the United States. Prosecutors in Pennsylvania wanted to try Turner for the November 2001 murder of Andrew Bagby, the boy's father.
Markesteyn found that Turner, a medical doctor, had asked for and received frequent help from social workers, while the family services system did not think critically about whether Zachary Turner was at risk.
Markesteyn determined that Zachary Turner should not have been in his mother's care while she was on bail.
While Turner was on bail, Day had met with a lawyer representing David and Kate Bagby — the parents of Andrew Bagby— about their concerns that Shirley Turner might harm their grandson.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government, responding to Markesteyn's review last week, has launched a review of the St. John's regional office of the child, youth and family services program.
Cathy Barker-Pinsent has replaced Day as the acting director of the program.
While it's not clear to what extent Day's resignation is linked to the Turner investigation, Shelly Birnie-Lefcovitch, head of Memorial University's School of Social Work, said it is wrong to blame individuals for systemic problems.
"It's simplistic to think that getting rid of the individuals directly involved will improve in any substantial way our ability to protect children," he said.
"I think that the people who work in the system have the best interests of children at heart and take very seriously the responsibilities they have to children. I can only imagine the stress that person must be experiencing to take the decision to leave the system," Birnie-Lefcovitch said.